How to curb excessive barking and keep the neighborhood peace.Does your dog bark at cats, people, other dogs, squirrels, boredom, or the washing machine? Maybe they just bark at people or other dogs while on a leash?There are too many things to list that a dog can and will bark at. What can we do about it?
The quick answer is that it depends. Dogs get noisy for a variety of reasons. How we solve the problem depends upon the reason the dog is barking in the first place. Here are a few of the main reasons that dogs get noisy and things you can do to help curb the noise:
- Anxiety — Scared dogs can be noisy dogs. Many dogs experience separation anxiety, anxiety in new surroundings, or anxiety around new people. Dealing with the anxiety and desensitizing the dog to the source of the anxiety will usually diminish barking if it is a new habit. The longer the dog has been barking, the longer it will take to teach them a new response. The sooner you deal with it, the easier it will be.
- Boredom — Bored dogs will sometimes bark (among other unwanted behaviors). Gone are the days that dogs must be left alone all day at home or alone in the backyard left to their own devices while you work. Doggy daycare, pet-sitters and dog walkers are everywhere now. Daily walks and playtime are good for the pet owners too. All work and no play makes for destructive and noisy behavior. Crating will often help to settle down a dog that has been crate trained.
- Interesting creatures outside the window — If your dog goes crazy for squirrels or cats, an easy fix is to block windows or close off rooms while you are gone. Another popular way to manage this is to reward the dog for calm behavior around these critters. Have treats handy.
- Reactivity/Over-stimulation — I won’t sugar coat this one. It can take a while to teach a dog how to be calm. It can be done — but it can take months (or even years) for some dogs. Lots of praise and rewards when the dog is quiet and calm are the way to go. Another popular method for dealing with reactivity is to play the engage/redirect game and to desensitize the dog to the stimulation. I care for a dog that lives next door to a small dog that is let out into the backyard a few times each day. Whenever the dog is let out, it runs out of the house yapping in delight. This has become something that my client dog can hear from anywhere in the yard and will run over to greet the neighbor dog by barking back. I have practiced with my client by teaching her the command “quiet” and rewarding her with high value treats for not barking. The client dog has already been taught to bark on command so it was not hard to teach her quiet. Obedience training in general will help calm a dog. I also practice obedience drills when the neighbor dog is outdoors to redirect the focus away from the barking neighbor.
- Leash reactivity — If the reactivity is towards other dogs while out walking on a leash, the most common method to train for quieter walks is to maintain distance around other dogs and to reward quiet behavior, change directions and gradually shorten the distance. Again, this is easier in theory than in person. I have moved to a much busier metropolitan area and sometimes it is not possible to avoid other dogs. My progress with my own dog with this problem has been slower than I would like. My border collie is too friendly and she gets frustrated on a leash when she cannot greet people and dogs. She wants to be everybody’s new buddy. I had to stop letting strangers pet her because it caused too much stimulation and frustration for her. Many people want to pet the pretty dog. It just isn’t what is best for her training at the moment. We are still working on teaching her how to greet people and other dogs politely while on leash. Another thing that I have learned the hard way is that if you have two leash reactive dogs, DO NOT WALK THEM TOGETHER. They will feed off of each other’s energy and the barking will become exponentially worse. Work on the dogs individually. Walk them separately.
- Attention seeking — If a dog is getting extra attention from barking and you yell at them to stop, they are getting what they want. Do not yell at a dog that is barking. They will just think that you are barking too. Ignore them until they stop. Once they are quiet and calm, praise and reward. Never praise or reward during the barking to distract them — unless you want more barking.
- Guarding — Some dogs have issues with resource guarding and will bark to keep other dogs and people away from their resources. Working on desensitizing to whatever is triggering this will help. If it is food, hand feed the dog to help them understand that good things come from you and do not need to be guarded. If it is a person that they are guarding, teaching them to go to their mat, will help reduce guarding their people.
Keeping your dogs fairly quiet can be a legal concern in many cities such as Los Angeles where they can revoke your dog’s license, confiscate your animal and bar you from owning any animals for one year. If all else fails, some people have had success with ultrasonic anti-bark devices that emit a high pitch unpleasant to dogs when activated by barking. I have one of these at home and it worked on both animals in my home immediately. The first day, the dogs activated the device by barking at some dogs walking by the patio. Once the device was activated, the dogs stopped barking and looked around. Then they hid under the bed. They were skittish for the first few days — but quiet. After a week, the dogs acted normally and were still not barking. It did not teach the dogs to stop barking altogether. My dogs still gave me a little woof when they needed a potty break or wanted to play. They learned to bark softly instead of big crazy barks. My dog also barks much less in general now. When we are out and away from the device, she hardly barks at all. These do not work on all dogs and tend to work best for dogs that bark at home because the transmitters have an effective radius usually less than 35 feet. However, if you have tried everything else and your dog is still barking and you need to get it under control immediately, they are humane and worth a try. The sonic device and all the other training combined has taught her to bark much less. I don’t have any experience with bark collars so I can’t comment from personal experience regarding them. These tools are not a substitute for training. But, they can speed up the process. As with many other issues related to dogs, there isn’t one right way to fix the problem instantly for every dog. It can be time consuming and frustrating at times. Stick with it and be consistent. Give yourself a break if the first few things you try don’t work right away. It is a process…
Originally published at mrycpetcare.weebly.com.