Demand barking is designed to get your attention. Unlike alert barking, it doesn’t usually relate to a change in the environment. Demand barking is basically your dog’s way of saying “Hey! Pay attention to me!” The best way to eliminate demand barking is to ignore it completely whenever it happens.
Dogs that have been using demand barking successfully for a long time may take a while to give up on this tool for getting your attention. In fact, the barking may get worse as the dog has what’s called an “extinction burst” and keeps trying barking over and over, as if he or she is thinking, “well, this used to work, so I must not be doing it quite right.”
An example of an extinction burst for humans is when we push a button on an elevator and it doesn’t light up. Most people feel compelled to press the button repeatedly (“I know elevator buttons light up when I push them, so I must not have pressed this one hard enough”). After a certain number of repetitions, the person will generally realize that the light is burnt out, and stop pushing the button, but it takes a little while. The repeated pressing of the button is the extinction burst.
Similarly, your dog may go through a process of testing barking over and over until he or she learns that it does not work anymore. It’s crucial to ignore the barking completely throughout the extinction burst to ensure it isn’t accidentally rewarded just when the dog is ready to give up on it. You must therefore ignore the barking no matter how loud or obnoxious it gets, or how long it goes on.
Note that there are many types of barking, and if your dog is not actually barking for attention, ignoring the barking may not ultimately reduce the barking. If ignoring the barking does not work, review the different types of barking, or consult a certified trainer.
For information about dealing with anxious barking, please continue to the next article in this series, “Dealing with Excessive Barking (Anxious Barking).” If you started on this article, you may also want to read the introduction to this series of articles, “Dealing with Excessive Barking (Introduction),” and the previous articles, which discuss boredom barking and alert barking.