People talk, dogs bark. It is not reasonable to expect your dog to never utter a single bark; however, when barking becomes excessive it can create problems for the owners, the neighbours, and ultimately the dog. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. The first step in correcting problem barking is to figure out why your dog is barking. If your dog is barking when you are not around, you may have to do some detective work like enlisting the help of the neighbours or even go as far as setting up a video camera to record when your dog is barking.
The Most Likely Reasons Your Dog Barks
Territorial Barking –occurs when ‘intruders’ are present (the mailman, neighbours walking their dogs, etc.). The purpose of this bark is to warn the ‘intruder’ that they have not gone unnoticed, and warn the other pack members of the ‘threat’.
- Fear Barking –occurs when your dog is uncomfortable in a given situation (barks at fireworks, thunder, etc.). It’s your dog’s way of warning the impending ‘danger’.
- Request Barking – occurs when your dog wants something now! Common examples are barking for a treat, access to outside, walks, etc.
- Boredom Barking – occurs when a dog creates his own fun by barking. This usually occurs when a dog is under-stimulated as a result of his daily needs of physical and mental stimulation not being met.
How Can I Control My Dog’s Barking?
- Teach your dog an alternative behaviour. For example, teach your dog that when he hears the doorbell ring, if he does a down stay he gets a tasty treat. Practice learning a down stay well, then once your dog has it, ring the bell, and issue the command. When your dog goes down, reward with a treat. After several repetitions, your dog will have learned that the ringing of the bell means ‘Down Stay’ and he gets a tasty reward. (Be sure to pick where you want the down stay. Make sure it’s not directly in front of the door!)
- Teach your dog a ‘Quiet’ command. Once barking, lure your dog’s attention to you with a treat and when he becomes quiet, say ‘Good Quiet’ slowly and calmly, rewarding with a treat for quiet.
- If you haven’t already, have your pet spayed or neutered. This alone can sometimes curb territorial barking.
- As a behaviour management technique, you can block your dog from having access to the front rooms of the house (which is where this type of barking most often occurs).
- You have to determine what it is that is frightening to your dog.
- Once you know what it is that is scary, start a program to desensitize your dog to the noise. If it’s thunder, you can buy a tape with thunder noises and play it at a very low volume while asking your dog to do things he is good at, like sit, for lots of tasty treats and praise and petting.
- If your dog is scared of strangers, carry a very tasty treat with you at all times and ask strangers to toss the treats to your dog. Eventually your dog will think that all people are treat dispensers.
- This is probably the easiest barking to cure. It’s simple – your dog is barking to tell you he wants something. So, he doesn’t get it until he is quiet. You should ignore the barking completely. When the barking ceases, then your dog can have what it is that he wanted. Soon your dog will learn that being quiet is a faster way to get what he wants!
- It’s important to note that if your dog has been successful in getting what he wants by barking, he will bark louder and longer the first few times you ignore him. Don’t give in! It’s a test! Stand your ground and eventually the behaviour will extinct itself because it’s no longer rewarding.
- Boredom barking occurs when your dog doesn’t have anything better to do than bark! This may occur if your dog isn’t getting enough physical and mental stimulation.
- Increasing your dog’s stimulation will help to eliminate boredom barking:
~Walk your dog at least once every day. It’s mentally and physically stimulating.
~ Take your dog through a positive-reinforcement obedience class, or any positive training class like agility or tricks. Practice a few of your commands every day to make your dog’s mind work.
~ Provide interesting toys like stuffed Kongs, Goodie Bones, Buster Cubes, etc. Consider rotating the toys so there is always something ‘new’ in your dog’s environment.
~ Consider enrolling your dog in doggie day-care where he can romp and play with other dogs.
~ Consider hiring a dog sitter to help exercise your dog while you are at work.
~ Provide high energy games like fetch to tire your dog, especially before extended absences.
~ Take your dog to an off-leash park for exercise, stimulation and socialization with some other four-legged friends.
With permission from Kentucky Humane Society, 2009.