Alert barking occurs when your dog perceives a change in the environment. Dogs who alert bark excessively are often reacting to triggers around the home, such as birds, cars, and your neighbors.
Excessive alert barkers spend a great deal of their time looking and listening for triggers, so it’s important to keep the environment as free of triggers as possible while training a more acceptable barking pattern. Windows, curtains, shutters, etc., should be kept closed. If necessary, the dog can be kept in a part of the home that is far from the outside. A white noise machine can help mask noises.
Once the dog is not being constantly bombarded with triggers, the alert barking should decrease. For some households, this is a good enough solution.
You can also teach your dog to bark just once when he or she sees a trigger. One way to do this is to get your dog to start barking and then click and treat. When your dog is reliably barking at you to earn a click, attach a cue, such as “Speak.” Then cue “Speak” and click after just one bark. Continue to repeat this pattern until your dog begins to bark just once and then looks at you expectantly, at which point you can teach a cue for silence, such as “Quiet,” by saying “Quiet” after the one bark, and then clicking and treating your dog for remaining quiet.
The goal is to teach your dog to bark just once and then look to you for instructions as to what to do next. Once you have established a one-bark pattern, you can simply let your dog bark once when he or she notices something new and then praise your dog for coming over to you after the bark (which many dogs will do automatically, since you have taught them that a single bark earns a reward). Alternatively, you can say “Quiet” after hearing one bark and then reward the quiet, or say “Thank you!” to let the dog know you heard the bark.
For information about dealing with other types of barking, please continue to the next article in this series, “Dealing with Excessive Barking (Demand 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 article, which discusses boredom barking.