Monday, September 27, 2010
You love your dog, and you love knowing when there is danger or something lurking on your property; what you don’t love is when your dog barks excessively or for unknown reasons. Excessive barking is something that can be trained away. The secret is to make your dog understand that there is a time when they need to bark, and a time when they should be quiet. Keep in mind that your dog cannot read your mind, so it is your job as a responsible pet owner to teach him how you expect him to behave.
The sooner you get started on curtailing this excessive barking problem, the easier it will be to train your dog to stop the barking habit. The best way to begin is to dedicate yourself to consistently teaching your dog two basic commands: “speak” and “quiet.” It may be quite frustrating for you to break your dog’s excessive barking habit, but by remaining consistent and not allowing the dog to bark continuously for no reason you are slowly teaching him that barking is a method of communication and shouldn’t be used unless there is something important to “say.” For more on consistent dog training, be sure to read Linda Cole’s article, “Dog Training with Consistency and Patience.”
Some dog breeds bark more than others, some hardly bark at all, and each and every dog has different barks that convey just as strongly as a human tone of voice. By listening when your dog begins barking, you will learn the different barks and what they mean. This will help you understand some of the triggers for your dog’s excessive barking, and allow you to determine which barking behaviors need to be trained away.
Dogs commonly bark for the following reasons:
Danger/stranger - When someone comes into your yard or home that the dog does not know, and sometimes even if the dog does know the person, they will bark to alert you. This is a regular occurrence around my house. We have two inside dogs. One will bark as soon as she smells or hears someone on the porch; the other will wait until she hears a knock on the door. This usually stops as soon as someone opens the door and allows them to see who is there.
Anxiety - Some dogs have attachment issues to their owners and will be extremely vocal if they suspect their human is getting ready to leave. This is often in the form of a high pitched barking or whining.
Excitement - When I leave my house and come back, my dogs hear the car pull into the driveway and dance and bark at the sliding glass door until I come in. They are simply excited to see me and are letting me know. Yes, at times it is annoying, and can be a real challenge when I come in the door needing to race for the bathroom but they won’t stop barking until I speak to them and pet them.
Boredom - Have you ever seen a dog that just seems to bark for no reason at all, just a continuous and nerve grating bark droning on and on? This is a dog that is bored. It’s basically the dog barking to hear his own voice. Some activity and interaction will usually cause this barking to stop.
Response - This is one that drives me crazy! When I take my dogs for a walk there is a large pen in my neighbor’s yard with two beautiful large black labs. Those dogs bark at us, and my dogs bark right back. I am sure they are just greeting each other and being sociable, but it is so annoying and I know the other neighbors don’t appreciate it either. If you have an outside dog, the excessive barking you hear may actually be your dog responding to other dogs around your neighborhood.
Understanding your dog’s barks and what is causing the barking is the key to being able to train the excessive barking away. All the consistent “quiet” and “speak” command work won’t matter if you don’t address why your dog is barking. Some simple things you can do along with the training include:
• Exercise your dog regularly so they don’t feel the need to bark off excess energy.
• Avoid leaving your dog alone for hours on end.
• Don’t give attention to your dog when he is barking just for attention or out of anxiety. That would be giving in to the demands of the barking, and will negate your training.
• Avoid being loud and shouting over the barking. The louder and more stressed you are, the more your dog will bark. Maintain a calm, firm voice, and if you have to get your dogs attention in order for him to even hear your commands, try a whistle or a clap.
Remember that your dog is just that, a dog. He isn’t going to know what you want him to do until you teach him. Be patient and use consistent training methods to ensure that your dog learns how to behave in any situation he is faced with, and will look to you for instruction.
Photo by ems van goth.
Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie