TIPS ON CUTTING DOWN ON THE DOG BARKING

Updated on April 16, 2023

The canine voice serves various purposes. When a dog is happy, scared, wants attention from humans or another dog, is alerting us to something, is demanding interaction, or is trying to scare away an intruder, it may whine, bark, howl, or growl.

We need to figure out why they’re barking in the first place because that’s what it really is: a means of communication.

Until we figure out why they’re doing it, we can’t keep quiet. Also, we should keep in mind that barking is a natural canine behaviour, so we may need to readjust our expectations for when our dogs should be quiet.

However, this behaviour can be annoying to us and our neighbours, embarrassing while out on walks, and may even be an indicator that our dog’s well-being is in jeopardy. Understanding when, when, and why our dogs bark is important, as is devising a plan to reduce their barking if necessary.

BARKING WHEN SOMEONE IS AT THE DOOR

Because of their innate sense of territoriality, dogs will often bark at the slightest noise outside the house. Although many of us appreciate this feature since it makes us feel safer in our homes, we don’t want our dogs to react to every noise or visitor by barking.

Barking in reaction to activity outside is often tremendously reinforcing for dogs. They are alerting us to a visitor by barking, and when we hear a dog we usually get up to answer the door. AND they’re warning off an intruder with their barking.

To add insult to injury, when the dog barks at the mailman or courier and they turn around and leave (after delivering the mail or item), the dog believes that his or her efforts have been successful.

When a dog hears an outside noise (such a car door slamming), it barks at it, and the sound goes away. Dog owners may mistakenly believe that their pets’ barking is deterring potential intruders from approaching their property when in reality, no one was ever going to get near there anyhow.

HOW TO STOP THIS

Dogs that have access to windows and are encouraged to bark at specific sounds or movements outside have this behaviour reinforced. My recommendation, if you are experiencing this issue, is to prevent anyone from seeing inside.

Opaque frosting applied to windows can alleviate tension and anxiety in dogs by reducing the feeling that they need to be constantly “on guard.” It also discourages the dog from practising its barking, a behaviour that will only strengthen as the dog observes people and other dogs leave an area it considers to be its territory.

It’s also possible for the dog to develop a sense of entitlement after repeatedly driving away unwanted visitors, leading to escalating levels of hostility whenever a visitor fails to leave the premises promptly.

In response, the dog becomes more persistent in its barking and is rewarded for its efforts when the owner leaves. Accordingly, the dog starts to believe that this is the new, required degree of barking behaviour for it to be successful.

A dog that barks excessively whenever someone arrives to the door can be taught to stop doing so. Dogs who have learned to associate the sound of a doorbell or knocker with visitors often respond by barking and racing to the front door or a nearby window.

Instead, we might learn to anticipate fantastic news when the doorbell or knocker rings. You should try introducing a new bell if your dog gets EXTREMELY excited when it hears the old one.

You should begin training with the presser inside the house so that you have more control over the noise and the dog does not identify it with someone at the door before you have established a strong association between the noise and the dog going to its bed.

Your dog hears the doorbell or knock, so you sneakily sprinkle some treats on their bed before answering the door. The dog should learn to associate the arrival of food (or a stuffed Kong, LickiMat that you have prepared) on their bed with positive reinforcement and anticipation through repetition. Your dog will now automatically retreat to bed at the sound of the doorbell.

Dogs may find it more convenient if we keep them away from the front door by locking them in the backyard or another room with a chew toy or Kong while we answer the door to guests.

To make sure the initial introduction is peaceful and controlled, you can ask the guest to sit in another room and then take an item of theirs for the dog to sniff before inviting them in. The dog must then decide whether or not to approach the visitor instead of the intruder.

BARKING WHEN BORED

Dogs will often bark to gain our attention. A dog is more likely to do this if it has learned that being quiet would not get it any attention (humans are generally quite skilled at ignoring their pets when they are quietly behaving).

The dog learns fast that barking is a good way to get what it wants from you, whether that’s attention in the form of being talked to, petted, or played with.

HOW TO STOP THIS

Before anything else, make sure your dog is getting plenty to do. Make sure they are getting the right amount of exercise for their breed and age, and that they also have plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment opportunities at home.

Engaging in self-reinforcing activities that promote independence might help lessen your dog’s reliance on you to provide entertainment. Things they can gnaw on, lick, play with independently, and activity feeders all fall under this category.

Be sure to praise them when they are calm and quiet. When they are acting in an appropriate manner, show your appreciation with a smile, say something, pet them, or even toss a treat in their direction.

BARKING ON WALKS

While out on walks, your dog may become agitated and start barking at passersby, other dogs, bikers, squirrels, or anything else that catches his attention. This could be due to frustration at being unable to reach or chase the trigger when on a lead, or to fear and the need to push back against a perceived threat.

HOW TO HELP THIS

The presence of the lead will make them feel helpless, and they will make more of an effort to frighten away the trigger as a result. Professional help from a clinical or veterinary behaviourist should be sought if your dog’s barking during walks is a serious issue.

They could be barking because they’re overjoyed to be going for a stroll, or they could be demanding that you toss something for them. Throw the toy only when they are silent, to prevent rewarding their barking behaviour.

BARKING WHEN LEFT HOME ALONE

When dogs are home alone, they may bark for a variety of reasons, including as marking their territory or simply being bored and overly sedate (as outlined above). However, if a dog’s barking or other noisy behaviour occurs exclusively when the dog is alone, it may be a sign of separation distress.

HOW TO HELP THIS

By leaving a camera on after you leave, you can monitor what your dog is up to and predict when the barking will begin. It can also shed light on other, more hidden behaviours, such your dog’s incessant pacing or refusal to calm down.

You should receive help from a professional if you’re having trouble with your separation, as the situation won’t improve on its own.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Despite the fact that barking might be annoying and cause complaints from neighbours, we should avoid utilising techniques that the dog finds uncomfortable in an effort to curb the behaviour. Better results can be achieved by rewarding your dog for positive behaviour.

Puppies have good reason to howl. It would be extremely unethical of us to try to stop the dog’s barking by employing something the dog finds unpleasant if its distressful barking is the cause.

The dog will become more anxious because they know you plan on doing something bad to them, and the root causes of their barking will not be addressed. When this happens, they are unable to voice their concerns or ask for help.

For instance, bark-activated collars are designed to punish the barking behaviour by delivering something the dog finds unpleasant (such as a certain pitch of noise, a squirt of something in the dog’s face, or another stimulation). Even if it seems perfectly safe to us, the very fact that it works means the dog will likely find it distressing.

Barking is discouraged because of the greater incentive to refrain from the collar’s negative effects. Just as if we had reacted to the dog with hostility, we would have gotten the same result. If you can help it, try to refrain from scolding your dog, no matter how frustrating it may be.

Instead, we need to determine the canine’s motivation for barking and then take the necessary measures to prevent the dog from acting out its barking routine. To avoid leaving the dog home alone, you could, for instance, block the dog’s line of sight out the window, keep the dog in another room when visitors arrive, or enlist the aid of friends and neighbours.

Then we must try to change how the dog interprets the source of their barking. If our dog is afraid of other dogs and barks at them when we take them for walks, we need to alter their emotional response so that they become excited when they see other dogs. That will eventually lead to an end to the disruptive barking.

If your dog’s barking has become a problem, consulting an expert for assistance with a behaviour modification programme is a wise move. If you visit www.apbc.org.uk, you will be able to locate a clinical or veterinary behaviourist in your area.

 

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