We probably would be much more tolerant of a dog barking if we compared it with a person talking. Every time your canine companion is emitting his sharpest bark or lowest pitched growl he is communicating his feelings just as we humans do. If your dog is barking at the slightest noise he may be just saying: “Hey, there is something out there that is worrying me” or something like “I do not like when I hear noises near my property”.
To our ears barking is simply annoying and in our opinion often unnecessary. Getting your dog to stop barking may be a very challenging task. At the same time you definitely do not want your dogs to stop barking if they are alerting you of something suspicious or unusual. Rather you want your dog to stop barking at the mail man or the trash collecting truck. So here are some guidelines in trying at least to lessen the amount of barking.
- Attention grabber barkers. These dogs feel simply bored or neglected and are seeking your attention through barking. If they do get your attention, even if negative they feel they have accomplished their goal. If your dog barks for attention rather yawn and ignore. When he turns quiet then praise him lavishly. Your dog will get the message that when quiet he is rewarded, when barking nothing is accomplished.
- Barking brings results dogs. These dogs have learned that barking brings them results and have learned to use their voice to get what they want. This is usually the owner’s fault. The dog barks to get in and the owners opens the door. The dog barks and he gets petted. The dog barks and he gets his food. Things will need to be changed around. If the dog barks insistently at the door only open when he quiets down of buy a dog door. Feed the dog only once he sits and stays quiet. As mentioned above pet only when his mouth is shut.
- Separation anxiety barkers. These are the dogs that will howl all day while you are away. This can go on and on during your absence, driving your neighbors nuts. You must desensitize this dogs to your daily routine. On a day you are planning to stay home pretend you are leaving but do not leave. Repeatedly put your jacket on and get the keys. Then sit on the sofa. Once your dog gets comfortable with these actions then go out for a short time and then progressively make your leavings longer. Leave your dog with great toys such as Kongs. If possible hire a dog walker or a pet sitter. In severe cases your vet will need to prescribe anti anxiety medications.
- Growling aggressive barkers. These dogs mean business, if the aggressive barking and growling is directed towards you contact a dog behaviorist. If the dog is barking to something outside such an animal or neighbors do not yell him to stop. The dog will think you are barking as well. Rather tell him in low voice ‘Quiet’ and give him a treat as soon as he stops.
- Fearful barkers. These dogs are simply afraid of something. Dogs that bark at the trash truck or at rumbles of thunder may be simply manifesting their fear. Their bodies tense up and they may be backing up from their source of fear. These dogs are also one of the most prone to bite. You need to work on their confidence levels. If trucks are the issue, walk the dog near a non moving truck and let him sniff it. Go around it and praise him for his confidence. Every time lightning strikes give a treat so when the thunder arrives he will associate it with something good. Never reassure a fearful dog, doing so causes the dog to believe being fearful is ok and will continue to be that way. Rather ignore and praise when the dog shows confidence.
There are various product aids to stop your dog from barking. They work on turning barking into an unpleasant behavior. Some devices produce unpleasant noises when the dog barks others release unpleasant smells. Shock collars produce a small shock every time the dog barks. These should be considered ultimate resources to be utilized when all other methods have failed.
Regardless of the reason why your dog barks just think of it as talking. If we humans had to bark for every word we pronounced we would be very annoying people. Learn to distinguish which barking should be discouraged from which one is vital to alert you. A watch dog should not be scold if he is barking at unusual noises out in the yard. Barking can be annoying but it is after all your dog’s way of communicating. As a general rule of thumb treat barking as a problem only when it is excessive or indicating a problem in your dog’s behavior and wellbeing.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.