Help With a Barking Dog

Few things in life can send dog owners and neighbors over the edge quicker than a dog who simply won’t stop barking. But barking is an instinct for dogs, not a means to annoy their owners. It’s a trait that was bred into many lines for a specific purpose. Those instincts still prevail, but the conditions of modern life have changed. Dogs now more often warn their masters that the phone is ringing rather than alerting them to an intruder.
Nature or Nurture?

 

Jacque Schultz, director of companion-animal services for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), says that understanding why a dog barks makes it easier for owners to control barking. The instinct to bark is
impossible to break, but the behavior can be modified. Some breeds come by barking naturally—hunting dogs and guard dogs, for example—but other breeds may acquire the habit of excessive barking. Sporting and working dogs were bred to work all day long. Chasing around a few toys while waiting for the family to come home just doesn’t fulfill their need for exercise. That’s when boredom—and barking—set in. Many of these breeds need two or more 20-minute periods of rigorous exercise per day, preferably before everyone leaves for work or school

 

If that isn’t possible, exercise these dogs as much as possible early on, then break up their day with a lunchtime visit and a short walk. Leaving them outside during the day won’t cut it—they need interaction and routine. After all, they were bred to work with man, not alone. Many people who want dogs for protection get frustrated when their dogs bark at the doorbell. Protective and territorial dogs (guard dogs) are going to announce the arrival of strangers. These breeds were developed to highlight this trait. The barking should be controllable, though, and your dog should be able to be "turned off."  Some individual dogs are just naturally fearful. Others have a history of abuse or neglect. Gradually introducing them to what they see as a dangerous situation and proving that it’s safe will reduce their fear and, along with it, "fear barking."

 

One dog who was afraid of leaves blowing outside the dining-room window learned to be brave when a leaf was brought in and the owner gently coaxed the dog toward it. After learning to play with this one leaf, the dog was led outside and gradually introduced to more and more leaves. After several days, he learned that the leaves weren’t dangerous. His fear abated, and the barking stopped. Finally, dogs often develop their own quirky barking habits. The owner’s task is to figure them out, then come up with a solution to the problem. One pup earned the nickname "Herald" because he barked when his master came down the stairs or entered a room, much like the court heralds of old. The solution? The owner now walks down the steps or enters a doorway and calls out the dog’s name before stepping into the room, beating the dog to the punch. By tracking and identifying the pattern of barking, the owner was able to break that pattern.10 Tips to Control Barking Give the command "bark" when your dog barks, then follow with praise. Once he understands this connection and barks on command, add a "no" command. When he stops, praise him. Repeat this exercise until he understands both commands.

 

Get your dog’s attention by placing 12 pennies in an empty can and taping it shut. Toss the can near (not at) the dog to startle him, or just shake it and put it on the floor to distract him. Give your dog the "down/stay" command. Few dogs like the feel of their chest reverberating against the floor when they bark. Reduce the dog’s area of influence. With less space to guard, he may be quieter. Make sure territorial and social barkers have a limited view. Treat windows with heavy drapes or a blanket to muffle both sight and sound.  If your dog runs the fence line barking at other dogs or people, install a privacy fence that he can’t see through. Provide "white noise." Many families have either a television or a radio playing whenever they’re home, but turn it off when they leave. The silence can be deafening to a dog. For a dog who barks when you leave home, give him an "only-when-I’m-gone" toy with your scent on it. He’ll soon learn that you will return when you give him this toy. Establish a "five free barks" policy that lets your dog bark only five times before you give a no-bark command. This will satisfy his urge to bark but curtail nonstop woofing.
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If all else fails, please contact me as I know of several Vets that do debarkings.  Debarking is not cruel!!  It is as simple as a tonsilectomy.  Your dog can still bark but it is a softer bark.   

 

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