Annoying barking is the most common complaint of dog owners and their neighbors. Barking is after all, a natural and instinctive behavior of dogs dating back to the wolf packs. Dogs communicate through their bark. There is barking to warn of territory encroachment. Dogs will bark to warn of danger. Some dogs will bark when there is unusual sounds, sights or even odors. During times of stress, frustration, anxiety or separation, some dogs will bark. Just about anything or anyone in some dogs will start the barking, wailing and howling.
So, what can you do to curb excessive barking?
The key to preventing your dog from barking is through socialization and habituation. In other words, get your puppy used to as many people, animals, situations, noises, thunder, raccoons, cats, kids, squirrels, etc. as possible when they are puppies. The more familiar a noise or an object is to your puppy, the less likely your dog will exhibit anxiety or stress induced barking as a dog. Socialization will also help to reduce the amount of alarm barking as well as the intensity. A socialized puppy should only be allowed to alert owners and then be controlled and stopped before the barking gets out of control. By learning how dogs communicate and understand their pack mentality, it will be much easier to control their barking. Here are a few scenarios we will discuss to help you curb the barking.
My dog barks constantly when I leave.
The common cause of this type of barking is from separation anxiety and your lack of leadership skills. A dog suffering from separation anxiety often thinks that he is the alpha leader and not you. As the alpha leader. when a member of his pack (you) walk out the door, the barking initiates because it is his job as the leader to worry about the pack members. To combat this type of barking, you will have to learn how to be the alpha leader of the pack. An excellent dog training system set up by Barkbusters.com can help you with this problem.
To prevent this problem in grown dogs, effective crate training techniques when you first get your puppy will help to decrease the anxiety when he is left alone in the crate. The puppy will associate the crate as his den and will eventually be able to spend time in the crate without barking. The biggest mistake most people do when trying to crate the puppy is let the puppy out when he is barking. This actually reinforces the attention seeking behavior. You must ignore the puppy when he is barking, and then let him out either on a regular schedule or when he is calm and quiet. The ultrasonic sound emitter, BarkOff, works to interrupt the dog’s barking. When you follow that with praise when the dog stops barking, you are rewarding the good behavior (being quiet).
If your are experiencing separation anxiety in your dog, your veterinarian may be able to assist your with some treatment options such as DAP,(Dog Appeasing Pheromone) a synthetic pheromone, or medications (Clomipramine hydrochloride- sort of a doggy prozac) to help calm your dog while you initiate leadership control.
My dog is constantly barking.
Attention seeking barking can be very difficult to get a handle on as the dog receives attention whenever he barks and this actually reinforces the behavior. An example of inadvertent reinforcement includes letting the dog in when he barks. In this case the dog is training you rather than the other way around. Other examples of inadvertent reinforcement are feeding, patting, praising, playing with, giving a toy or even going to the dog to attempt to quiet it down. Never reward barking with any type of attention, even occasionally.
So, how do I get him to stop barking?
Training your dog to be “quiet” on command is an invaluable aid for curbing annoying barking. Many owners usually accept their dog’s barking as normal or even desirable in the beginning. However, the barking soon becomes a problem once it gets too loud, too often or just won’t stop when you tell him to. In order to train your dog to quiet down on cue, you must find a verbal command your dog will understand. Barkbusters uses a command “Bah” which is a sharp, guttural growl. If it does not embarrass you when you utter such sound, you are not doing it right. Many of my clients will look at me like I am nuts, but when they see how the dog responds and settles down, it soon convinces them that the dog does really understand the command.
Another method is with remote training with either a check chain or halter lead. In this case, I used the check chain and the “bah” command. To teach our dog to quit barking when someone came to the door, we had a friend go to the door and ring the bell. We drew a line a few feet away from the door and our dog could bark and approach to that line. Once he reached the line, he was given the command “bah” and slightly corrected with the check chain. He was then told to go kennel. After repeating this process for about 15 minutes a day, he has learned to alert us that some one is at the door, then he will go and lay down on his bed (kennel) where he stays until we tell him he can get up. This process also eliminates the jumping on visitors when they enter the door.
The key to controlling barking is to reward the behavior we want (i.e. quiet and still) rather than to give any attention to the behavior we don’t want (barking). Each time you pay attention to the barking dog, you are actually inadvertently rewarding the barking behavior. If you yell or try to punish the dog when he is barking, you will make your dog more anxious and will aggravate the problem.
