Spraying a dog with a water bottle is a great short-term solution to stop their barking. Dogs do not experience pain or trauma from it. However, it’s not a long-term fix. To make a permanent change, behavioral training is required.
There are those dogs we see in movies—they greet you when you come home, they are ready to give you some love when you’ve had a bad day, they are besties with the mailman. And then there is our dog — running through the house, chewing on the furniture, and barking at every leaf that falls from the tree, while the mailman leaves the mail and runs.
How can we help our dog behave well and let the world see that he really is a “good boy”? (Well, most of the time.)
We get a lot of advice from every well-meaning neighbor about their tried-and-true methods from back in the day to get a dog to stop barking. This advice ranges from newspapers to spray bottles full of water. But is there a better way?
We’re here to give you some advice of our own, using modern behavioral techniques and a bit of psychology.
The Bark is Bigger than the Bite (And It’s TOO Big)
Dogs are great pets that can help you relax after a stressful day. This is why they are the most chosen therapy pet. Nonetheless, if you’re constantly frustrated by his bark, this can quickly backfire.
Some breeds bark more than others. And some dogs bark more than their breed. Luckily, with intentional training and reinforcing appropriate behaviors, you can have your peace AND quiet.
Let’s Talk Spray Bottles – Do They Actually Stop Barking?
The recommendation to spray your dog with a spray bottle has been around for a while now because this method offers instant gratification.
The dog is barking, you squirt him with water, he (may) temporarily stop barking, but the next sudden movement he see’s may cause him to start barking again.
We assume that since he stopped after you squirted him, this method must be working. While we agree that this method is not the worst thing you can do (and we’d agree it is certainly a better idea than the newspaper), there are other ways recommended by modern behavioral experts that can make a longer-lasting impression on your dog.
For this, we’ll need to dive into some psychology…
The Psychology of It All
It’s a great idea to use some dog psychology to teach your dog what’s appropriate and what’s not. When we want to change a current unwanted behavior (in this case, barking) we will strategize a bit and make a plan.
We’ll talk a bit about what the experts are saying and let you make your plan from there.
Experts Don’t Recommend:
While we like the word “positive,” in psychology, “positive punishment” means adding in something the dog actively DOESN’T like (i.e., the newspaper or spray bottle) to change an unwanted behavior.
Experts have seen over time (by a long history of trial-and-error) that applying positive punishment (i.e., the spray bottle) only changes a behavior temporarily while you are standing over him. When you turn your back, he will go back at it again because he sees the unsavory stimulus has been removed from the room (you with the spray bottle).
Since dogs live in the moment, positive punishment methods have not been shown to make lasting connections. If the trial-and-error has been done by others, then we don’t have to waste time doing it ourselves.
Let’s see what the experts DO recommend…
Experts Do Recommend:
Negative Punishment Paired with Positive Reinforcement
“Negative punishment” just means removing something from the situation that dogs DO like. In this case, YOU.
If your dog barks when you put him in his crate, turn your back and ignore or leave the area immediately.
When he calms down and is quiet, reward him with praise or a treat (positive reinforcement). At first, you will need to reward him almost as soon as he becomes quiet, so he learns the connection.
When he catches on, try to extend the time as much as possible and see how long he can control his behavior. Pair it with words and keep it short and sweet. You can tell the dog, “Good. Quiet.” This way, he is learning the word for the desired behavior.
Redirecting the Behavior
Let your dog know what you want him to do. Dogs really want to please. They often bark because they think you want or need protection, and they want to show you they are on the job.
If this behavior is not pleasing, let your dog know what he should do instead. You can remove him from a tempting area and show him something else that IS appropriate for him to do.
You can offer him a toy or dog puzzle that will exercise his brain. Just make sure not to give a toy or treat to your dog while he is still hyper. This may cause him to think you are rewarding him for his barking streak. Let him calm down first so he knows you expect him to be calm.
Release the Tension
Many times, dogs bark because of pent-up energy. Starting off the day with a brisk morning walk can help your dog release his energy in a positive way.
This can help him start off in a calmer state of mind, and he may decide that naptime is actually more enjoyable than barking at every passer-by. This is also a great way to bond and build trust.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice daily with your dog by offering him chances to learn. If he barks at dogs outside the window, see if a friend can bring their dog and help.
The friend can walk past the window from varying distances, and your dog can learn your expectations in a controlled environment. Keep it short at first and build to longer training sessions. After he has completed his “homework,” he can be rewarded with playtime with his furry friend.
Say The Same Thing
If you are training your dog, everyone in your house must know the goals and training method. If everyone is using a different approach, the dog will be confused about the expectations. You’ll want to make your behavior strategy and let everyone know how to follow through with your furry member.
Find an Expert
The advice we’ve given is based on modern dog psychology and can get you started with techniques to find peace in your home. It is always advisable to also learn in “hands-on” ways with an expert in the field if possible. Every dog responds differently, and a trainer can give you more tips to put into action with your unique dog. We can guarantee the expert will NOT be recommending spray bottles!
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