We have a 10-year-old pit bull who is an excessive barker. People do not visit because the dog never stops barking. The dog is fine with my wife, but if I come into the room where my wife is, the dog barks her head off. We tried giving her commands, but it takes a while before she obeys. Are there any devices that can aid in training her? She’s been this way all her life, but it seems to have gotten worse.
– Emilio, Brookhaven, New York
Even though your dog has barked all her life, she should be examined by a veterinarian since changes in behavior may indicate a health problem. Assuming you’ve already gone to the veterinarian and she has a clean bill of health, here are a few things you can do to reduce her barking.
Dogs (and people) have trouble doing two things at once, so use obedience training to get her to stop barking. Train her to “sit” or “come,” so that when she starts barking, you can call her to you and ask her to “sit.” Only give her the treat after she sits, so she doesn’t associate the treat with barking. If your commands don’t interrupt her barking, then shake a can of coins or use a Pet Corrector (compressed air), available at pet stores and online, to interrupt the barking before giving your commands.
No matter what, always ask her to “sit.” Sitting helps to reset a dog’s mind and behavior and helps them focus on what you want them to do next. Once she is sitting, give her a treat. Then give her a toy to play with, like a stuffed animal or a Kong or puzzle toy filled with treats, so her mind gets busy doing something else. Busy minds don’t bark. You also can train her to retrieve a ball, since a few minutes of fetch can distract and settle her too.
There are ultrasonic dog barking devices on the market for the home or dog collar, which work as interrupters too. When a dog barks, these devices make a sound only a dog can hear that is intended to interrupt the dog’s barking. However, when the device is removed from the home or the dog (only use one device at a time), dogs will sometimes revert to old behaviors. So, only use the device temporarily while you are obedience training your dog. That’s the only way to ensure that the new non-barking behavior sticks.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal