Your dog might be barking in greeting if he barks when he sees people or other dogs and his body is relaxed, he’s excited and his tail is wagging. Dogs who bark when greeting people or other animals might also whine.
As an example, think about barking when left alone. A dog that is very loud when left isn’t making a noise because he or she is being spiteful or wants to get you in trouble with your neighbours. The vocalization is an expression of the dog’s fear, loneliness and sometimes even panic. By strapping a device such as an electric shock collar to an upset dog, you don’t do anything to make them feel safer or more comfortable when left on their own – and what’s more, the pain confirm their fears that being left means horrible things happen to them (painful electric shocks occur every time they bark).
A tired dog, is a quiet dog. Nearly every dog can do from a little extra exercise, both mentally and physically. A dog that has had a good workout will be less likely to react to barking triggers. Take the time to exercise your dog daily by going for a run or playing fetch. Mind-teaser games like “find the toy” or hide-and-seek will also tire your dog out.
The first step toward reducing your dog’s barking is to determine the type of bark your dog is expressing. The following questions can help you to accurately decide on which type of barking your dog is doing so that you can best address your dog’s problem. Think about your answers to these questions as you read through the information below on the different types of barking and their treatments.
You may have heard the suggestion that if you put a behavior such as barking on cue and have it under good stimulus control, the dog then won’t bark unless you give him the cue to speak. Here are the four rules of stimulus control:
Ignore the barking. Attention-seeking or request barking may be the only way your dog knows how to behave. Even after you’ve discontinued your reinforcement of that behavior, it will most likely take a while to break your dog of the habit. In the meantime, it’s best to ignore – rather than punish – this attention-seeking behavior.
Many times we have unintentionally taught our dog to bark by reinforcing the behavior. If your dog barks in the yard and you go out and shout at him, he has gotten your attention and may even think you are joining in with your own funny little human bark. Even looking at your dog when he barks can be a reinforcer.
If you want to find out more about what makes your dog tick, and what to do about any unwanted behaviour you may be experiencing, then The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell (my Mum) is available at your local library, online and in all good bookstores. If you would like more hands-on help, let me know.
Below is a basic list of tried and true barking solutions that we utilize around here pretty much on a daily basis. I have not met you and your dog. Your issues and mileage may of course vary. The list is intended to serve as a spring board, and get you thinking of ways to solve your barking issues in a positive way.
If you prefer not to hold your dog’s muzzle or if doing so seems to scare your dog or make him struggle, you can try a different method. When your dog barks, approach him, calmly say “Quiet,” and then prompt his silence by feeding him a steady stream of tiny, pea-sized treats, such as chicken, hot dogs or bits of cheese. After enough repetitions of this sequence, over several days or more of training, your dog will begin to understand what “Quiet” means. You’ll know that he’s catching on if he consistently stops barking as soon as he hears you say “Quiet.” At this point, you can gradually extend the time between the cue, “Quiet,” and your dog’s reward. For example, say “Quiet,” wait 2 seconds, and then feed your dog several small treats in a row. Over many repetitions, gradually increase the time from 2 seconds to 5, then 10, then 20, and so on.
Dogs naturally will bark to warn you, and this may become a problem if there are lots of things your dog sees, such as birds, cats and people walking by the fence. He may feel the need to alert you to every small thing that approaches. Sometimes it is as simple as blocking off a gate to block the stimulus of people walking past. Dogs will also bark out of boredom, or because they are worried about being alone.
I think I’ll start using “thank you” with our German Shepherd, Thor. He is a big talker and like Ginger, he has different ‘words’ for different things. Whining for ‘I’m lonely’, a higher pitched bark for ‘pay attention to me/play with me’ and his Big Loud Alert/Protection bark.
Outside, you might consider putting slats in the chain link fence to cut down on his visual access to the world surrounding his yard (better yet, install a privacy fence) or put up an interior fence to block his access to the more stimulating parts of the yard. Given that alarm barking will inevitably occur, it’s useful to teach him a positive interrupt – a cue, other than “Shut up!” that you can use to stop him in mid-bark. (See “The Positive Interrupt,” to the right of this page.)
Never use a muzzle to keep your dog quiet for long periods of time or when you’re not actively supervising him. Dogs can’t eat, drink or pant to cool themselves while wearing muzzles, so making your dog wear one for long periods of time would be inhumane.
Besides boredom and frustration, one of the major reasons dogs bark is territorial. To you, it’s just the mailman, but to your dog, it’s a vicious robber there to attack their master. You can’t stop receiving your mail, but there are lots of things you can do to desensitize your pet and make your home a haven away from negative external stimulus.