All dogs bark, but some barking dogs become a real nuisance – greatly reducing the quality of life for neighbours and increasing neighbourhood tensions. Ongoing barking is often a symptom of another problem. Taking time to understand what makes dogs bark, especially your pet or other dogs in your neighbourhood, is the first step towards solving this problem, both for the dog involved and your neighbours.
- Loneliness – dogs are social animals
- Stress due to separation from an owner
- Conditioned behaviour – where an owner rewards the dog for barking
- Dominance – barking until they get what they want
- Attention seeking
- Fear – dogs bark at people, other dogs or objects when scared
- Threat or territory – something unfamiliar may be a threat
- Breed – some breeds have a reputation for barking
Methods of Control
The most important first step is to work out why your dog is barking. Once you know the symptom, you can find the cure.
- Avoid conditioning: do not reward your dog if it barks for the response alone
- Companionship: before leaving home turn on a radio, give your dog an old coat or box of shoes belonging to you
- Never call your dog after it has stopped barking and then punish it
- Regular exercise: where possible, walk your dog twice a day
- Access to the house: if you can let the dog inside the house, provide your dog with a single room where odours relating to you relax the dog (denning principal)
- Obedience training: a dog can be trained to be alone, and bark only on command
- Avoid stimulus, distract your dog with another form of reward at the time it usually barks at the postie
- Fence design: a fence correctly designed to restrict your dogs vision will reduce barking
- Anti barking devices, used in conjunction with obedience training
- Discipline: show your dog that you are the head of the house, dogs are pack animals and need to be shown where they stand in relation to the family unit
Remember barking dog problems can be cured!
How to recognise and treat your dogs behavioural problems
- Do I have good control over the dog?
- What is my relationship with my dog, emotional, overattached?
- How much do I value my dog?
- What amount of time and investment have I put into my dog?
- What is my attitude to my dogs behavioural problem?
- How much time do I spend with my dog?
- Does my dog understand that I am the pack leader?
Assess and define your dog
- What sex is my dog, is it desexed?
- What is my dogs breed? Look for typical problems:- fearfulness, dominance, aggression or arousal in working breeds
- My dogs temperament is:- timid, confident, unresponsive, intrusive, attention seeking or easily bored?
- Is my dog obedient? Try come, sit, drop, stay
- Is my dog responsive to my commands? Look for responsiveness and enthusiasm
- Who is the boss? Me or my dog, determine your dogs willingness to comply with obedience commands
- Reactiveness; assess your dogs arousal point
- What is my dogs history? Where purchased (pound, refugee, petshop) with pervious experience and influences
- What is my dog’s home environment like? Does it have an uninteresting yard, high fences, no outlook, boring?
Assess your problem
- What makes my dog bark?
- When, where and why does my dog bark day/night, when I’m not home?
- What happens after my dog barks? Does there appear to be any form of stress release for the dog?
- Is the behaviour normal for my dog? (talk to the Local Law Officers or your local veterinarian)
- Is my dogs behaviour learned or conditioned
- How long has my dog been barking?
- How did the behaviour problem start? What were the circumstances?
- Look at the length of times this behaviour has been going on; has it been gradual, is it occasional or progressive?
- What have I tried? Assess your attempts to prevent the barking and look at the results
Once you have assessed yourself, your problem, and defined your dog, use the information to determine what you can do, or who you can ask for assistance in preventing your dog from barking and becoming the neighbourhood nuisance!
To avoid boredom you need to give your dog plenty to do when it is alone.
- If your dog likes water, place a sprinkler on a timer to come on a couple of times a day so the dog can play
- Use old drink bottles or milk containers, half fill them with water or stones, your dog will roll them like a toy. They also make a good chew toy (empty).
- There are food reward toys available (talk to your veterinarian or pet shop)
- Make sure your dog has some dry food and plenty of water
- Give your dog a bone when you leave the house, this will teach your dog that when you leave there is a positive reaction – the bone.
- A variety of toys (balls, chew toys, something to climb on)
Excessive barking – What if my neighbours dog barks?
Approach the dog owner as soon as the problem arises, state your case clearly and politely. They may not be aware of the issue.