Welcome to Bark Week Day 2! If you missed yesterday’s post, head on over and read all about how to get your dog to stop barking on cue.
For today, though, this one was requested many times, and it’s a big problem we have: demand barking!
So, what is demand barking? Just like a toddler throwing a tantrum in the candy aisle at the grocery store, this behavior is barkbarkbarking for something your dog wants. It comes in many forms. Cooper barks at Lucas to play with him. He barks at me to play with him. He barks at John to move over on the couch to make room for him. I posed this on Facebook, and lots of folks weighed in. One that made me laugh was Ruby from Rubicon Days barks at the closet with the “good toys” – so funny!
This type of barking can be super annoying. And it’s incredibly difficult to stop it.
Because it relies 100% solely and entirely on us keeping our “patient pants” on.
Seriously, though, we’ve been working on this for a year and have made very little progress because it’s nearly impossible to do the ONE THING that will stop this behavior.
Wait. One thing? How can that be true?! Of course we can all do ONE THING! Right?
All you have to do to end demand barking is… ignore it. Completely. 100%. Unwavering. That means NO yelling “shhh!” or “stop it!” or “cut it out!” Silence. You can turn your back, walk out of the room, whatever it takes to totally and completely ignore it. But everyone has to be on board, which makes it almost impossible.
Let’s look at an example: When Cooper wants to play, and I’m doing something that doesn’t lend itself to play – cooking dinner – he will stand there, look me in the face, and bark. As soon as I say, “Knock it off, Cooper,” I just acknowledged the behavior and the demand. Or, more likely, as soon as I toss him a toy – thinking it’ll just shut ’em up for a minute – I’ve rewarded the demand. Both options ensure that he’ll do the same thing again tomorrow night when I’m cooking dinner.
To make it EVEN HARDER to ignore, many dogs will go through an “extinction burst” period. They realize they’re being ignored, and they think, “Oh, man. This has always worked. Why isn’t it working? I better try harder! Louder! Longer! More barking!” And God forbid you give in at that point because that louder/longer barking fit might just become the new normal.
In a perfect world, John and I could work together (along with my mom… our friends and neighbors… our pet sitter… and so on…) to never, ever acknowledge his demands. That’s just not our reality.
So, if you (and everyone your dog demands things of) absolutely can’t ignore it, the management option requires an incompatible behavior. This won’t eliminate demand barking, but it’ll get it to stop in the moment.
In our experience, and from everyone who’s weighed in on this topic, we all know what our dog is demanding when this behavior starts up. You know if your dog wants a toy/treat/spot on the sofa/the “good toys”/scratches/whatever. Rather than offer what is being demanded, request something different.
For example: Your dog is barking to get a bite of your sandwich. Rather than give him another treat (or, worse, an actual bite of your sandwich!) ask for a simple behavior like sit or, my preference, send him to his bed. Then, give him a chew toy as a reward rather than what was being demanded.
Or: Cooper is barking his furry little face off, trying to get the stuffie back that I took away from him because he had ripped it to shreds. This one’s pretty common around here. He will stand at the pantry where the trash can is – where stuffies go to die – and bark and bark and bark and bark, usually while giving me the stink eye. Rather than toss him another toy, I ask him for a couple quick behaviors – touch, high five, whatever – and give a food reward. My goal is to keep him busy with an incompatible behavior for long enough to get him to forget about his obnoxious demands.
There you have it! Demand barking can be incredibly obnoxious. You can eliminate it, and lots of training resources are super positive about that possibility! Just ignore it, they say! That just doesn’t work for us. I wish I could tell you another (easier…) way to eliminate it, but I don’t have one. Management is our solution.
Many of you mentioned problems with this behavior. What works for you? Have you tried any other management techniques? Or have you had luck with eliminating the behavior?