Dogcharmer: Loud Lab

Teaching Harlow when to bark and when to be quiet.

Harlow — Tina Miller

Hi Tom, 

I hope you are doing well. 

I am writing about our beautiful Harlow, 6-month-old Lab-cross rescue. She is overall a great dog, listens mostly like a Labrador, but she is a teenage punk right now.

The issue we are having is that she has become a bigmouth, barking at everything from her reflection to frogs in our small pond, to comings and goings. We do not want this to become a habit. How do we discourage her loud, booming bark?





Dear Tina,

Although all teens are definitely not punks, you’re dead-on about Harlow at age 6 months being a “punk.” In many breeds, brainwave patterns change at about 2 years, at which point they start entering adulthood. With most dogs I fondly refer to ages between 5 and 12 months as “punk age.”

So Harlow is overly verbal (nuisance barker) and needs to learn to cooperate with the command “Quiet!” The strategy here is not to shut down all barking, just the excessive, unnecessary yapping. I’ve had some good success with a cheap, simple, ultrasound device. Even though you will hear nothing, it will emit a sound that Harlow will probably find irritating and displeasing. 

The important and, for many, hard part of this training is the timing. Tina, go out of your way to anticipate the stimulus that will elicit the nuisance barking, and be ready! You go out before Harlow and see the frog sunning itself on a stone. A minute later Harlow arrives, sees the frog and barks. The split-second after the bark, he hears you saying “Quiet!” immediately followed by the ultrasound. If he “shuts up,” immediately praise, maybe even offer a treat. If he barks again, immediately repeat the “Quiet!” instantly followed by the ultrasound. I’d also suggest you take it a step further by bringing the “interesting frog” to his attention before he sees it, pointing it out with a happy voice as something interesting to be shared with you and appreciated, as opposed to something to be alarmed or warned about, shutting down the verbalization if necessary. 

If the ultrasound has no effect (unlikely) let me know and we’ll go another route. Good luck and keep in mind, the great majority of punks mature into adults.


The Dogcharmer  

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