Did your Livestock Guardian dog puppy start barking like a lot? Good! That means they care about their territory and show good guardian Instincts! But keep reading because we will help you turn this barking conversation into a constructive tool, and hopefully save you (and your neighbor’s) sanity in the process.
How do I train my Livestock Guardian Dog to stop barking?
How do I train my Livestock Guardian dog to stop barking? I provide consistent guidance and feedback to help them understand what actually warrants barking and what does Not.
There are a few reasons that I do bark training and recommend it. Livestock guardian dogs will bark and need to bark, it is part of their defense. But barking at leaves, squirrel farts, and butterflies has nothing to do with protecting their charges.
Boredom barking is straight up annoying to humans, livestock and neighbors. There is absolutely no reason for a dog to bark for hours on end habitually.
As a shepherd we need to train our dogs, what they should be barking at, and what is not important.
Bark training is not about training your dog NOT to bark. But rather to teach them to bark for communication with you, and with predators.Damari
1: Why is my Livestock Guardian dog barking too much?
Livestock guardian dogs bark excessively for several reasons:
- Pain/Health Issues
- Bad Habits
There are several reasons LGDs will bark excessively. Young pups that are insecure will bark all night long in an attempt to dissuade predators from coming close. Valid from the pups point of view, being alone and nervous. Bark training, ie. going out to check on things and back up the dog helps build their confidence that if shit hit the fan they wouldn’t be alone.
If your LGD starts barking obsessively and has not before, you will want to check them over for any thorns, burs or health issues.
Single LGDs that bark too much are often lonely and insecure like a young pup. They need reinforcement and support.
Dogs that bark to hear themselves bark…yes, we all at one point or another have had one of them. They need support and feedback too. You cannot let them do this for hours unchecked. If they will not stop, when you hush them or start up again as soon as you leave, I will remove their freedom until they “get it”.
I do this several different ways depending on the dog and situation. My dogs hate being removed from stock or put in the barn when they want to have access to paddocks and pastures. So a dog that barks in boredom- gets a timeout. Not for long, but until they make the connection that this isn’t fun anymore.
I will put them in a horse stall or crate in the barn, and let them out as soon as they stop for about 15 minutes. If they start up again when I give them more freedom? Rinse and repeat. My dogs understand that freedom is earned here, and I will manage their behavior for them if they cannot.
E-collars for Livestock Guardian Dogs and Barking
Let me clarify that I use e-collars as a communication tool, and not an aversive training device. You cannot put an e-collar on a dog, especially an LGD and aversively teach them to fear barking. This is cruel and inhumane. You will create more problems then you know how to fix: Just Don’t!
How do I use an E-collar for Bark Training Livestock Guardian Dogs?
I properly condition my dogs to an E-collar so I can communicate with them. A beep and my voice are often enough to make them stop boredom barking or other unwanted behavior. So if a dog is excessively boredom barking I will put an E-collar on it for a few days to communicate with the dog. I will warn them with a beep that this should stop. If it does not, then I will come out and remove their freedom.
When done consistently, they learn real quick that barking for fun is just not fun at all. Dogs who ‘cry wolf’ are not an asset. How will any human or their pack mates learn to take them serious?
2: Livestock Guardian dogs barking is a first line of defense
It’s true that a Livestock Guardian dog’s barking is a first line of defense, but it is not necessarily the ONLY line of defense.
If you only have one livestock guardian dog, or if the dog is just a puppy, then you are your dog’s backup. Do not make your dog be a hero, because you won’t do your part. Your dog deserves to feel supported and secure. If he is barking like he means it, please take him serious.
Backup Your Barking LGDs
If my Livestock Guardian dogs are out there barking you’d best believe I’m grabbing a flashlight and maybe a gun to see what is going on. I don’t want to loose livestock, I don’t want to loose a dog and I will back them up. They trust me.
But if your Livestock Guardian dog barks nonstop at the wind blowing or leaves falling how the heck do you know when shit has hit the fan and your livestock is in danger?!
3: Bark training is NOT about training the dogs not to bark at all.
How to train your Livestock Guardian dog to stop barking is not actually about teaching them to stop. It is about teaching them to bark with discretion.
It’s all about giving the young dogs confidence in their back up (YOU) so they won’t bark at every sound they hear. Because no they don’t NEED to bark all freaking night long to warn off predators.
Livestock Predators and Barking Livestock Guardian Dogs
Predators are smart and have excellent sight and hearing abilities. They can see, hear and smell your LGDs just as far away as the LGDs can sense them. In the decades I have owned livestock, I have only seen seriously desperate predators try to hunt dog protected livestock.
I’ve lived in places with heavy predator loads. My dogs give warning patrol barks at dusk when coyotes sound off. And for the most part, this is as far as it needs to go. LGDs will establish a relationship with your local native eco culture.
Predators are called predators and not warriors for a reason: Because they prey on easy prey. An injured predator is a hungry or dead predator because they cannot hunt properly. And most predators are wise enough to avoid injuries and target easier meals.
If you have stocked enough of Livestock Guardian dogs to properly protect your stock, they will not NEED to bark all night long. They will know your predators are there, but the predators will also know that the dogs are there too. How many Livestock Guardian dogs do you need? Read FAQ about LGDs here.
4: Your Neighbors Deserve to Sleep too.
Most owners of livestock guardian dogs live close enough to other people that barking nonstop over night is a nuisance. Be a good neighbor and teach your dogs what is important to bark about and what is unnecessary.
Now if you have a 1000 acres and no close neighbors then great, but that’s not a normal setup in much of the United States.
Barking all night just to warn potential predators IS obnoxious to other people. I’d personally lose my mind if ALL my dogs barked ALL night long.
Bark training does not mean that I can see or hear things better than my dogs. But I can tell if animals are in distress because of danger.
If I go back my dogs up and my livestock is sleeping, there are no signs of distress, and no visible danger then yes my dogs need to hush. Because if there was something out there it’s been warned and it’s obviously not an immediate threat.
5: Bark training also trains people.
My Estrela Mountain Dog LGDs have different barks based on the situation. I know by the tone of their barking what is going on outside. They have a higher pitched bark for when an animal needs help. (Example: a ewe is giving birth, or a lamb got stuck in the fence. )
Alert sharp barking means someone or something is on the property that doesn’t belong. No one drives, sneaks or walks in or out without my dogs telling me what’s up. This is not annoying, this is informative. But if they continue to bark when I come out to talk to a visitor, this is annoying, and they need to stop.
If my dogs start to bark aggressively, then that means a serious threat. And I pay attention. \
And the boredom barking of 3 barks, pause, 3 barks and repeat endlessly. Yeah that needs to stop. We can find other ways of occupying ourselves than barking just to bark. Especially when the older members of my pack do not take it seriously. If there is a real threat, the “big dogs” will act like it.
I learned my dogs language by going out and seeing what was going on, which taught me their different barks have different meanings.
Bark training is again not about training your dogs NOT to bark, but rather to communicate with you and you with them.
How to Train my Livestock Guardian Dog to Stop Barking Summarized
When you train your Livestock Guardian dog to stop excessive barking, it is important to provide support and feedback to help them understand appropriate behavior.
One approach to training a dog that boredom barks is to temporarily remove their freedom by confining them in a horse stall or crate in the barn until they stop barking.
Releasing them for short periods when they cease barking reinforces the concept that freedom is earned.
E-collars can also be used as a communication tool, not as an aversive training device, to help address excessive barking.
Consistent and compassionate training methods will help Livestock Guardian dogs learn that excessive barking is not desirable and ensure that they are taken seriously as valuable members of their human and pack communities.
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