Managing Excessive Barking
Excessive barking is a
common complaint with dog owners (and their neighbors). Dogs bark for
a variety of reasons: out of boredom, warning, lonely, fear,
to get attention, it is fun, etc. Some breeds, like many herding
may be more vocal than others. For example, my beloved Shetland
is a breed prone to barking. They use vocalizing as part of herding.
can be very vocal dogs! Training from
day one when barking will and will not be permitted is very important!
Many Shelties are given up each year due to barking. Many dogs PERIOD
are given up each year due to barking. However, this need not be.
is a problem that can be worked with if you are consistent and diligent.
The easiest thing to do is NOT allow barking to get to be a bad habit.
As soon as your puppy or dog joins your house, you need to start
teaching what will and will not be allowed. Use a command such as NO
BARK or ENOUGH and reinforce it with praise as soon as the dog quiets
down. Use a firm but not yelling voice and again, yelling can sound
like barking and make the situation worse as you are barking as well!
Show the dog that you
really like it when he is quiet. Just shouting NO can sound like a bark
and get your dog even more exited and barky! As soon as the dog stops
barking, you need to reinforce the stopping of barking with a treat and
praise. No puppy is born knowing command. You have to teach that each
has an action and if that action is done, good things will follow.
motivation is a great training technique! Be careful not to
praise behaviors you do not want. Cuddling and stroking a barking dog
give the dog the impression you like what it is doing.
Now, what if you want the dog to alert bark when someone is at the
door. Well, set up training scenarios. Have someone ring the bell or
knock. Call the dog to you and have him escort you to the door. Ask
excitedly "Who's there?" "Check it out!" or whatever cue you decide to
use. Go to the door, have the dog sit and then have him stop barking.
treat the stopping of barking. Teach him that when you get to the door
and check out the situation, he can be quiet. Be consistent, be
and be responsible. Practice several short sessions a day and the dog
eventually learn what you want. Stop undesired barking as soon as it
Positively reinforce the behaviors you want. Many issues can be avoided
if they are worked with from the beginning. Most dog owners are
(addressing issues after they become problems) as opposed to being
(not allowing issues to begin or get out of hand.
What if your dog is already nuisance barker? You can try several
things. First, identify WHY your dog is barking: Lonely, alerting you
to something, fear, bored, aggression, etc. Knowing the trigger or
is a big part in working towards a solution. If your dog is alerting
to something, teach him that when you have checked out a
situation and you have told him it is fine, he must stop barking. My
dogs learn that I want them to alert me to things on the property or
that could pose a threat. As soon as a pack leader has checked it out
given the all clear, the dog does not need to alert me anymore. (I say,
"Enough! It's fine" this is their cue that I have given the all clear
alerting me is no longer needed).
If your dog is bored or lonely, you need to get active with him.
Toys, games, training, interaction all go a long way to help a bored
or lonely dog. A tired dog is generally a better behaved dog. Boredom
and loneliness can lead to other undesired behaviors as well. Get a
of toys like Kongs, safe chew toys, Buster Cubes, etc., that will
your dog's mind and get him doing something. Obedience lessons, Agility
or other sport as well as just playing fetch will help. Do not leave
dog unsupervised while outside. Dogs who are outside all day especially
when no one is home are more prone to becoming nuisance barkers for a
variety of reasons listed above as well as a bigone:
ONE IS HOME TO TEACH HIM PROPER BEHAVIOR.
If no one shows him what he
can and cannot do, the issue will persist.
If your dog barks during play, calm the play down. Relax the dog
and start again. Keep play under control and integrate training into
Some dogs are pathological barkers and intervention with a behaviorist
may be needed if training does not work, you cannot find the source of
the barking, etc. Sometimes just having a trainer or behaviorists watch
your dog can help give you ideas. Often we cannot see the forest for
the trees and we need an outsider to look at a situation in a different
Now, many people want a fast and easy way out and may resort to various
collars that stop barking. If any training aid is used wrong, it can
frustrate and possibly worsen the situation. Collars negatively
reinforce the barking through a shock, noise, or spray with a scent
dogs do not like. Some dogs learn to ignore the collars. Others may
develop nervous behaviors due to the constant punishment.
There is also a surgical procedure called Debarking. This does not
silence a dog at all. It causes the volume to decrease and the dog
sound as if it has laryngitis. Debarking does not stop the problem,
only helps cover it by dropping the volume. Your dog will still bark
and some debarks do not take well and the dog still can be quite loud.
The best thing to do to help with barking is not to allow it to become
a habit in the first place. A few things you can do are:
1) Train from day
one what will and will not be allowed. Remember, some breeds are more
prone to barking, but any dog can be a nuisance barker.
2) Teach a command
that lets the dog know you want him to be quiet like NO BARK or ENOUGH.
3) Keep your dog
inside when you are not home. Dogs left outside
alone all day are more prone to nuisance barking.
exercise, proper attention to him, mental and physical stimulation. A
dog that gets what he needs mentally and physically is
less apt to be a problem barker.