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My Barking Dog Is Driving Me Crazy

Mar 10, 2008
Dogs bark for a number of reasons. It can be out of excitement when playing or to warn that an intruder is on the premises. This barking is perfectly normal and we humans expect it.

But when your dog continually barks, this can cause problems not only for your own household, but often creates tension within your neighborhood. Some cities and towns have noise ordinances and an incessantly barking dog may bring the police or animal control to your door issuing a warning or possibly a ticket. What to do?

First, isolate the cause of the excessive barking. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is my dog lonely and frustrated so they're seeking attention through their only voice-barking?

2. Is my dog left alone for long periods of time without toys, chews or other ways to keep them occupied?

3. Is my dog a puppy or adolescent (up to 3 years old) and has no other way to expel excess energy?

4. Is my dog a breed that needs a job to be happy (herding or sporting dog)?

If you think one of these is the cause of your dog's relentless barking, there are options to help deter this unwanted behavior. Here are some suggestions for the lonely or bored dog:

1. Increase the amount and quality of time you spend with your dog by walking them every day for 20-30 minutes. Just a jaunt around the neighborhood often will help dispel some extra energy. It's also an excellent way to begin or end the human work day.

2. Train your dog to fetch a ball or Frisbee and play with them for 10-15 minutes in the morning and in the evening. Get up a little earlier to help your dog behave better.

3. Get your dog some busy toys where you can hide treats or freeze peanut butter inside to give them something to do while you're away. Alternate the toys so your dog thinks they're getting something new each day.

4. Spend 5-15 minutes petting, brushing or scratching your dog. This is also a great way to discover potential problems like bumps, sores or hot spots.

5. If possible, take your dog to work with you for part of the day. Take toys too.

6. Find a doggie day care and take them for the day. Often one time per week will help with boredom or loneliness.

7. Ask a friend, neighbor or family member to come by and take your dog on a walk, play for 10-15 minutes or just love on them.

8. Hire someone to walk your dog daily or a couple times per day. Often there's a teenager who would love to walk your dog.

9. For herding or sporting dogs, they need a job or they become destructive & depressed. Get them their good citizen badge and go to hospices, hospitals, or nursing homes. Watch your dog glow and grin while they're learning their job and when they're working.

Another reason your dog may be barking is to protect their territory. This is a basic instinct, but when it becomes too aggressive, re-conditioning is required to have a happy neighborhood. Please refrain from punishing your dog for barking. This will only make them fearful and won't solve the core issue. Train your dog to be "quiet" on command or bark a couple of times and then sit or lay down to quietly protect their territory.

To train your dog, begin by filling a coffee can with pennies or nuts and bolts about to full. Put some cheese cubes, meat or some other special treat in your pocket (you must make the treat more interesting than the barking). Go outside with your dog and pay attention to them without them knowing you're watching them.

When your dog barks at a passerby, allow 2 to 3 barks and then shake the can of nuts/bolts/pennies. This new noise serves as a distraction and they'll stop barking. As soon as they stop barking, say in a very happy voice "good quiet" and give them a treat. Stay outside for a while (some dogs are trained in only 3-4 can shaking/treat giving times and others it takes 20). Repeat this process with every passerby until your dog barks a couple of times and then stops on their own.

NOTE: If the can shaking scares your dog (they jump out of their skin), distract them by throwing a ball or other toy which will also stop the barking. Say "good quiet" and pop that treat into their mouth. Repeat for as long as it takes until they're the superstar of the neighborhood.

Another training process is to get your stash of special treats and can of pennies/nuts/bolts or a toy (don't let your dog see any of these) and go outside to where your dog typically stands when they're barking. Have a friend that your dog doesn't know walk by your yard starting at a position where your dog isn't barking yet. Have your friend walk normally closer and closer to your dog's territory.

Once your dog starts barking, shake the can/throw the toy/ball to distract them and the barking stops. Immediately say "good quiet" and pop that tasty treat into their mouth. Repeat this process until your dog makes the connection between being quiet when strangers come near their area and being rewarded. Distraction/re-focusing, praise and treats work wonders.

Be patient. Most importantly, be consistent. Use the same command and body language every time. Dogs read cues from their human and when it's the same, the training works faster and will last longer.

If your dog barks from inside the house when strangers come close, block their ability to see outside. When they do bark from inside, call them to you (distraction), say "good quiet" and give them a treat. Conditioning takes time so be patient.

NOTE: Don't encourage your dog to bark at things they see or hear. Also, don't deliberately tease your dog thereby conditioning them to bark. If you're dog is barking at seemingly nothing, there may be other health related issues that need a Veterinarian's care.

Another reason your dog is barking may be out of fear. If their ears are laid back and their tail is held low, they're afraid of something. This could be a loud noise (thunder), construction equipment, people yelling/arguing, the vacuum or fireworks.

You can desensitize your dog to loud noises by purchasing a CD of thunderstorms and play it while doing regular household chores or sitting around reading. The sound combined with the human acting normally tells your dog that this loud, unfamiliar noise is not a threat. You can also block out your dog's line of sight which may or may not help depending on the sensitivity level of your unique dog.

Your dog may also bark due to separation anxiety displayed most often by barking beginning shortly after you leave (10-45 minutes). Separation anxiety can be seen through behaviors such as anxious activity when you're preparing to leave, following you from room to room and frantic welcome home greetings. Your dog may also be anxious due to a change in their normal routine such as a move, loss of a family member (human or canine), being left alone for longer than normal or after a stay at a kennel or animal shelter. Please do not punish your dog for being anxious. This is a panic response and punishment will only worsen the problem. To help you and your dog with separation anxiety, search for the article "5 Signs of Canine Separation Anxiety and What To Do."

In regards to bark collars, I do not recommend them because essentially they are a punishment for your dog using their only voice-barking. Bark collars also don't often work. The citronella collars are triggered by barking but can also go off if in the proximity of other noises unnecessarily spraying your dog. Sound wave collars do not have a high success rate and shock collars are simply cruel..

Keep in mind your dog's barking is their way of communicating something is going on, please listen to me. Your job, as their human, is to teach them when it's appropriate to use their voice and when to be quiet. Never, ever punish your dog for barking. Simply re-condition them to speak only when absolutely necessary.

As always, please consult with your Veterinarian or veterinary technician if you have questions or concerns.
About the Author
After working in Veterinary clinics and animal emergency hospitals, Miss Rae began writing about dogs and how they enrich our lives. Visit goodpoopy.com for all your dog's needs from nutrition to what's a dog emergency and much, much more.
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