Mike's Q&A

An interactive question and answer forum with expert dog trainer Michael Wombacher for all of your most pressing dog behavior and dog training-related questions.

Barking Puppy

Q:  6th day home with our 11 week old Aussie girl. She is doing very well, sleeps in crate (during the day when she's very tired and through the night next to me.) She has a 30'x10' pen outside and LOVES It! She even spends alone time out there with my sweatshirt. The problem is the 5'x12' play pen inside. She barks for food or? even when we are in there with her. I would let her bark, I have been trying to reward when I say "quiet" she's never quiet though. But my poor cats are trying to adjust but hate the high pitched barking. What to do....what to do....?

A: A couple of things to start with. Letting her bark until she gets tired of barking and then giving her a treat is terrible advice, although it seems to be all over the web. When you give her a reward for being quiet when taking a break from barking all it does is reinforce the fact that you get a treat for barking. That is, the dog will figure out quickly that "if I bark and then am quiet for a moment, I'll get a treat. Repeat, and I'll get more treats." 

That said, sometimes intense barking requires a more direct solution. Try using a water spray bottle that will shoot a jet stream and if the pup barks, give him a little spritz in the nose and mouth and say "quiet" in a strong, commanding tone. If water doesn't work, try Bitter Apple spray or some other taste deterrent. If using taste deterrents be sure to spray in the nose/mouth and avoid the eyes! If all that fails, try a citronella spray barking collar. These will stop the barking quickly in most cases. Let me know what happens and come back to this Q&A with follow up questions if needed.