The Two-Second Time-Out

By Sally Bradbury

This is the only time-out that we recommend. Anything longer, and learning doesn’t happen. It’s just punishment.

This method can be adapted for use with any game or using food to teach a dog some self-control with barking. If your dog barks to get the ball thrown, and the ball gets thrown when he barks, then it will became a well-learned behaviour. If you reward your dog with food when he stops barking, then he’ll learn to bark so he can stop.

Using a Toy or Ball

Let’s use playing ball as a popular example. Dog barks in excitement as he wants the ball thrown. If you throw the ball, he’s learning to bark. If you don’t throw the ball, he’s getting frustrated. Eventually, you either throw the ball, or he just tries harder and harder because barking always works.

It’s all in the timing. Find a way to throw the ball before he barks. You could drop the ball on the floor while his lead is still on, then remove the lead and move the ball with your toe. His head is down, and he doesn’t bark. You could then drop some food on the floor. As he finishes the food, throw the ball. If he brings the ball back, throw it again immediately before he barks. Not possible? Throw a second ball while the first one is still in his mouth. Continue in this fashion, getting the ball to him so quickly that he just doesn’t bark. To teach him not to bark at all, start to pause slightly before throwing the ball – just a nano-second. If he doesn’t bark, throw the ball. If he barks, step away, turn around, and reset for two seconds max. Throw the ball if the barking has stopped. This delays the reward and says to the dog, ‘You got it wrong, try again’.

Once you’ve had half a dozen sessions of zero barking and zero opportunity to bark, then pause for a nano-second before giving him the ball. If he barks, then use the ‘two second time out’ which is the only effective time out in dog training.

Start to throw, he barks, don’t throw but instead take one step away from him and turn in a complete circle (this should take no longer than two to three seconds). As you turn to face him. give him the ball if he hasn’t barked again.

He will bark a few times throughout this exercise, which is good because it means he’s testing a theory. He wants to double check what happens when he barks, and confirm that barking delays the delivery of the reward.

NOTE: we don’t recommend lots of ball throwing, but it’s an easy example to use for attention seeking barking.

Using Food

With food, the same principle applies. You can do this indoors. Have a pot of treats on the side, and stand very close to them. Toss him a treat before he barks. Throw a few in quick succession as a reward for not barking. Gradually move a few inches away from treat pot, and now slow down the delivery of the treat; reach for it slower. If he barks at any point, put the treat back if you already picked it up. Step away, and as above, two-second time-out. Give him the treat if he hasn’t barked.

A dog trying hard not to bark is the best way to teach a dog not to bark in certain situations.

Always reward the absence of barking if you have a particularly vocal dog, rather than wait until he does and then try and stop it.