Barking

 

Learn Why Your Dog Barks

 

If your dog’s “talkative nature” has created tension with your

neighbors, then it’s a good idea to discuss the problem with

them. It’s perfectly normal and reasonable for dogs to

bark from time to time, just as children make noise when

they play outside. But continual barking for long periods of

time is a symptom of a problem that needs addressing—

from the perspectives of your neighbors and your dog.

First, determine when and for how long your dog barks and

what causes him to bark. You may need to do some clever

detective work to obtain this information, especially if the

barking occurs when you’re not home. Ask your neighbors

what they see and hear, drive or walk around the block and

watch and listen for a while, or start a tape recorder or video

camera when you leave for work. With a little effort you

should be able to find out which of the common problems

discussed below is the cause of your dog’s barking.

 

Social Isolation/Frustration/Attention-Seeking

 

Your dog may be barking out of boredom and loneliness if:

 

The dog left alone for long periods of time without

opportunities to interact with you.

 

The dogs environment is relatively barren, without

companions or toys.

 

The dogs a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) and

doesn’t have other outlets for his energy.

 

The dogs a particularly active type of dog (like the herding or

sporting breeds) who needs to be occupied to be happy.

 

Recommendations

 

Expand your dog’s world and increase his “people time” in

the following ways:

 

Walk your dog at least twice daily—it’s good exercise, both

mentally and physically. Walks should be more than just

“potty breaks.”

 

Teach your dog to fetch a ball or Frisbee® and practice with

him as often as possible.

 

Teach your dog a few commands or tricks and practice them

every day for five to 10 minutes.

 

Take a dog training class with your dog. This allows you and

your dog to work together toward a common goal.

 

To help fill the hours that you’re not home, provide safe,

interesting toys to keep your dog busy, such as Kong®-type

toys filled with treats or busy-box toys. Rotating the toys will

make them seem new and interesting.

 

If your dog is barking to get your attention, make sure he has

sufficient time with you on a daily basis (petting, grooming,

playing, exercising).

 

Keep your dog inside when you’re unable to supervise him.

Let your neighbors know that you are actively working on the

problem.

 

If your dog is well socialized and you have your employer’s

permission, take your dog to work with you every now and

then.

 

When you have to leave your dog for extended periods of

time, take him to a “doggie day care center,” hire a pet sitter

or dog walker, or have a trusted friend or neighbor walk and

play with him.


Territorial/Protective Behavior

 

Your dog may be barking to guard his territory if:

 

The barking occurs in the presence of “intruders,” which may

include the mail carrier, children walking to school, and other

dogs or neighbors in adjacent yards.

 

Your dog’s posture while he’s barking appears threatening—

tail held high and ears up and forward.

 

You’ve encouraged your dog to be responsive to people and

noises outside.

 

Recommendations

 

Teach your dog a “quiet” command. When he begins to bark

at a passerby, allow two or three barks, then say “quiet” and

interrupt his barking by shaking a can filled with pennies or

squirting water at his mouth with a spray bottle or water

squirt gun. His surprise should cause him to stop barking

momentarily. While he’s quiet, say “good quiet” and pop a

tasty treat into his mouth. Remember, the loud noise or

water squirt isn’t meant to punish him; rather it’s to distract

him into being quiet so you can reward him. If your dog is

frightened by the noise or squirt bottle, find an alternative

method of interrupting his barking (perhaps throw a toy or

ball near him).

 

Desensitize your dog to the stimulus that triggers the

barking. Teach him that the people he views as intruders are

actually friends and that good things happen to him when

these people are around. Ask someone to walk by your yard,

starting far enough away so that your dog isn’t barking, then

reward quiet behavior and correct responses to a “sit” or

“down” command with special treats such as little pieces of

cheese. As the person gradually comes closer, continue

to reward your dog’s quiet behavior. It may take several

sessions before the person can come close without your dog

barking. When the person can come very close without your

dog barking, have him feed your dog a treat or throw a toy

for him.

 

If your dog barks while inside the house when you’re home,

call him to you, have him obey a command such as “sit” or

“down,” and reward him with praise and a treat. Don’t

encourage this type of barking by enticing your dog to bark

at things he hears or sees outside. Remember to pay

attention to your dog when he’s being quiet too, so that he

comes to associate such behavior with attention and praise.

Have your dog spayed or neutered to decrease territorial

behavior.

 

Fears and Phobias

 

Your dog’s barking may be a response to something he’s

afraid of if:

 

The barking occurs when he’s exposed to loud noises, such

as thunderstorms, firecrackers, or construction noise.

Your dog’s posture indicates fear—ears back, tail held low.

 

Recommendations

 

Identify what’s frightening your dog and desensitize him to it.

You may need professional help with the desensitization

process.

 

Talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication while

you work on behavior modification.

 

During thunderstorms or other frightening times, mute noise

from outside by leaving your dog in a comfortable area in a

basement or windowless bathroom, and turn on a television,

radio, or loud fan.

 

Block your dog’s access to outdoor views that might be

causing a fear response by closing curtains or doors to

certain rooms.

 

Avoid coddling your dog so that he doesn’t think that he is

being rewarded for his fearful behavior.

 

Separation Anxiety

 

Your dog may be barking due to separation anxiety if:

 

The barking occurs only when you’re gone and starts as

soon as, or shortly after, you leave.

 

Your dog displays other behaviors that reflect a strong

attachment to you, such as following you from room to room,

greeting you frantically, or reacting anxiously whenever you

prepare to leave.

 

Your dog has recently experienced a change in the family’s

schedule that means he’s left alone more often; a move to a

new house; the death or loss of a family member or another

family pet; or a period at an animal shelter or boarding

kennel.

 

Recommendations

 

Some cases of separation anxiety can be resolved using

Counter Conditioning and Desensitization Techniques.

Successful treatment for some cases may also require the

use of medication prescribed by your veterinarian.

 

 

 

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