How do you say "quiet please!!" in dog?
September 24, 2007 9:51 AM   Subscribe

One of my dogs won't shut up. He was fairly quiet when we adopted him about 8 months ago after prior owners surrendered him, but several months of apartment living have encouraged him to bark every time someone walks outside, above, near, in, or around our apartment. He has such a high pitched, loud, piercingly painful bark, that I can't believe our neighbors haven't shot him, had him taken away, or even complained to us. Sometimes I can hear him barking from almost a block away, but I DON'T have reason to suspect he sits and barks all day when home alone.

He's about 3 years old, an oversized miniature pinscher (more like a medium pinscher), unaltered (for now; we have unexcusably procrastinated despite firm committment to the health and propriety of spay/neuter). He's VERY high strung.

I am at a loss as to how to train a dog not to bark - I am adamantly opposed to both shock and citronella bark collars. Advice available online seems focused on selling a particular dog training dvd, method or trainer. I've had success training him at basic commands (sit, stay, heel, lie down, etc.), although he is remarkably stubborn. While he's barking, if I tell him to shut up ("no bark!"), he will, but I'm more interested in overall lowering his bark trigger, so that he doesn't START barking. But, the triggers that set him barking are more often than not inaudible to me (so I can't soothe or shush him before he starts to bark).

We have another, very much smaller but dominant, dog in the house. She does not frequently bark, and tends to use an "inside voice" when she barks to communicate her needs ("help me up on the couch!" or "feed me now please!" etc.).
posted by bunnycup to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This won't work while you are out, but most dogs bark less when they are in a "down." Rather than "no bark" (I think negative commands are trickier in general- it's often more effective to re-direct to a completely different activity.)

How much exercise does he get? Your "high strung" description makes me think he could stand more exercise.

And yeah, get him fixed.
posted by ambrosia at 9:59 AM on September 24, 2007

My neigbour got a air-puff collar for barking training. Might be more acceptable than the ones you mentioned. Apparently it was just a blast of air into the bog's face, though I'm really not sure exactly how it worked.
posted by GuyZero at 10:01 AM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, ambrosia, I'm SURE that more exercise and a neuter, will be critical parts of success here - these two items HAVE to be keeping his quick trigger and anxiety up - as well as any training techniques I can work with.

I'm a big believer that excercise is step 1 in fixing any animal behavior issues (and certainly experienced that when training horses as well), and increasing his healthy, fun exercise will play a big role in any training I work on with him. It helps so much with him, because he WORSHIPS those who walk and play with him, and that decreases his stubbornness quite a bit.
posted by bunnycup at 10:07 AM on September 24, 2007

we're in the same situation as bunnycup. the dog was adopted at 3 years old, had been neutered by the shelter before we got him, and seemed quiet at first.

now he barks at everything and anything! I'll keep an eye on this thread.
posted by spacefire at 10:22 AM on September 24, 2007

I tried the air puff collar on my little devil, err, sweetie and it's kind of effective, until your sweetie figures out how to move his/her head out of the way. It shoots a burst of citronella. If you'd like a bark-powered air freshener, it's awesome.

I switched to one of the bark/shock collars. Worked loads better. YMMV.
posted by jdfan at 10:22 AM on September 24, 2007

Best answer:

Uses negative reinforcement (as well as positive), which it sounds like you may be averse to, but not out and out infliction of real pain. Read the detailed explanation of his training method, not the short version, as it gives you good insight into who this guy is and how his methodology works. It's long, but it's absolutely worth it.

And speaking as a neighbor to people who have a high-strung barking dog who also has other dogs to keep him company: You have EVERY reason to believe he's barking when he's home alone. With less stimulation, he's very likely to go off at anything and nothing at all.

Kudos to you for wanting to actually solve this problem. You don't know how rare neighbors like you are.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Do you crate him when you are out of the house? A lot of barking can be traced to nervousness, and dogs tend to feel more secure when in the safe haven of their crate.
posted by COD at 10:43 AM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, thanks, middleclasstool! I'm printing that article to read.

I'm not against negative reinforcement as part of an overall healthy, safe, appropriate training plan (which includes reward as well). I often use negative reinforcement with my dogs in the form of short-term attention withdrawal, etc. I shy away from chemical or electrical, pain-based punishment for animal behavior modification - I don't think fear/pain really breeds true learning and is more likely to breed resentment (and an unhappy dog is never well-behaved). I know others may disagree, and respect their opinions (within common-sense limits).
posted by bunnycup at 10:49 AM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: COD - we've never crated him, as we believed (wrongly?) that for that training mechanism to succeed a dog had to be crate-trained from a young age. I'm open to exploring it if my basic assumption is wrong.
posted by bunnycup at 10:50 AM on September 24, 2007

What about holding the dog's muzzle closed when it barks and telling it "No"? It is uncomfortable for the dog, but not painful.
posted by schroedinger at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2007

One of my dogs wasn't ever crated until I adopted her when she was a tad over a year old. She loves her crate and often crates herself when she's tired or sick of the other dog's attention. I keep a blanket in her crate (she is a burrower).

