Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Trainer Tips--Barking Dogs

This month's Trainer Tip is being based on something that has touched us close to home recently…barking dogs.

As a dog trainer, a dog owner, and fellow neighbor, I would just like to say that a barking dog is NOT ACCEPTABLE!  That being said, let me elaborate…

Being in a neighborhood with lots of dogs, an apartment building with lots of dogs, and a dog owner myself, I fully understand that dogs can and will bark sometimes.  It is to be expected, it happens.  Many times owners do not know their dog has been barking if he only barks when they are away.  Other times, owners are fully aware and do not care.


Sure, we don't mind a little bark here and there, but there are limits to what is acceptable and what is not.

Acceptable Barking:
*If your dog barks once or twice when you first leave the house or come home, I would consider this acceptable.
*If your dog barks 2-3 times throughout the day for less than a minute.
*If your dog barks at someone that has knocked on your door or come onto your property (not just walking by on the sidewalk).

Unacceptable Barking:
*Allowing your dog to bark whenever, wherever, for whatever reason and as long as they feel like is absolutely unacceptable behavior, not only on the dog's part, but more so on the owner.  As the owner of your pets, you are 100% responsible for their actions.  Allowing your dog to continue to bark and bark is absolutely unacceptable and incredibly rude to the people around you.

*Getting defensive when a neighbor complains about your dog barking is not acceptable.  If a neighbor has taken the time to come and talk to you in a nice and respectful way about the disruption your dog's barking has caused, it is your responsibility to not only listen to their concerns, but to do something about it!
*If your dog repeatedly barks when let into the yard or tied outside.  If you know your dog is going to bark when you leave him outside alone, do NOT leave him outside alone.  Take the time to do some training and take responsibility for your barking dog.  The longer you let a dog engage in nuisance or boredom barking, the harder it will be to train them out of it.

*Excuses.  I'm sorry but there is absolutely no excuse for allowing your dog to continually bark and disrupt the people around you…NO EXCUSE!

Why do dogs bark?
Generally speaking, dogs bark and use other vocalizations to communicate, not only with each other, but with us.  It is our job as their owners to discover what they are trying to communicate.  Many barking problems stem from the dog trying to communicate something that the owner is not getting.

On-going/ Excessive Barking/ Nuisance Barking:
This is the type of barking that dogs build a habit of over long periods of time.  Most of this type of barking comes from lack of something else.  For example, lack of physical or mental activity, lack of socialization, or lack of leadership from the owner.  This type of barking will generally have a pattern to it; a similar series of barks that repeats over and over…and over…and over.  This type of barking is unacceptable and should be immediately addressed.

Barking as a Greeting/ Communication:
Often times dogs will bark at another dog or owner upon their return home as a way of saying hello.  Our dog, Caravaggio, does a sort of quiet howl/talking when we come home.  It's very cute.  This type of barking is acceptable in small doses.
(These 2 puppies are a good example of communication barking between dogs.)

Some dogs will howl along with odd noises like a passing siren or strange high-pitched sounds (like in a song or on TV).  These random howls are acceptable.
Other dogs will howl when left alone.  This howl is generally a sign of distress in the dog, usually from being left alone.  Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety and this type of howling or the nuisance barking listed above can be symptoms of that.  Separation Anxiety can be a very difficult problem to deal with and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Separation Anxiety:
Some simple things you can do to help with separation anxiety include:

*exercise your pet before leaving (a tired dog is a good dog)
*give your pet plenty of things to keep him occupied (a Kong filled with yummy treats
and penut butter, a tasty bone, and/or several types of interactive toys)
*do not make a big deal about leaving and returning
(do not kiss your dog goodbye and tell him how much you will miss him,
this makes it harder for a dog with separation anxiety,
upon returning, ignore your dog until he calms down, 
then reward with calm love and praise.)
Dogs with separation anxiety often get themselves into trouble when left with nothing else to do.  That's why it is so important to do the things listed above, otherwise you may come home to a disaster (example above left).

Generally speaking, a dog that excessively barks is either exhibiting separation anxiety or boredom.  Either way, if your dog is excessively barking, it is your duty as the owner to take responsibility and take action to correct the problem.  Most barking problems can be solved with some simple training and exercise (both mental and physical).  But it is important to recognize exactly why your dog is excessively barking to determine the correct path.  Some dogs may bark to communicate some other problem they may be having, such as a physical (food, water, shelter) or emotional (excited, anxious, or nervous) need.  No matter the reason for the barking, something should be done about it.

Don't become the neighbor everyone hates because you can't control your dog's barking.  Take action!  Be responsible!  Train your dog to be a respectful member of your community.  Your neighbors will thank you for it!

Try this other SGDs blogs for more help:
Choosing an Anti-Bark dog collar.

Also check out an article by Victoria Stilwell, Barking.

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