Step 1: Remove the Visual Component of stimuli that cause barking
Step 2: Desensitize to the Auditory Component of stimuli that cause barking
Step 1: Remove the visual component
You can prevent your dog from barking while looking out the windows of your home with one simple product: Self Adhesive Window Film. This translucent window covering lets light through while blocking your dog’s view of pedestrians, cars, other dogs, squirrels…whatever it is that he barks at. You only need to install it high enough so that your dog can’t see over it. The window film can be purchased on Amazon for about $10 per roll. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=self+adhesive+window+film&ref=nb_sb_noss_1
Some people are concerned about taking away their dog’s view of the outside world, but sitting at the window and scanning for things to bark at keeps your dog in an elevated state of arousal. Dogs who sit and scan out windows are not relaxed, they are hypervigilant. Removing the view gives him permission to go “off duty”. Additionally, the more your dog practices an unwanted behavior such as barking, the stronger the behavior becomes because it develops a reinforcement history.
Removing the visual component will be enough to stop some dogs’ barking all together. Other dogs will still bark when they hear the auditory component of stimuli: traffic noises or jingling tags of dogs passing by the house might still elicit barking. For these dogs we will pair the sound that elicits barking with something they love – a favorite treat.
Step 2: Desensitize to the Auditory Component
Start this exercise by downloading a sound app on your phone or recording the sound you need your dog to stop barking at. Play the sound quietly, and one second later, feed a treat. The order is important: Play Sound, Give Treat. Repeat this about two dozen times and end the training session. Repeat twice a day for two weeks, gradually turning up the volume. If your dog starts barking during these desensitization sessions, turn the volume down. Additionally, when your dog hears the sound in real life, feed treats to maintain the association That Sound Predicts Good Stuff for Me. Keep an easy to grab stash of treats somewhere close to you.
Over time and with repetition, instead of barking at the sound your dog should start to look to you in expectation of his treat – reward him for looking at you instead of barking.
A combination of removing the visual component and desensitizing him to the auditory component of stimuli that cause your dog to bark, is one way to get this nuisance behavior under control. But you can go one step further…
Bonus: Teach Your Dog to Quiet on Cue
Now that you have decreased emotional arousal around the stimuli that elicits barking, your dog should be able to learn a new behavior: to cease barking when you request. If he should bark, say “That’s Enough”, and hold a treat at his nose. When he ceases to bark (he will stop when he inhales to small the treat) mark the silence with a click or yes, and pop the treat in his mouth. Repeat if he immediately starts barking again. Over several weeks, gradually increase the amount of time your dog is silent after you say “Enough” and before marking and giving his treat. When he barks, Say “That’s Enough”…Good Boy…Well Done… then click, or mark Yes and give the treat.
If you need more help, we can go even further in addressing barking. Contact me for a private consult.