If your dog is barking at sounds and you want to help remove the anxiety that causes this behavior, read on.
Herding dogs may be attempting to herd those moving bicycles and running kids. Some dogs make a lot of noise when startled. If a dog is barking a loud, fast, sharp bark at lots of noises (some you don’t even hear) please keep in mind that this indicates anxiety or an anxious state of mind! A calm dog does not engage in this kind of “mania barking.”
As with most things, exercise, exercise, exercise. Of course, this means exercise tailored to your particular dog’s needs, age, physical health and stamina.
When your dog is “mania barking” keeping your voice soft and your words a little slower helps maintain a calm atmosphere. The idea is to counter the dog’s excitement about the sudden noise. Treats reward your dog’s quiet response to the sound.
Additionally, and as a side note, if your dog’s barking is most often triggered by the doorbell, they have another function too. If the sound of the doorbell consistently predicts treats, your dog will come to like the sound. That positive emotional association is a building block of friendliness to guests.
The success of this method largely depends on your dog’s barking intensity. Many dogs respond well to a “positive interrupt.” “Positive,” because the interruptor is something that makes a positive association with the sound or even the sight (a bicycle going by on the street and seen by the dog through the window). The idea here is not to scare or hurt your dog, only to distract your dog from barking at the “trigger”. Then you can reward whatever your does instead.
To use positive interruption for barking you will need to be ready ready with delicious treats, or your dog’s favorite squeaky toy if that is a higher motivation AND treats, before getting started. You must reward your dog’s quiet instantly, before he/she has a chance to start barking again.
Positive interruption when your dog barks goes like this – dog barks, you get up quietly and calmly, walk over to your dog, say a soft “Thank you,” quickly feed several treats, and then deal with whoever’s at the door or redirect your dog from the window or the “nothing” that you hear but “something” that he hears. A surprising number of dogs will settle down almost at once. Once some dogs know they’ve succeeded in delivering the alert, they’re done. If it isn’t someone at the door, say “thank you,” treat and then redirect the dog to do something else. PRAISE AND REWARD for the “quiet”.
If you’ve been struggling with your dog’s “doorbell-cricket-leaf falling-wind blowing-car/motorcycle going by-, noise you can’t even hear – mania,” you have probably realized that you yelling or raising your own voice not only doesn’t help but usually makes the dog bark more (they hear barking). Try using a very soft voice, even a whisper. A whisper stands out from the loud, sharp sounds of bells, buzzers, knocks, barks, yelling and anything else the dog might hear. Use a marker like “hush” or “enough” and I like to use the visual cue of putting my finger in front of my lips, just like you would when telling a person to be quiet. Using a marker helps pave the way for making a natural cue for “Be quiet now.” Again, be ready with treats to reward a halt in the barking. The sequence might go like this: random sound=barking – your response=“Hush” and your dog is briefly distracted, you take advantage of the distraction and reward the quiet by quickly feeding several treats and then immediately redirect your dog to focus on you and “redirect” by changing positions or moving to a different area of the room, or couch or bed, etc.
As far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to spend the rest of your dog’s life rewarding every quiet with treats – just make sure they are healthy and adjust the dog’s meal accordingly. But if you want to fade the treats you can stretch out the interval between treats or hold out for longer and longer periods of quiet before delivering the first treat. Just don’t forget to redirect the dog and give him or her something else to do.