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How can I stop my dog barking at the TV?

Before I begin I do need to set out my thoughts on barking. For me, barking is not, and should not be the issue it clearly is. Dogs bark. The only ethical way I know of to 100% guarantee no barking is either not getting a dog in the first place or to get a Basenji (which is a dog breed that cannot bark but it can howl!).  I don’t support the extreme or punitive measures that some others promote such as dogs being hit (corrected) for barking or being operated on to remove their ability to bark, which unbelievably does happen! I, personally, think these are both cruel and very unnecessary.

Barking is important to dogs and some dogs are more vocal than others (yes, I am looking at you Mr Jack Russell Terrier). We need to remember that barking serves a purpose to both human and dogs as it warns of strangers, dangers and mangers…well, not really mangers but I just wanted to put something there that rhymed and ‘mangers’ came to mind. Barking can also be an energy release.  Unfortunately, barking can also often be a demand whereby your dog gently ‘reminds’ you that “I am here, I want that, play with me etc”.  

The key to barking at objects, including TV’s is to ‘interrupt’, ‘redirect’ and then ‘re-engage’.

To interrupt a dog we need to present a sharp, sudden sound that will cut through it’s focus and onto the origin of the sound – you!  At this point, you will need to guide your dog away from the trigger of the barking.  You can do this by offering a treat or a toy and then create distance (i.e. leave the room) in order to get your dog to follow you.

Once you have got your dog away you will then need to give it something acceptable to focus on (re-engagement) such as play, Kong, chew toy etc.  It is ideal if this new activity engages your dog for a least 5 minutes or so in order for the previous activity (barking) to become long forgotten.

Through repetition of the above your dog will learn to stop barking when instructed to do so and will learn not to start at all when it knows it will not be able to continue.

The above being said, we need to control and manage barking opportunities and barking durations. In my experience, it is not barking as such that is seen as an issue but moreover uncontrolled barking. To this end, I have noted in my book several solutions to combat habitual barkers!  These are structured as follows: –

a. Don’t bark!

b. Reward the silence

c. Teach to speak

d. Pre-emptive strike

e. Action interrupt

f. Disappointing demands