“How soon shall I start training my puppy to stop barking?” is a question I am constantly asked. I think, contrary to some trainers’ ideas, that once a puppy is weaned it is never too young to learn and understand small things.
Naturally, the puppy would rather be playing with you or dashing about than staying in his basket, but this training is important. All his life there will be times when he must stay quietly in a certain place when you can’t have him with you, and it is his early training that matters.
If he barks or howls, go back to him and scold him. Never think “Poor little puppy, I’ll take him on my lap.” If you do, you’ve lost the first battle. But on the other hand, never leave a puppy too long. Once he has obeyed and stayed quietly in the box for some time, try, if you can manage it, to give him a romp.
I cannot impress on you too strongly the necessity to be firm but kind to a puppy. His idea of your authority is forming, and if he knows you give in on the slightest whimper, you are whacked for life. To break him of habits formed when young is far more tiresome than training him in the right way at first.
Barking is an inexcusable trick, and if the puppy continues to do it, make sure he does not want to go out, and that he is comfortable and warm, and not hungry. If you’re certain on all these points, leave him to yell, only coming back at intervals to speak to him firmly. Then settle him down again quietly and with gentle stroking and words of encouragement, leave him again.
Under no circumstances take the dog out of his box when he yells, except to make certain all is well. If the puppy thinks he will be picked up or let out, you have lost the battle.
Barking on command
We come now to the vexed question of how much encouragement he should get to bark at the phone or at the doorbell, of how to teach him to stop barking or start barking.
It is quite easy to teach him to bark by getting someone to bang on the door, whereupon you rush towards it with tremendous excitement, “barking” yourself and getting terrifically worked up. The dog soon understands this game and should learn in under an hour just what he is supposed to do.
The greater trouble comes when you want to stop him. As he barks, you go to the door and open it. If it is a friend, you tell the dog “That will do,” and, if he doesn’t stop barking immediately, scold him and straight away put him, lying down, into his kennel. He will soon come to connect the words “That will do” with being put in his kennel, or down, and as you say, “That will do” he will soon learn to stop barking in anticipation of being put in his box. He also connects the words with a scolding. But always remember to praise him, when he barks at first with “Good boy!” Then follow it by “That will do” and the command to go and lie down. Few dogs bark much when lying down.
Some dogs bark for hours if left alone in the house. The reason for this is loneliness, and the barking is really a compliment to the owner. But it is also a vice and must be stopped.
Don’t be weak-willed!
The only way to stop it is to train your dog to be put in another room with its blanket or basket, while you are in the house, and to stay there quietly. At first, it will bark very loudly. The owner must return very crossly and send him to his basket with extremely angry words. The dog will try to fawn over the owner, but under no circumstances must one give in. When you have got him lying down, change your tone of voice to a soft, soothing one and with plenty of praise tell him to “Stay, there’s a good boy,” leaving him in a slow, comforting manner.
If the dog is quiet for about half an hour go back and praise him with all the fervor you can muster, let him romp about, and take him with you to your sitting-room or wherever you are; show him that you think he is the cleverest and most wonderful dog you know.
If you do this daily your dog will learn that you are coming back and will eventually lie down quietly wherever you put him. But this is not taught in a day and is never taught at all by a weak-willed owner. I maintain that to train a dog well the owner must be absolutely determined that with kindness and firmness he will make that dog do as it is told. The dog must get the impression that if it doesn’t do right there is going to be real trouble, but if it does do right everything will be wonderful.
The last point in this survey of preliminary training is of more interest to housewives than to the working owner. If you train your dog to wait at the house door for permission to come in, you will always be able to wipe his feet after a muddy walk, and so spare your carpets from paw marks!