Although there are plenty of dogs that don’t bark, that’s not much consolation when it’s your dog who won’t shut up. The good news is that there are things you can do about it, and although you’ll probably never cure your pup of the desire to bark, you can at least make him think twice about it when you’re around to correct him.
The best way to do this is to start with minor corrections, escalating their severity only if the dog willfully disobeys. First, though, let’s talk about what kind of barking is acceptable and what’s not. Barking at intruders—and to your dog, intruders are anyone the dog doesn’t know—is generally considered acceptable. But chronic barking—barking for the sake of barking, or barking at the moon, or barking at planes passing overhead or whatever—is not. The problem is that, if a dog’s barking is left unchecked, it becomes self-reinforcing behavior. There’s something about it the dog enjoys, and as long as he enjoys it, he’ll continue to bark.
So the first step to controlling chronic barking is to sternly tell your dog to “Be quiet!” For sensitive animals, this may be all it takes. It helps, although it’s not always possible, to give the command as quickly as you can get to your dog. Doing so will short-circuit his desire to bark until you show up.
If that doesn’t work, then the next step is to command your dog to “Be quiet,” then firmly hold his mouth closed for a few seconds. Dogs hate this and will struggle to get away, but be firm. Because the experience is highly unpleasant, it works on a good many animals, but the obvious downside, again, is that you won’t always be able to get to your dog in time.
Finally, if this too fails, invest in a good bark collar. There are at least a dozen to choose from, and they’re far superior to the models that were available just a few years ago. Nearly all of them automatically escalate the level of the shock administered if the dog persists in his barking, although the level of stimulation is more unpleasant than painful. The one drawback to bark collars is that, if you have a particularly stubborn dog, it may take several days to a week before the message gets through.
So if your dog barks, stop him! There’s no need to put up with bad behavior.