Dogs bark because it works, whether to scare off a perceived intruder, self-soothe, get attention or release frustration. Tackling your dog’s barking first requires that you identify the drive behind your dog’s vocalization. These are the most typical types of canine communication:
Try to look at things from the dog’s perspective when the dog is outside. See if there is anything outside in particular he is barking at, such as rabbits, squirrel, another dog, something else you think the dog might be barking at. Then think about whether there is a way to reduce this trigger.
You may have heard the 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:
This is not a comprehensive list and you are likely to find various other products to help you stop your dog’s excessive barking. But, these are by far the most humane and also very popular among pet owners who have problems with barking dogs.
If you do want to modify play-barking behavior, use negative punishment – where the dog’s behavior makes the good stuff go away. When the barking starts, use a time-out marker such as “Oops! Too bad!” and gently remove your dog from the playground for one to three minutes. A tab – a short 6 to 12 inch leash left attached to his collar – makes this maneuver easier. Then release him to play again. Over time, as he realizes that barking ends his fun, he may start to get the idea. Or he may not – this is a pretty hardwired behavior, especially with the herding breeds. You may just resort to finding appropriate times when you allow play-barking to happen.
Chewing causes the release of happy hormones in dogs, so giving your dog something to chew as you leave the house is a good routine to get into. If your dog tends to bury things or is reluctant to chew, just give a small amount of breakfast, so your dog is hungry enough to want to chew. Use something large such as a pigs ear or Kong® stuffed with treats so it lasts for a while. You can also put dry food into an old plastic drink bottle, and let your pet work to get the food out. For some great ideas for homemade chew toys check out this article on The Bark Post.
One of the most common reasons why a dog barks is that he is bored or wants to play. If you identify boredom as a reason for the barking, the solution is incredibly simple. All that you have to do is use a toy. Hand the dog that favorite toy. Alternatively, take him out for a walk.
If your dog is rewarded every time he or she chooses to come to you rather than woof, they will start paying much more attention to you than they do to cats or birds, and even if they do start barking at them, they will be much easier to recall.
Ultrasonic anti-bark birdhouse – This bark-deterrent devise works by emitting an ultrasonic sound that dogs find unpleasant and startles them out of barking. Reviews of ultrasonic anti-bark devices, however, are mixed, with some owners saying their dogs didn’t respond at all.
Dogs that are bored have no way to release their energy. You want to be sure that the dog has different ways to let off some steam and have fun. You might think that the dog is getting enough exercise and plays enough but according to the dog, this may be incorrect. Every single dog has his own personality. You want to learn what your dog wants to do. If there is a need to offer more entertainment, you need to take steps to do that.
Stress-reducing collar – This is similar to the diffusers discussed earlier. Stress-reducing collars are loaded with soothing pheromones that will help stressed dogs calm down and reduce anxious barking.
Keep greetings low key. Teach your dog to sit and stay when meeting people at the door so that he has something to do instead of barking. This will reduce his excitement level. First teach him to sit and stay when there aren’t any people at the door so that he knows the behavior well before you ask him to do it with the distraction and excitement of real visitors arriving.
Just like any human left alone for too long, your dog gets bored, too. And as Heidi Ganahl, founder and CEO of Camp Bow Wow, explains, “If a dog is bored, they are likely to vocalize more often. If dogs are left alone for long periods of time, they can become very bored, especially if there is nothing for them to do. Dogs who are bored should be provided interactive toys such as a KONG or any of PetSafe’s Busy Buddy toys to keep your dog occupied until you get home.”
Dogs tend to act up when they get bored. To eliminate barking from boredom or frustration, make sure your pup is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day. Click here to see 5 great ways you can stimulate your dog.
Dogs occasionally become compulsive barkers, meaning they bark in situations that aren’t considered normal or they bark in a repetitive, fixed or rigid way. If your dog barks repeatedly for long periods of time, apparently at nothing or at things that wouldn’t bother other dogs, such as shadows, light flashes, mirrors, open doors, the sky, etc., you may have a compulsive barker. If your dog also does other repetitive behaviors like spinning, circling or jumping while barking, he may be a compulsive barker. To help reduce compulsive barking, you can try changing how you confine your dog. For instance, if your dog is tied or tethered, you can switch to keeping him loose in a safe fenced area, or if he’s left alone for long periods of time, you should increase exercise, mental stimulation and social contact.
So if it is agreed that the most common motivations for dog barking (Separation and Defensive/Territorial) can or do occur when you are not there, what methods will stop dog barking more effectively than others? Chastising and physical punishment are obviously impossible when you are not there.
Take a moment to think about how you react when your dog barks to get your attention. Do you raise your voice, shout, or tell them off for it? If so, stop. When you meet your dog’s barking with noise and attention, you are rewarding your dog by giving them the attention they are asking for.
Several variations of no-bark collars exist on the market, most of which have multiple levels of stimulation based on how quickly the dog learns. In other words, if the dog doesn’t stop, the collar will continue to provide increasing levels of shock until the dog learns. These are engaged in a manner which allows the dog to learn and recover, but the question we must ask ourselves is: How safe are these no-bark collars? Even if there’s no evidence of physical damage, are our dogs suffering unnecessary stress and anxiety through their use?
I know first hand the frustration of dealing with a barking dog. Trust me, I have a Chihuahua! While inappropriate barking can make you want to pull your hair out at times, it’s important to remember that it’s a natural behavior for your pup. Barking is the way he communicates and of course he’s going to feel the need to alert you when an intruder is approaching (by “intruder” I really mean a friendly neighbor)!
Guarding: Dogs will often bark and growl when they are guarding. This bark is more aggressive. The dog may also have a stiff or wagging tail with their hackles raised. The bark is used as a warning not to come closer or they may attack to defend their space. While dogs don’t always bark before they bite, most give some kind of warning.