Do you have a dog who barks, usually accompanied by intense staring at your face, as a way to communicate a need or desire? From a dog's perspective, this strategy makes good sense; it's hard for us to ignore the barking. When this demand barking occurs, how we respond will help the dog decide if he should continue utilizing this strategy more or less frequently in the future.
Demand barking is something I see regularly when working with my clients' dogs. In some cases, the pet parent is absolutely okay with this form of communication; they don't mind that the dog barks when he wants a treat, a meal, a toy thrown, or a potty break. In other cases, however, the person does not enjoy the barking, but may not realize that they're accidentally rewarding this behavior and do not know how to resolve it.
I personally have a real aversion to barking, so I encourage my own dogs to communicate their needs in different ways. For example, Bond will pace around me or hop on and off furniture a few times to alert me to his need to go outside. (Ringing a bell would be another option.) Also, soulful stares and even chin rests on my body have a good chance of getting my attention or something they desire, rather than barking.
If you're committed to eliminating demand barking, here are some important tips to consider:
Provide daily enrichment and exercise so the dog has plenty of appropriate outlets for his energy as well as interesting challenges for his brain.
Maintain a schedule so the dog doesn't have to alert you to a need (like a potty break), because you're walking him frequently enough already.
Reward your dog with attention or toy play or treats when he IS quiet and settled.
Ignore the barking.
The suggestion to IGNORE the barking is the tough piece, and it's not fair to do if you're not consistently following the other three suggestions above. The dog must see there's another pathway of communication to get his needs met.
So let's say you are following the suggestions above, and now you're ready to ignore the demand barking in a specific context. I'll use barking to get a toy thrown as an example (but if your dog barks in multiple contexts, begin with the one where barking is the weakest):
Toss the toy regularly when the dog IS quiet.
Turn away briefly when the first bark occurs. After a few seconds of silence, toss the toy again. (Here's a video that demonstrates this.)
If barking is lengthy, turning and walking away may be a better strategy, and then resume toy-tossing when the dog is calmer again.
Avoid giving your dog eye contact or talking to him or instructing him during the barking. In most cases, all these responses from you will feel rewarding to the dog and the barking will remain firmly in place.
When dogs have a rich history of being rewarded for demand barking in the past, this behavior can be challenging to solve, especially when not approached in a systematic way. We need to find ways to minimize the dog's frustration; otherwise it will only fuel more barking.
If you need assistance with demand barking, please get in touch. I'd love to help you and your dog achieve a quieter method of communication!