Demand barking is a vocalization that a dog uses to get something. Dogs may bark to be fed, let out, let back in, to play, or simply to receive attention. Demand barking can be extremely aggravating, and can damage the relationship many owners have with their dogs. With a lot of patience and commitment, however, you can stop demand barking in your dog.
It's Not Them, It’s You
Demand barking is actually something owners unknowingly “train into” their dogs. It starts out innocently enough. As a puppy, the dog may bring a toy over and bark to show you it’s there. You pick up the toy and toss it for a game of fetch. This seems innocuous, but that single action has taught the dog that barking gets your attention and gets him what he wants, so he will try it again. Within a matter of days, the puppy begins barking for attention on a regular basis.
The Secret To Ending Demand Barking
Dogs that demand back do it because it works. When they bark, they get what they want. If they bark and do not get what they want, they learn that demand barking doesn’t work and the behavior will stop. The reason why it is so difficult to correct demand barking is because barking is a nuisance to people. They just want it to stop, so they do what the dog wants in the hopes she will quiet down.
When attempting to stop demand barking in a pet, the key to success is absolute, 100% consistency from everyone in the household. Everyone must be in on the plan and everyone must stick to that plan all day, every day. The minute the dog tries demand barking again and it works, you will lose any precious ground you gained.
Never Scold A Demand Barker
Owners’ natural instinct is to tell a dog “no” when he starts demand barking. This approach is never successful because the dog is barking for attention. When you scold the dog and tell him to be quiet, you are essentially providing the very attention they seek. The same holds true for punishing the dog by taking him into another room. Any attention, even if that attention is negative, reinforces the dog’s understanding that demand barking is effective.
Ignore, Ignore, Ignore
Ignoring a demand barker is the most effective way to curb the behavior. It is also the most difficult, because barking is nearly possible to ignore. When demand barking starts, stop what you are doing and walk away from the dog, without making eye contact. When the dog stops barking and relaxes, you can then provide a treat or a toy as positive reinforcement. When this method is applied consistently, it teaches the dog that barking gets them the opposite reaction they were looking for, and eventually they will stop demand barking.
Make Them Say Please
Another tactic that you can use is to teach dogs the equivalent of saying “please” when they want something, just as parents teach children to do. When the dog starts demanding something, immediacy stop what you are doing. Make the dog sit and stay for a moment, and then provide them with the reward they are looking for. If the dog barks at you before receiving his reward, make him sit and stay again. This teaches the dog that sitting and staying is the polite way to ask for something.
Beware Of “Extinction Burst”
Anyone attempting to break a dog of demand barking should be ready for a phenomenon known as “extinction burst.” When demand barking initially stops working for them, they will begin barking louder, faster and harder in an effort to get what they want. This is just like a child calling for his mother, and getting louder and louder until she finally answers. Extinction burst is a true test of resolve and it can be difficult to weather. But this is always a dog’s last-ditch effort to make demand barking work. When they realize louder barking isn’t getting them results, they will stop the behavior altogether.
Shock collars can be rather cruel, but there are barking-activated collars that do not inflict pain on the animal. There are collars that spray a burst of citronella when the dog barks, a smell many dogs find unpleasant and can disrupt the barking behavior. However, if the dog is extremely motivated, he will bark right through the spray, rendering the device ineffective. There are other products on the market that emit unpleasant sounds when the dog barks. These devices have been met with mixed reviews by owners who have purchased them.
The most effective way to stop demand barking in dogs is to work with the dog on behavior modification rather than relying on electrical devices. Ending demand barking isn’t easy. It takes patience and nerves of steel. And you may have to spend a great deal of time apologizing to your neighbors for the noise. If you commit to the process, stick with it and apply your preferred technique 100% of the time, you will find success.