Excessive dog barking is a real pest for dog owners, their families and also the neighbours.
But it is a fact of life that just as us humans love to talk, our dogs also love to communicate through their barking.
So it is a natural thing for your dog to bark, it's just when the barking is excessive that it becomes a big problem, and a nuisance for all concerned.
Dogs bark for any number of reasons, finding out the trigger that sets your dog off is the key to solving the barking problem.
Once you identify why your dog is barking or howling too much, you can then start to plan a solution to this behavioral problem.
One thing to keep in mind is that your aim is not to completely stop your dog from barking, rather just controlling it.
Why Do Dogs Bark Excessively?
- To express their needs (being bossy)
- They are staking out their territory
- To alert other members of their pack (you and your family) of impending danger
- When playing, through sheer excitement
- Barking at other animals like squirrels or possums (my dogs get really cranky at possums, I'm in Australia)
- If they are isolated
- If they are separated from their pack (you and your family)
- If they are trapped behind some type of barrier such as a fence or window.
They may be able to smell, see or hear something that they can't get at (like the postman)
- They don't realise that barking is unacceptable and just do it for fun or out of habit
- To express dominance
- They bark because their owners have inadvertently rewarded their excessive barking in the past (this is important to understand)
- Lack of physical or mental stimulation
- They may be uncomfortable or stressed for some reason.
Things such as they feel threatened or they don't have an appropriate place to sleep.
- The dog may bark because he hasn't been properly socialized.
- May be looking for a response or some attention from his pack
- Always keep in mind that although your dog may appear to be barking at nothing, in actual fact he probably is reacting to something.
This is due to your dog having a much more acute sense of smell and hearing than us humans.
One of the most common mistakes us dog owners make is to inadvertently reward our dogs excessive barking.
When our dogs are excessively barking we actually reinforce the behavior when we do these things:
- Yell and scream at the dog - this just gives them the attention they were craving.
- Let them inside - this rewards their behavior.
- Give them a comforting cuddle or some praise - this communicates to your dog that you are happy with them.
What you want to communicate is that this nuisance barking is inappropriate.
- Totally ignore the barking.
This is a tough one to enforce but is very effective if your dog is barking to get attention.
Just ignore your dog, don't even look at him.
His barking will probably get worse to start with, but once he realises that it is not getting him anywhere, he will stop.
- Following on from the above technique, you must reward or praise your dogs good behavior.
If your dog is behaving appropriately in a situation where he would normally be barking you must let him know you are happy with him.
- If you catch your dog in the act of barking, say No! and spray him with water.
If you are consistent and use this method every time your dog barks, you will break the habit.
This method uses the power of negative association.
Every time your dog barks something unpleasant happens to him.
- Shield your dog from the distraction or cause of the barking.
This could mean filling in any gaps in your fence or drawing the blinds.
- Obedience training helps with any behavioral problems.
A properly trained dog will be easy to control and eager to please you in any situation.
You can teach the Quiet! or Stop! command to stop your dog from barking.
- If you believe your dog is stressed you can try to make his area feel comfortable and secure to him.
Put the radio on for him, provide some good chew toys and get a suitable kennel thathe'll love.
- Give your dog lots of attention as well as plenty of physical and mental stimulation.
- When you see that your dog is about to start barking, call him over, get him to sit, then praise and reward him.
- Teach your dog to perform an alternate behavior to the excessive barking.
If your dog goes off every time someone phones you, teach your dog to perform the down and stay command instead.
- Some people have had good success using Citronella Collars.
Each time your dog barks, the collar sprays a mist of citronella into the air which causes your dog to stop barking.
Similar to these collars are one's which emit high frequency noises that your dog doesn't like.
- Anti Barking Shock Collars are also used in cases of severe nuisance barking.
These collars provide a correction or negative association each time your dog barks, in the form of a mild shock.
- A controversial method to stop your dog from barking is Debarking Surgery.
This is a method I have never tried on my dogs and don't think I ever would.
If your dog has a chronic barking problem it may be worth discussing this option with your Veterinarian.
- If your dog barks excessively while you are at work or are not home with him you can try this technique.
When you arrive home ignore your dog, just go about your business for a while.
Once your dog has settled down then go to him and pay him attention.
Otherwise your dog will think his barking has caused you to come home.
This will just encourage him to bark more and more, until you arrive home.