Barking is natural for your dog; he or she uses it to communicate and under ideal circumstances, barking is used as a warning or to signal fear. However, all too often barking slides from being a normal means of communication to being a nuisance. Dogs never seem to become hoarse from barking, and dedicated barkers can keep up the opera for hours at a time. Not only can barking become annoying to you, it can be even more obnoxious to your neighbors. In order to stop your dog’s excessive barking, it’s important to find out the reason for the behavior.
Although a woof or two to let you know that a stranger is approaching the house is fine, a barking session that continues without respite is certainly not called for. Dogs who bark like this will also generally start in as soon as they hear any odd noise or catch a glimpse of something moving outside.
Some dogs bark just to keep themselves amused. Like people, dogs can become bored, and this is probably especially true with dogs that belong in the working breeds. These dogs have been used over the centuries in various occupations, and if simply left to sit with nothing to do, they will bark to pass the time. Dogs that have been left out on a chain are particularly prone to do this.
Sometimes our dogs love us so much that they simply cannot bear to have us away from them. They will bark when we go out, evidently hoping that the barking will cause the owner to return. This is called separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety will often be destructive in the house as well, tearing up furniture and eliminating on the floor, bed, or sofa.
One of the most common mistakes owners make when attempting to curb excessive barking is to pay attention to it. This doesn’t mean that you praise the dog or give it a treat when it barks, but even yelling at the dog is providing attention – like children, dogs will take negative attention if nothing else is available. One way to deal with a problem barker is to deny the attention that they crave when barking. However, staying quiet and unresponsive while the bark session is going on is not enough; you have to pay positive attention to the dog when the barking stops. Spending more time playing with your dog or otherwise providing affection can help to curb barking.
The best time to address barking problems is when the puppy first comes into your home. Young puppies will often bark out of excitement, but once again, paying attention to them when they do not bark is a good way to short circuit future barking problems.
Obedience training for dogs of any age is another way to either control or prevent barking issues. A dog that undergoes obedience training not only learns a certain set of commands, but also comes to understand his place in the home ‘pecking order’. This is not a bad thing as wild dogs of all kinds have an established social order that helps maintain the security and order of the pack. Learning what is considered appropriate behavior will keep the house and neighborhood much more peaceful. While obedience training is most effective when started early, adult dogs also respond well to this training, especially when it heavily emphasizes positive reinforcement.
There has been a good deal of controversy over the use of bark collars on dogs, and there are arguments for both sides. Some dogs respond very quickly to even a vibration on the throat, but anyone who uses these collars should realize that some dogs will be able to block out the ‘stimulation’ and will continue barking. Injury can be done to the dog if the collar is used too long, especially if there are no results.
It is possible to train a problem barker to stop serenading, but in all cases, it will take time, patience, and understanding. Always remember that your dog doesn’t realize that it is being a pest, and finding out what is causing the behavior is the first step to stopping it.