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 neighbors 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 neighbors 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 (i.e. the mailman, neighbours walking their dogs, etc.). The purpose of this bark is to warn the “intruder” that they have not gone unnoticed and warns the other pack members of the “threat.”
- Fear Barking occurs when your dog is uncomfortable in a given situation (i.e. barks at fireworks, thunder, etc.). It is your dog’s way of warning of 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. He daily needs of physical and mental stimulation are not being met.
How Can I Control My Dog’s Barking?
- Teach your dog an alternative behaviour. For example, teach him that when he hears the doorbell ring, he gets a tasty treat if he does a down stay. 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 doorbell means down stay and he gets a tasty reward! Remember to pick where you want your dog to do the down stay – make sure it’s not right in front of the door!
- Teach your dog a ‘quiet’ command. Once barking, lure your dog’s attention to you with a treat. When he becomes quiet, say ‘good quiet’ slowly and calmly and reward with a treat.
- 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 where this type of barking occurs most.
- Fear Barking
- Identify what’s frightening your dog and desensitize him to it. You may need professional help with the desensitization process. Check with your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication while you work on behavior modification
- This is probably the easiest barking to cure. Your barking dog is telling you that he wants something, so he does not get it until he is quiet. You should ignore the barking completely. When the barking stops, then your dog can have what he wanted. Your dog will learn quickly that being quiet is a faster way to get what he wants!
- It is important to note that if you dog has been successful in getting what he wants by barking, he will barker louder and longer the first few times that you ignore him. Do not give in! Stand your ground and eventually the behaviour will stop because it is no longer rewarding.
Increasing your dog’s stimulation will help to eliminate boredom barking. Consider the following:
- Walk your dog at least once every day.
- Take your dog to a positive reinforcement obedience, agility or tricks class. 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.
- Rotate your dog’s toys so that there is always something “new” in your dog’s environment.
- Consider enrolling your dog in doggie daycare 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.