How to Stop Demand Barking

What to do if your dog barks at you to demand things, such as food.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
October 11, 2011
Episode #122

Page 3 of 3

As for punishment, I’d bet my consultation fee it wouldn’t stop Katherine’s dogs from barking for more than a few moments at a time. Their barking has a long history of success. You need an awfully harsh punishment to squelch a behavior that’s been paying off well for months or years. And harsh punishments have a nasty way of creating new problems of their own, such as fear or aggression directed toward the person who does the punishing – or toward whoever happens to be nearby, including the other dog. Finally, it strikes me as just a little unfair to punish the dogs for doing what their guardian taught them to do (albeit accidentally).

Can the Dogs Get What They Want a Different Way?

To make retraining her dogs easier, Katherine can offer them something fascinating to keep them busy and quiet. Since they want what’s on her plate, she might take a portion of it and stuff it into food-dispensing toys for the dogs to play with while she eats. If the dogs can get what they want from the toys, they may choose to play with them instead of barking at her. No guarantees this will work, but if it does, she’s got an end run around her problem.

Try Rewarding Moments of Quiet

Here’s another idea to try if the dogs don’t bark continuously and if Katherine has pretty quick reflexes. She can set aside some bits of food from her plate, and ignore the barking. The second one of her dogs takes a break from barking, that dog should get a piece of food as fast as she can deliver it. I’d expect the dogs to pick up the lesson within a few meals – “Aha! Barking doesn’t work anymore. Being quiet is the new way to get service at Chez Katherine.” They’re likely to slip back into old habits frequently for a while, as we all do, of course.

Now you’re thinking: But they’ll be begging from the table! Sure they will. But if they beg by being quiet and polite, and if the food Katherine shares with them doesn’t give them indigestion or make them fat, then everybody’s happy, and where’s the harm?

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