The people who had her before me let her run all over the house and didn't give her any rules...she's a much happier dog now than when I first got her (a year and a half ago).

Definitely get her a (size appropriate) crate. You will likely have a couple trying nights where she'll whine but she will adjust to crating.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:01 AM on September 24, 2007

My neighbor has a barky dog and has shown no interest in training (or feeding, or exercising...) it whatsoever, so we took the matter into our own hands.

There's a little device, available at all pet stores, which emits a loud ultrasonic sound whenever a bark happens. The dog has to be in moderately close proximity, but it seems to really work -- the dog starts barking, hears this big noise immediately, wonders what the hell happened, tries again, hears the noise, stops, and then realizes that the annoying sound is triggered by the bark. In the last few weeks the barking has gone down very significantly.

If you own the dog, then you might be well served with the electro collars or this in conjunction, depending on how you feel about electro collars.
posted by felix at 11:06 AM on September 24, 2007

Our dog was a rescue from the pound, had a terrible barking problem. A few weeks in, we did the Crate thing (draped with blankets to give her a cave), and it worked really well- it's worth a shot.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:20 AM on September 24, 2007

It's never too late to crate train. He might complain at first but don't give him any attention. If you can, don't let him out until he quiets down. The dog will be fine. The first time you try it, take them on an hour+ walk and wear him out.
posted by starman at 11:36 AM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: These are really great answers, thank you! I'm going to speak with my husband and see if we can agree to incorporate more exercise, training from the manual suggested by middleclasstool, and a crate, and see if we can't end up with a happier and quieter dog. I'm really optimistic!
posted by bunnycup at 12:27 PM on September 24, 2007

I don't know where my dad learned this trick, but it worked for his dog. Get a tin can and put coins in it. Rattle the can when the dog is barking. I don't know if they just don't like the sound and that somehow silences them, but our dog learned that barking was a no-no. We only used this sparingly - for one, the dog wasn't bad 24/7 and for two, it really seemed to upset her.
posted by bozichsl at 12:58 PM on September 24, 2007

As someone who frequently works at home during the day and has loads of neighbors with dogs, I would suggest the barking is worse while you're away.

I buy earplugs by the gross.
posted by GPF at 1:59 PM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: The barking may be worse when we're away, I don't know - I just have never had any trigger to give me the belief that I own that dog that sits and barks all day when we're not home.

My friends who've dog sat for days at a time, say it's bizzare how they know the dog barks when I am home, but doesn't make a peep when I am not home. In several months, none of our neighbors (one of whom has an infant and toddler at home during the day) have said anything, and we interact regularly enough that I hope they would be honest if there was a problem. My landlord's mother lives right above us, so I would think we would have heard from them quickly if there was a problem. Often, when I come home from work, the dog was pretty obviously asleep in my bed until the moment I opened the door (i.e. big furry warm spot, and stumbling groggy little dog).

Either way, whether it benefts me and my headaches or the neighbors and theirs, we're looking to get the dog quiet.
posted by bunnycup at 3:00 PM on September 24, 2007

If he barks while you're there he's barking when you're not. In my opinion, probably more, whether people have complained or not. Especially if you don't crate him.

Crating works. I have two dogs and they flip out if I even walk across the street without putting them in their crates. Dogs love to have a place they can go to feel secure, mine crate themselves more often than not and despite being extremely stubborn about every other command they know they go straight to their crates every time I tell them.

Dogs left alone to themselves get bored and insecure, which they alleviate by barking their heads off or tearing up your stuff. If he's not chewing up your furniture it's probably the other...
posted by bradbane at 4:36 PM on September 24, 2007

Our dog only barks when we're home and same as yours she didn't do it when we first got her. With her it's a protective thing- she could care less about protecting the house but she's very vigilent about alerting ~us~ to every passerby.

She didn't listen when we told her "No bark" so we got a shockingly accurate squirt gun for $1.89 at the local toy store and problem solved.*

*Dog problem anyway. A squirt gun that allows you to shoot the eyelash off a fly from the other end of the house creates it's own problems.
posted by fshgrl at 6:18 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

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