You get home from a long day at work, take the dog for a walk, and sink into your favorite chair to relax and watch TV. To your dismay and frustration, the second you turn your TV on, your dog starts barking.
This problem is relatively common, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Let’s take a look at how to stop your dog from barking at the TV. If you’d like to submit your own Ask a Behavior Consultant, please be sure to check here to see if your question has already been answered. Then submit your question here.
“My dog has started barking at the TV both mounted and floor level. How do I stop this?”
– TV Terror
Many dogs calmly ignore the TV without a problem. But not all!
In general, dogs that bark at the TV are sensitive to changes in their environment. They often startle at loud noises, bark out the window, and/or enjoy chasing fast-moving objects.
Barking at the TV might be fun for your dog, or it might be a stress response as she tries to control the movement and sound on the TV.
Step 1: When is the Barking Happening?
Try to figure out when your dog barks at the TV. Is it just when there’s something extra-loud, fast-moving, or dog-like on the screen? Or is it constant?
If your dog is super-sensitive to ALL changes and is always barking at the TV, consider getting help from a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant – there might be something else going on.
Step 2: Prevention is the Best Cure
If it’s possible to prevent your dog from coming into contact with what makes him bark (such as animal shows or fight scenes), do it.
You can do this by putting your dog in a covered crate with a stuffed Kong while watching TV.
This might be your solution! Great!
You might also find that increasing your dog’s mental exercise (puzzle toys are an easy way to do this) and physical exercise helps a lot, too.
Your dog might simply be bored, so yelling at the TV is the most exciting option on the table.
Step 3: Throw Food at It
Many basic TV-barking problems can be solved if you just toss food to your dog whenever you turn on the TV at first.
As your dog starts expecting treat-tosses paired with the TV, you can start delaying the tosses and just tossing treats when something “Bark-worthy” happens on the TV.
This approach, done properly, is very effective. I’m being a bit glib when I say throw food at it.
To be more specific, you can start pairing the sounds and movements on the TV with food. As your dog learns that association (TV=food), you can start to just reward him when he’s behaving well.
You might just feed him for sitting or lying at your feet, or at least watching TV without barking.
It’s important to control your TV’s volume, brightness, and the exact program carefully here. If you play the TV loudly on an exciting program, you’re likely to fail.
Set aside a separate training session and put the TV on a boring station with the volume turned low.
While you’re in training, you’ll have to keep the dog and TV separate. The more your dog “practices” barking at the TV, the harder the habit is to break.
Step 4: Practice Alternate Behaviors
Mat training is super useful here. If you go through Karen Overall’s 15-day relaxation protocol and then start introducing the TV at low levels, you’ll probably see very fast results.
If you get stuck after attempting these basic interventions, don’t give up!
Odds are you just need the help of an expert trainer to really break down the lesson plans into bite-sized chunks for you and your dog.
Keep working on these basics and get help.
Avoid punishing your dog with collars, spray bottles, cans of coins, or anything else startling or scary as that can actually increase your dog’s stress response to the TV (and to you), ultimately making this problem worse or displacing the problem elsewhere.
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, and as a private dog trainer. When not working on Journey Dog Training, Kayla works at Working Dogs for Conservation. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her dog Barley.