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Stop Dog From Barking: Understanding Why Barking Happens

Sep 5, 2008
How do you stop the dog you just bought or rescued from barking? It's midnight on a Tuesday and you have a long week ahead. You desperately look for answers. Well to be effective you need to get inside your dogs head and work out what is going on.

As a relative of the wolf who lives in packs, barking serves as a language. Originally barking was the Darwinian result of animals needing a way to fight off threats to their territory and pack. People use this behavior today when they need a guard dog, the often ferocious barking - no matter the size of the animal - scares away other animals and possible human threats as well. Baring their teeth is an added deterrent. Police dogs use this to great effect ...I am told :).

It's hard as you are responsible for your dog who doesn't even talk your language, but since you are higher up the food chain...you have to be the one to take the lead. The first step in quieting your dog is discovering what is making him bark. Once you have an idea of what your dog is barking at or for, you have a much better chance of teaching him to stop.

You may be surprised to learn that you are a member of your dog's pack, perhaps the only member. His barking is his way of communicating with you. You have to find a way to communicate effectively with the dog. Your dog won't be mute...dogs barking is a way of communication and an important way dogs express themselves.

It is normal for dogs to bark but all dogs bark for a reason and that reason varies. They could be lonely, afraid, excited or hungry. They could be barking to assert dominance but they may also need attention or to be let out. So which is it?
The key to stopping a dog barking is to know what is causing it and then learn to switch the behavior on and off!

Now that may sound counterintuitive - why would you want to turn on barking? Simply because it gives YOU the control and if you can turn it on, turning it off is as easy to learn. In psychological terms you teach your dog to bark only in response to the specific stimulus you give him and YOU control that stimulus. The dog thankfully often treats it as a big game. This game however, teaches the dog exactly what you (aka the pack leader) want.

It can simply be a word like "Talk" as the initial stimulus followed up by another stimulus to stop the behavior such as "Quiet". The dog needs this combo so that he knows what begins the bark and what terminates the bark.

When you start this process, you have to become aware of what your reactions are as the dog is watching very carefully...if he barks and you get angry the dog will very often continue to bark because in dog world your reaction is justifying the barking and simply accelerates it. He is right to bark as whatever started him barking is making the human angry. Alas you have positively reinforced the barking. However if you train him with a trigger to start and to stop, then the owner has both the on and off switch.
About the Author
Be your own dog whisperer...learn tools, tips and techniques at my blog
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