Labrador Retrievers often find themselves up for adoption because of their energetic nature and tendency to bark. Don't give up on your lab. Barking is a common issue for this breed, but these easy-to-train dogs quickly learn to stop yapping with consistent training from their favorite human companions.
Become the pack leader in your household. A Labrador may bark excessively to protect the family because he feels responsible to protect the pack or because he's a bossy barker trying to get his way. Labs need firm, but gentle leadership. Some methods to become pack leader are to eat before your dog, walk ahead of your dog and not allow him on furniture. If you're set on having your lab sitting next to you, only allow him on the furniture if he's quiet and on his best behavior. Make your lab sit for one minute before he can eat or go outside. You must remain in control of your dog.
Teach your lab to bark and be quiet on command. Create a command, such as “Speak!” or “Talk to me!” and initiate a stimulus to cause barking, such as knocking on the floor. Once your lab is barking, put a treat in front of his nose and let him sniff it. Say the command and give him the treat when he barks. Once your lab is barking on command, tell him to bark and then say “Quiet!” and stick a treat under his nose. Praise him when he stops.
Ignore the attention-seeking bark. The deep, loud bark of a Labrador is difficult to block out—especially when high-pitched whines and yelps add to the irritation, but ignoring the behavior is mandatory if you want it to stop. Avoid talking, touching and even looking at your lab if he barks. Once he stops barking, praise him for being such a good dog and give him a good scratch behind his floppy ears. If he starts barking, turn your back to him until he is quiet. Once he stops barking, turn around and give him attention.
Increase your lab's daily exercise. Labs are a very energetic breed, so barking is sometimes a way to release pent up energy. Your lab needs a minimum 30-minute walk each day, but he would greatly benefit from more than one daily walk. If you have a fenced in yard, allow your lab to go outside to run around and burn energy.
- Adopt a second dog to prevent your lab from barking out of boredom while a second dog also gives him a play buddy to help burn excessive energy.
- Use juicy and soft treats during training periods, such as liver, cooked chicken or cut-up hot dogs. Dried dog treats take so long for your dog to eat that he usually forgets the reason he was rewarded.
- Never allow a guest that's a stranger to your lab pet him while he's barking. Although labs are friendly and adapt easily to meeting new people, they are still protective and barking can indicate aggressiveness, which could lead to a bite.
- Avoid using treats as the only reward for the “Quiet!” command. Excessive use of treats can cause dogs to only respond if a treat is available.
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.