Dogs have been domestic companions to humans for tens of thousands of years. Their intelligence, loyalty, and affection has made them indispensable companions. However, without proper training, even the most intelligent dogs will engage in excessive and inappropriate barking. Your dog is a part of your household and that is why as a dog owner, it is vitally important to learn proper techniques on how to stop dogs from barking inappropriately. This article will cover the nature of barking including why and when dogs bark, the different types of barks, and methods for handling barking using safe and humane techniques.
Why Dogs Bark
Barking in dogs is a natural means of communication used to convey emotions and ideas. Sometimes, barking can be an invitation to play directed at either a human or another dog. Dog are naturally diligent parents who spend months teaching and disciplining their puppies often using barking. Without puppies, this barking can extend to family members and children who the dog feels are not obeying the pack rules. Barking can also be a way to get attention because of boredom. A bored dog is often a barking dog. However, most often barking is a dog fulfilling their top priority: keeping the pack safe. The dog is barking to warn you of possible threats.
Barking as a Greeting
Any dog owner has experienced their own doggie door bell. Dogs have trouble resisting their excitement at new people and want to make their presence known. Most people find this charming and fun, because the dog is excited so the person feels special and wanted. What most people do not know is that this barking during greeting is most often because of anxiety. The animal has been left alone and is expressing its displeasure at being “abandoned.” A dog is a part of a person’s life but a person is a dog’s entire life. Consider that dogs have no sense of time and when its pack leaves, it feels lonely, bored, and anxious.
Barking when guests arrive can be a nuisance, but for a dog it is a very troubling experience. Strangers are entering a dog’s home and the dog is often not given the chance to be properly introduced. The dog wants to have the attention of the guest, make its presence known. It also wants to greet the newcomer and cannot control its instinct to bark and run about. This is not necessarily happiness and can be an expression of agitation and nervousness.
Excessive Barking Causes
- Genetics. It’s a fact of dog ownership that some dogs are just natural barkers. There are breeds who are specifically bred to bark. For example, the Lhasa Apso was used as a guard at Tibetan temples to alert the monks of danger. The Shetland Sheepdog of Scotland was kept to warn off birds of prey that may attack the flock. Terriers were used for vermin control and bark when feeling excited and inquisitive. Hounds are specifically bred to bark at their quarry.
- Distress. The dog may feel that something threatening is approaching even if it is as simple as the mailman or the garbage collector. Dogs have a strong sense of boundaries and territory. It may even be the dog is worried about you. For whatever reason the dog may think you are in danger. The presence of unknown dogs can only make things worse.
- Boredom. It is a sad fact of life that humans cannot spend all the time they want with their dogs. However, dogs do not understand this. Barking can become a way to pass the time, stay occupied.
- Anxiety. For most household dogs, their home is their entire world. They can become anxious when things change and threats are present. Loud noises can be particularly stress inducing. Remember, dogs have much more sensitive hearing than we do and even something as common as the vacuum can induce discomfort leading to fear and worry.
- Excitement. Sometimes, dogs just get excited, especially when they are young and playful. They are looking for fun and barking is their way of being a part of the action. Most of the time, they just have not been taught any different. Dog owners tend to accept barking as part of owning a dog and do not realize how to stop dogs from barking.
How to Stop Excessive Barking
Meet the need
Dogs are pack creatures and desire to be a part of their pack. Take time every day to play with your dog, give it exercise with a nice walk, practice commands and training, and just be warm and affectionate. You will not only find this beneficial for the dog, but a wonderful way for you to relieve stress and develop a meaningful relationship with your pet. The most important part is that none of these activities should follow a barking outburst. Dogs associate rewards with behavior. If your dog barks excitedly when it sees its leash, put the leash away. Do this until the dog learns that barking is causing the walk to be cancelled.
A tired dog will not have the energy to bark excessively. If you have a backyard, take the dog out for long games of fetch and running. If you have access to a park, go for a long game of Frisbee. This not only ensures a longer, healthier life for your dog, but keeps it too tired to want to spend unnecessary time barking. As a bonus, if you are the exercising type, incorporate your dog into your workout and go jogging together.
Ignore the barking
Some dogs cannot distinguish between positive and negative attention. What they crave is attention in general. Denying your dog attention when it is barking is a good way to teach the dog that you are not listening. Even something as simple as turning your back when the dog directs its barking at you, can have a dramatic effect on a dog’s sense of consequence.
Remove the motivation
If your dog likes to bark at anything moving outside, close the curtains whenever the barking begins. The dog will soon realize that barking takes away its ability to see outside. If your dog has certain stimulus that always causes barking, try exposing the dog to that stimulus regularly until it is no longer exciting. If the dog barks at people walking by. Take time to let your dog visit with strangers and learn they are not a threat. A few friendly introductions to the mail carrier can be beneficial to both the dog and the mail carrier, who often fear dog attacks.
Teach your dog the quiet command
Teaching verbal and nonverbal commands is essential for any dog owner. Many dog owners use the command “no bark” or “quiet.” Nonverbal commands can also be used such as holding your hand in front of your face. When the dog is barking, issue the command and when the barking ceases, give praise and a pat on the head. Be careful with using food as a reward as that may encourage more barking and make the problem worse! Always remember to keep your temper and do not yell the commands or shout. Show the dog that you are in control and the dog will respond to your calm attitude. It is very important to never use violence such as hitting or kicking. That will only cause your dog increased anxiety.
Distract the dog while he is barking
One thing that works in many dog owners’ favor is the short attention span of dogs. If your dog is barking, try a distraction such as a favorite toy or game. Sometimes you can call the dog over for a head scratch or belly rub and there is a good chance the dog will forget what it was barking about in the first place. Chew toys are not only good for a dog’s oral health, but can provide some guaranteed quiet time for you.
When training, quick corrective action is essential because otherwise dogs will quickly forget what it is they had been doing wrong. Some methods used in the past could be cruel, such as painful shocks. New anti-barking collars utilize vibration and high pitched noises instead. These merely provide slight discomfort and confusion instead of pain. MaKa, for example, provides a safe, humane training tool at a very reasonable price. It is adjustable for any dog breed and is especially useful when training a young, energetic dog. The corrective action is quick, painless and can make training easier for the first-time dog owner who lacks experience in dog ownership.
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If all else fails, seek help
Sometimes barking is merely a symptom of a much larger behavioral problem. If your dog’s barking is accompanied by growling, lunging, or snarling, then it may be time to seek professional help. The last thing you want is your dog to harm you or anyone else. There are many talented dog trainers who will work with you to find the root of your dog’s problem and create solutions. If your dog is young or even still a puppy, most large pet stores and kennels offer dog classes or “puppy kindergarten” where you and your dog can learn proper techniques with a trained professional. This can help with behavior issues before the problems are allowed to become problems.
Dog ownership can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. A dog can not only be your companion but a member of your family. You must remember though, that dog ownership comes with responsibilities. Barking may seem trivial but learning how to control excessive barking can create a stronger, more controlled bond with your animal. Take the time to learn about your dog’s behavior and look into every alternative to help your beloved pet integrate into your home.