One of the main reasons dogs are given up to shelters every year is due to excessive barking. Barking is a normal canine behavior, as natural as humans speaking. Barking is only a nuisance when it is excessive. Excessive barking is not only an annoyance to the owner but to neighbors as well. Most owners dont want to stop all barking, just excessive barking.
Before nuisance barking can be stopped one must first ascertain why the dog is barking. Some of the most common reasons that dogs bark are:
We have to remember that in households that have multiple dogs there is usually a "ring leader." If the dog that starts the barking is stopped, quiet is usually restored quickly. This type of barking is generally referred to as "socially facilitated" barking.
- Fear or anxiety
- Pain or discomfort
- Boredom or attention seeking
- Protection or territorial behavior
- Needy needs to go out, needs water, needs something
Although generalizing behavior by breed is usually not fair to the breed (i.e. all __________ are hyper or all ___________ are aggressive), some breeds can be a little more vocal than other breeds.
Several methods can be used to curtail barking. In some cases more than one method might be used in conjunction with another.
Dogs suffering from fear/anxiety issues (thunderstorms, separation anxiety, etc.) may need a combination of methods to correct the barking. Calming products such as the Thundershirt, Comfort Zone with D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) and Quiet Moments Calming Aid may help calm an anxious dog. Keep in mind that in serious cases, prescription medications may be needed. Your veterinarian will be able to evaluate your dog and prescribe the medication that will be most appropriate. One thing is certain, if you have a dog that is already anxious or fearful, the last thing it needs is yelling or punishment, such as sprays or shock collars.
Illness or injury may also be reasons that a dog will bark or vocalize. Your veterinarian will be able to pin-point what is causing the discomfort and correct the problem to relieve your pet. You wouldn't punish or yell at a child for feeling bad, so try to keep this in mind with your pet.
When a dog is bored and/or seeking attention, even negative attention (NO! BE QUIET!), is still attention. Dog barks owner yells. To the dog, the barking/yelling cycle becomes a game. If this is what your dog is doing, a stuffed Kong or an interactive puzzle toy may put an end to the problem. Free Kong recipe booklets are available to give you ideas to keep your dog focused on the Kong! (See more solution ideas below.) Be careful not to "reward" bad behavior. A treat or toy used to prevent the behavior is fine but if your dog gets something good every time he barks, he will learn to bark to get something good.
Territorial or alarm barking can be your dog's only way of warning you that someone or something that he perceives as a threat is lurking outside of your door or fence. Most owners don't object to this type of barking, as long as it doesn't become excessive. Decide whether you want your dog to be an alarm or not and be consistent.
A "needy" dog is a dog that is trying to communicate to you that he/she actually needs something. They may need to go outside or, if they are outside, they may need to come inside. They may just need fresh water or food. Consider automatic waterers and feeders as a possible solution if you find this happening often. For going outside, perhaps the Gotta Go Door Bell Trainer or a pet door could alleviate some of this type of barking.
There is no one, "cure all" solution because there are so many factors to be considered. Not all dogs will respond to all methods equally. You may have to try more than one to find what works best for you and your dog. Some other possible solutions to problem barking (not including illness, injury, or anxiety) may include the Pet Corrector which emits a blast of compressed air. The Shake Trainer, a handheld, easy-to-use device that emits a harmless but unique sound frequency when shaken. Ultrasonic remote training devices can be effective with some dogs, as can the Ultralight Sonic Bark Collar for small dogs. PetSafe's Outdoor Bark Control can detect barking from up to 50 feet away and is completely waterproof. The Gentle Leader SpraySense Citronella Collar delivers a burst of citronella spray that interrupts your dog's barking. This method works with 4 of your dog's senses he sees it, hears it, smells it and feels it. A number of collars use the static correction method (mild shock) which can be very effective for many dogs. Some owners prefer to muzzle their dogs, however, that can lead to the dog being frustrated and may cause other behavioral issues.
Regardless of which method you choose to correct your dog's barking issue, you can be sure that he would rather learn to curb his barking than be surrendered to a shelter.
Renee Jones-Lewis is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for JeffersPet and JeffersPet.com.
Questions about this article, training or non-emergent health concerns are welcome. Renee can be reached most days from 9am 5pm Central Time (Mon-Fri) at 1-800-JEFFERS (533-3377) ext 381 or by email rsjones@jefferspet. com.
Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.