Owners say they appreciate the warning bark because it is useful. It’s an early warning system that something may be amiss. The sound is generally a short, “woof” which indicates “danger” as perceived by the dog. The problem with the warning bark is that owners may ignore it and the dog continues to warn of impending danger. Now you have a barking problem.
Thankfully, there is an easy fix but it does require a response from the owner. You must acknowledge the initial bark. Let the dog know that you are listening to him, after all he is doing his job. Your response should be to get between the dog and what he is sees as a threat. Once you do that you are silently communicating to the dog that 1) you heard him and, 2) you are taking responsibility. When you are in front of the dog with your back to the dog hold your hands out at the sides of your body with your palms visible, facing the dog. Now, stand still and wait for the dog to be quiet or turns away from you. This is similar to the behavior the dog would experience in the pack or in the presence of another dog. For instance, puppies would defer to their mother when she takes control of a troublesome situation and they would retreat. The warning bark is a clear communication to the puppies and they would respond quickly, running away from the danger. In our case, the dog would interpret your stance and hand signal to mean that you are taking control of the situation.
Later, when the dog becomes familiar with this signal, you will no longer have to physically get between the dog and the perceived danger. If you have a dog that is hyper sensitive to noises and barks a warning unnecessarily, repeating the hand signal for “all is well, I’m handling this” will suffice to stop the barking.
Tomorrow I will cover fear barking, a more problematic form of barking. Talk to you then.