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Norwich Bulletin - 8/29/2010

Barking Dog

If you have a dog; any kind of dog (other than a Basenji), you should expect some type of barking, whining or howling at certain times. It is totally unfair, and unrealistic, to think that you can get your dog to stop barking altogether. And barking isn’t something that only affects you and your family, but also your neighbors. Trust me, neighbors can become the bane of your existence with disputes, calls to animal control, fines, and so on.

Barking is everyone’s problem if your dog is outside the majority of the time. So, if you are having neighborhood tension, it might be a good idea to call your neighbors and discuss the problem and let them know that you are trying to address it and are working on a solution. Your neighbors can also help you learn how long and when your dog barks when you are not home. You will need to determine what makes your dog bark, and when you figure that out, you can start working on the cure.

For starters, your dog may be barking because you taught him to!! Yes, it’s true. Did you teach him how to speak for a treat and then tell him what a good dog he is? Did you teach him to bark at the door when he needs to go outside? How about when people come to the door? If this is the case, then your dog does not know if barking is good or bad. He only knows that when he barks he gets attention, whether it’s good attention or not so good. Humans are consistently inconsistent when it comes to most things. You will need to teach the poor dog what the rules are.

The bottom line is to teach him that barking is OK until he gets the command to “Stop Barking.” You will have to make “Stop Barking” the same type of obedience command like “Sit” or “Stay.” Each time your dog barks, after two or three woofs, praise him for sounding the alarm and tell him to stop barking. At the same time, hold up an especially tasty treat in front of his nose. The dog will stop barking in order to eat the treat. During this time, praise him continuously.

After three seconds, give him the treat. The next time there are barks, repeat but wait for five seconds before giving the treat. Each time your dog stops barking, you give that treat, making the time a little longer. However, if there is even one little woof after you have given the command to “Stop Barking” you must immediately YELL – “STOP BARKING.” Most dogs are so shocked by such a horrendous outburst that they stop for an instant and just look at you. When this happens, quickly reward him.

If the dog continues to bark after your very loud command, splash water in his face to make him stop barking. As your dog gets the hang of it all, you will increase the time between stopping the barking and giving the treat and eventually, you won’t need any props at all.

So why do dogs bark? Many times it is caused by the dog being lonely, bored, frustrated and/or frightened. You can help any of these situations,. A socialized, well-exercised and well-trained dog is more likely to be happy and sleep all day while you are at work instead of pacing and barking. And just to explain what pacing is to a dog. If your dog lives in the back yard all the time and you see him dashing madly around the yard, he is not exercising. He is doing the dog equivalent of pacing – it’s his form of nervous activity.

Dogs are social beings. They need to be part of the family. Take your dog for walks in the neighborhood so he can check out all the smells in the area, and when you are home, bring your dog into the house. Obedience training is tiring for dogs and great mental exercise. Taking your dog to the same dog park weekly to make friends or letting him go to doggy daycare twice a week is also a great idea. When my Dogo Argentino Daisy was young, she went to daycare twice a week and spent two days a week sleeping in order to recover from the play day. It really helped curb her barking habits.

Your dog may also be barking to guard his territory if the main part of his barking is when the mailman comes, or neighbors come out into their yards. If you have encouraged him to bark to let you know when there is someone outside of the house, he will get himself into a threatening stance and let people know he is protecting his family. There is also a chance your dog is barking from fear.

Fear of thunderstorms, firecrackers or loud construction may set him off. Then, there is separation anxiety, which would be when the barking starts as soon as you leave. Separation anxiety could be caused by a move to a new house, the death of a favorite person, or the favorite person gets a new job which takes him out of the house for longer periods of time. Losing a pet friend can also cause the anxiety.

Depending on the length of time your dog has been barking, it could take weeks of repetition to replace an old habit with a new one, so don’t get discouraged if the behavior doesn’t change immediately. It is important that you maintain your praise/treat training or your dog can easily slip back into his old routing of barking just to bark.

There are other tools to stop your dog from barking that all involve some type of bark collar. Citronella collars contain a citronella solution that sprays upwards into your dog’s face every time he barks. This is very humane and works with most dogs as they do not like the smell of the citronella. There is also the sound collar which emits a high frequency sound when the dog barks. The rate of success with this collar is quite low. Then you have the electric shock collar.

The shock is painful to your dog and while it may work on some dogs, others choose to suffer the pain and continue to bark. Also, this particular collar can end up having redirected aggression toward people or pets that are around your dog.

Your best answer is the one that takes time and patience. You have to decide your dog is worth it.

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