All right, I admit it. I was a bad puppy parent and my dog is now a barking menace. What can I do now?
Your chances are good that you will be able to resolve most barking problems with effective leadership training. But what if your current situation, such as a new baby or an irate neighbor, requires that the barking stops immediately and you do not have the time to implement the corrective behavior?
There are newer anti-bark treatments available to help you when you need to stop the barking now. But first let us cover an anti-barking program to initiate in your household.
1. Make sure that you and the other family members are not inadvertently rewarding the barking behavior. Avoid giving your dog any type of attention, play, toys, food or affection when he is barking. Only give your dog attention when he is quiet and calm. (This is tough, because it is our nature to yell at the dog when he is barking) By the way, as a mother,rewarding the good behavior while ignoring the bad behavior, works for children, too.
2. Make sure that your response to the barking is not aggravating the problem. When a dog is barking due to anxiety or as a territorial response to a squirrel or other such enemy, yelling at the dog or throwing something at him will only increase his anxiety and the barking.
3. Modify the home environment so that the dog is kept away from the stimuli (sounds and sights) that can cause the barking. A simple way is to confine the dog to a crate or a small room away from the windows so he cannot see outside to bark at the errant squirrel or cat. You can also try to mute or mask the sounds that stimulate the barking by playing music. There are actual doggy CD’s that claim can help calm your dog when you are away. Dogs that are outside may have to brought inside. Condition your dog to trigger sounds, such as doorbells, by practicing with a friend and reward him when he stops the barking on command. In cases of separation anxiety, your veterinarian can help with a prescription of Clomicalm while you are re-training your dog.
4. Consider enrolling your dog in a training class to help you with leadership training. Several pet stores and even community colleges hold training classes. It is important that you know how to control your dog, so sending him off to school without you will only teach your dog and he may revert to the old behaviors if you haven’t been re-trained as well. Barkbusters will come to your home and teach you how to be the pack leader and thus your dog will learn to follow you.
5. Once you have sufficient control and your dog responds to your commands and handling, it should be possible to stop your dog to bark on your command. Over time, your dog will remain quiet for longer periods of time. You can then start conditioning the dog to other stimulus that causes barking, such as the squirrel in the back yard or kids on the bikes riding by the window. Slowly introduce the dog to the stimulus and and give the command to stop barking and enforce it with either the check chain, halter or some other disruptive bark trainer. Over time, these barking stimuli will no longer initiate the barking.
There are many products on the market today from anti-bark collars that spray citronella, to products that emit an ultrasonic sound that only the dog can hear. The most annoying one I came across was an anti-barking device that produced such a loud, shrill noise, that I thought it was worse than the barking. Many of the products will interrupt the barking, but if you have not implemented the concurrent retraining techniques, many dogs will soon begin to ignore the devices and commence their annoying barking once again.
The bark activated products are the most practical to help deter the inappropriate barking when use in conjunction with the environmental modification and training. Owner initiated anti-bark devices such as the ultrasonic sound emitter, Bark Off, work best when you are with your dog and are able to reward your dog for being quiet. Off collar devices are useful to stop barking in selected areas such as doorways or windows, or for dogs that continue to bark in their crate or kennel.
Bark activated collars can be used when the barking does not occur in any predictable location. Audible and ultrasonic training collars are occasionally effective, but they are usually not sufficient or unpleasant enough to be a reliable deterrent. The collars that emit a spray of citronella each time the dog barks may be effective when you are away, but without the concurrent re-training, the dogs will soon learn to bark over the spray. You also have to re-charge the batteries and the spray chamber or the dog soon learns that he can bark and it won’t spray.
If you opt for the citronella collar, begin to use it when you are present so that when the dog is startled by the spray and stops barking, you are there to reward the dog with an enjoyable activity, such as a belly rub or a toss of his favorite ball. This will help to reinforce the quiet behavior and the barking will gradually reduce.
There are some ultrasonic anti-bark devices available that are disguised as birdhouses that you can put outside. These may be only a temporary fix because without the behavioral re-training and conditioning, the dog may soon learn to ignore the noise and start barking again.
If all else fails, you can print out this article and anonymously mail it to your neighbor.