how to keep your dog quiet when working from home

how to keep your dog quiet when working from home
Posted by Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, CPDT-KA on Mar 18 2020

Almost every dog practices some form of attention-seeking behavior: from a sharp bark if you’re late for serving dinner, to that tennis ball being dropped into your lap 33 times in a row. These behaviors can become magnified if you're suddenly spending time together as a result of needing to work from home, and frustrating for pet parents who are expected to dial into conference calls while trying to talk over a background bark session.

While most of these behaviors are benign, what do you do about a dog whose attention-seeking behaviors and barks become annoying?

Tips for quieting a barking dog

Attention-seeking behaviors usually happen for a reason. It’s important to identify why your dog is acting in a demanding way and modify the behavior.

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The first step is to ensure your dog isn’t simply bored. Many common attention-seeking behaviors are the direct result of an under-stimulated dog.

Exercise the body

When was the last time you took a hike or long walk with your dog around the neighborhood during lunch? If it’s been a while, the answer to your problem may be to get off of the couch and head outside for a romp during a break from work.

Engage the brain

Try teaching your pet a new trick during your breaks or try out a new toy. The combination of physical exercise and mental stimulation should help quiet your dog.

Increase the affection

If your pup is feeling bored or ignored while you're at your computer, ask someone else in the house to play with your dog (if that someone exists!) or spend a few minutes here and there giving your pet some extra cuddles. A little extra love can work wonders.

Turn a blind eye to barking

Nuisance behaviors are perpetuated when a pet receives the attention he’s soliciting. So when your dog barks at you to get you to play, here’s the best way to respond: 

Ignore it altogether

This is not easy, and at times it can seem counterintuitive, but not giving in to your dog’s demands for attention will teach him that those behaviors do not work. If may be tough for your first couple days working from home, but over time, the behavior should subside.

Refrain from yelling or scolding

It may temporarily alleviate the behavior — and it certainly helps relieve you of your frustration from your dog and your work — but verbally admonishing your dog is still a form of attention giving, and should be avoided.

Once your dog backs off and stops the behavior, then it’s time to give him the attention he craves. Reinforce his good behavior with pets and praise.

Redirect the behaviors

Sometimes, no amount of playing or walking will tire a dog out. So instead of exhausting the body, you have to tire the brain. Teaching your dog to work for rewards can provide excellent mental stimulation.

Make play interactive

Puzzle toys and feeders are a great way to keep minds occupied and satisfy your pup’s need for stimulation. Things like Kongs, Buster Cubes and Wobblers all enrich mealtime by making your dog think about how to get to the food.

Banish the blues with chews

Dogs chew for fun, stimulation and to relieve anxiety. Be sure to provide a variety of size-appropriate chew toys, like hard rubber toys, “indestructible” plushies and rope toys.

Keeping your dog quiet takes time and patience

Extinction is the concept of eliminating a behavior by refusing to reinforce it. An extinction burst happens when the behavior gets temporarily worse because you’re ignoring it (don’t worry — it eventually gets better!).

If your dog is barking and you shush him, the barking may cease for a second but will undoubtedly come back.

If you ignore your dog (tough as it may be), your dog will think, “Hey, I need to work harder for this!” Barking may progress to howling, then bumping you with his nose, and maybe even grabbing a toy and shaking it in your face.

If you’re strong enough to wait it out and ignore his attempts, your dog will give up and move on. Do this enough, and your dog will eventually learn that his attention-seeking behaviors don’t work, and the behaviors will stop.

During an extinction burst, put your best poker face on and ignore that behavior. It’s not easy, but it works.

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