By Andrew Fischer
How to stop your Labrador from barking?
Many Labrador puppies as well as older dogs bark at absolutely everything in the vicinity.
It’s normal for dogs to bark from time to time, and you shouldn’t expect complete silence from your dog.
So normal occasional barking is usually nothing to worry too much about, but excessive barking should definitely be discouraged. Dog owners should try to minimize this type of behavior.
If you want to stop your Labrador from barking, it’s highly advisable to focus on positive reinforcement rather than shouting and other aggressive forms of behaviour.
Remember, dogs usually don’t engage in any specific behaviour unless they get some reward. They don’t bark just to annoy you.
Why is your Labrador actually barking?
This should be one of the first questions you ask yourself. Let’s get over the most common causes of barking in dogs.
Before you can address nuisance barking, it’s necessary to identify the reason behind it. After all, you handle a dog barking out of loneliness very differently than a dog barking out of fear.
Loneliness and Boredom
Some dogs tend to bark because they feel lonely and they want to make you know that they require your company.
If loneliness is the reason your Labrador barks, you can try to spend more time with him or ask someone to come over to your home if you are at work.
Many dogs also bark due to boredom. This is a common issue especially with dogs that are confined in the apartment for six and more hours each day. If this is the case of your Lab, try increasing his play time outside as this may decrease his barking. Ideally you should spend at least around 45 minutes with your dog outside every day.
If you’re at work all day you can leave some dog toy puzzles for your Lab while you’re gone.
Another thing you can do is to employ a dog sitter to stop by your home and play with your dog for few hours while you are gone.
Some dogs might suffer from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a condition in which a dog exhibits distress and behavior problems (including barking) when separated from its owners.
If separation anxiety seem to be the problem of your Lab’s excessive barking you can try to give your dog a special treat only for the time when you are gone and take it away when you return home. Also, there are many over-the-counter calming supplements for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. Many people also make their comings and goings as low-key as possible.
There’s a number of medical problems that can also cause excessive barking. Any disease that causes ongoing pain may lead to your dog excessive barking. Brain diseases and other mental conditions are also common causes of excessive barking.
Contact your vet if you believe that a medical condition may be causing your dog to bark excessively.
Dogs are territorial and pack animals. When a stranger comes close or into their territory that often triggers barking.
You can usually tell if your dog barks for territorial and protective reasons. Your dog will look alert and seem aggressive during barking for protective reasons. He may also have a stiff tail with his hackles raised.
You may find more information on how to stop aggressive behaviour in Labradors HERE.
Dogs may also bark when greeting their owners coming home or when they play. This is usually a sign of happiness and doesn’t have to be discouraged.
Some dogs also love to bark for the purpose of self identification. It’s their way of communicating with the owner. They often do it in response to hearing their owner calling them.
Some dogs bark because they hear some unusual unknown sound or because something sudden startles them.
Some dogs bark when they want to get your attention. They may want you to play with them, take them outside or feed them.
Avoid giving your dog what they want when they bark to get it. For example if your dog barks because it’s hungry and you fill his bowl, you’ve taught him that barking will get him food. Find ways for your dog to communicate his needs without barking. For example teach him to ring a bell every time he gets hungry or to stand by the door every time he wants to go outside.
If your dog barks just to get your attention and you know that don’t need food, water or a potty break, you should just ignore him and let him bark until he gives up. Then, when your dog is quiet you can reward him for quiet behaviour and play with him.
Response to stimulus
Dogs can also bark when they hear, smell or see something unusual. Many dogs for example love to bark when an ambulance passes. In such moments they don’t necessarily bark for protection or out of fear, they just bark in order to join the weird sound or to let you know that something interesting is happening.
What can you do if excessive barking is an issue for your dog?
Getting your dog to stop barking or bark less will take time and patience. It won’t happen overnight. But if you keep consistent you should be able to see some progress.
There are several techniques and approaches you can try to adopt in order to make your dog stop barking. Let’s go through the most common ones.
If you are able to find out what’s making your dog bark you can try to remove the trigger.
You can for example put your dog as far as you can from the postman or from other people that cause him to begin barking.
Never forget to reward your dog for good behaviour
Rewarding your dog immediately after he stops barking is one of the most effective ways to reinforce this good behaviour.
Give your dog a small treat even if he just stops barking for a very short time. Your smart dog will surely sooner or later associate treats with being quiet.
Developing a quiet behavior may take a few weeks, but if you will be consistent with it you should see some results sooner or later.
Another way to calm your barking dog down is to get them focused on something else.
Try to make your barking dog focused on you. You can for example teach them the “come” or “place” commands. This will distract your dog as he will have to go to a different place and sit/lie down. If your dog is focused on you he will less likely bark at something else.
You can also redirect your dog to a game of fetch or any other fun activity that will distract him from barking.
Tire your dog
Tired dogs are usually quiet because they rest or sleep.
Tired dogs are also happy because physical exercise produces endorphin which makes them happy and less likely to bark due to fear, boredom or anxiety.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety tire him out before leaving. So next time you can try to go for a long walk or play ball with your dog before you go.
Shouting and other aggressive behaviour only makes your dog think that you are joining in with him, which will encourage further barking.
Some dogs can also get more excited or stressed when you shout at them, which once again only makes them bark more.
Try to avoid shouting and any other forms of aggressive behaviour at all times.
Avoid shock collars
Shock collars don’t eliminate the cause of your dog’s barking. They merely cause your dog more pain, which may increase his aggression and barking in the future.
As we discussed above many dogs bark because they feel lonely or they fear something. Shocking your dog is not only immoral but also leads to more suffering for your dog which doesn’t help to solve his barking issues.
Be consistent with your commands
Many dog owners use a variety of swear words and commands to make their barking dog stop. If you are giving your dog mixed messages by saying too many words then you can find that your dog will not understand what you want him to do.
You should try to use only one clear command like “quiet” or “silence”. Be firm in your command but don’t shout as this could stress your dog and make him bark even more.
Ignore the barking
Another method that is often used by experienced dog trainers is to ignore the dog’s barking.
Especially lonely and anxious dogs often bark to get your attention. If you give him any form of attention (including you getting angry), he may believe that you are rewarding his barking with your attention and that’s exactly what a lonely dog wants.
If you manage to ignore your dog’s excessive barking it will make him realize that it doesn’t bring him any benefits and he will occasionally stop.
One of the most effective ways to show your dog that you ignore his excessive barking is by turning your back on him. Avoid talking and touching your dog in any way.
Correcting barking to a stimulus
If your dog barks at windows the easiest thing you can do is to suppress your dog’s perception of the stimulus by closing off the curtains. If he can’t see it, he won’t bark as much at it.
If you can’t remove your dog’s visual stimulus, you can redirect him away from the excitement with a “come” or “quiet” command.
Devocalization is a surgical procedure where the folds of tissue on dog’s larynx are removed from his vocal cords. This permanently reduces the volume of its barking.
This surgery is quite controversial as it’s considered inhumane by many dog owners. Post-surgery complications that include choking and breathing difficulties are not rare. The problem is that this procedure doesn’t address the cause of barking. Your dog will continue to bark, it will just sound less loud.