Originally collies were bred to be herding dogs, moving and controlling livestock; barking was part of the job. If your collie is a barker, it's part of his DNA. But you can train him to bark less by using positive reinforcement.
Behind the Bark
Determine why your collie is barking -- visual stimulation such as the mailman, squirrels in your yard or indoor triggers such as the phone ringing. Eliminate the trigger if possible; for instance, close the shades so the dog can't see the yard. Most collies have more than one barking trigger. This allows you to work on one at a time.
Choose a command word, such as "quiet." Use this word consistently when training your collie. Deliver the word in a calm but firm voice. Raising your voice will excite the dog and encourage him to continue barking. If you shout, he will think you're barking with him.
Teach your collie to sit, lie down or go to his bed. Do this at a different time from his barking training, using high-value treats and praise. You can use this command later to distract him from barking behavior.
Deflect the Barking
Teach your collie to bark on command. Use "speak" or another word that tells him to bark. Let him bark once or twice until he stops, then give him a treat. Once he understands how to bark on command, teach him the cue for "quiet." When he stops barking, give the command and then treat and praise when he obeys. Practice this frequently, giving both commands, until he understands that "quiet" means he must stop barking.
If your collie barks at you or something you're doing, give the "quiet" command and turn your back on him. Your collie may be barking to get your attention. Ignore him until he stops barking. Then face him, pat and treat.
Reinforce your training by asking someone to come to the door, call you on the phone or initiate one of your collie's barking triggers. Distract the dog by sending him to his bed or asking him to sit. Give him a treat and praise him if he obeys. Use the "quiet" command if he barks; treat and praise again when he stops. Practice this as much as possible. It may take some time, but collies are highly intelligent and will learn quickly if you're consistent.
Items you will need
- Training treats
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. A collie may bark if he's bored.
- Provide toys and appropriate chews for your collie.
- Leave a radio or the TV on when you're gone to keep your collie from barking.
- If your collie barks when you leave the house, he may have separation anxiety. Consult your vet for advice to treat this issue.
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