Expecting a dog not to bark is as unreasonable as expecting a child not to talk. Dog barking is a normal behavior and an essential form of communication. Dogs will bark when communicating to their human friends, responding to other barking dogs, alerting us of any unusual noise or when they are excited.However, the barking may become excessive and annoying.
A recent study showed that approximately a third of dog owners reported that their dogs barked excessively. To control this bad habit, we first need to understand why the dogs are barking.
So Why do Dogs Bark?
i. Alert /warning – Most owners encourage this type of barking. They want their dog to warn them in case of any danger or suspicious sounds or when they see a stranger. Alerting barks gets more intense and rapidas the noises get louder or as the intruder approaches. The barks tend to be aggressive with a low pitch and is at most times accompanied with growls. It is however important to be able to distinguish between warning barks and barks due to fear.
ii. Attention seekers – This type of barking is mostly associated with puppies when they want you to focus your attention to them. A time out is often effective with this type of barking.
iii. Anxiety – Anxious barking is often an act of self-soothing for most dogs. Anxious barks tend to be high-pitched and is at most times accompanied with whining. This is most common with dogs experiencing separation anxiety.
iv. Play/ excitement – barks are often sharp and short lived. This happens when the dog gets too excited while playing. A time out is often enough to stop this type of barking.
v. Responding to other dogs – When one dog barks down the streets, you will notice that one by one, all the dogs of your block barking back. This is a form of self- identification for dogs.
vi. Boredom – Bored dogs bark to release excess energy. These types of bark tend to be sad and can be annoying. The dog usually needs a simple activity or a companion to keep them occupied.
vii.Startle barking – occurs when the dog hears sudden suspicious movements as with case of warning barks.
You can see clearly that there are many reasons behind dog barking. Most of them are normal barks but can became annoying at times. There are a variety of actions and training programs to prevent such excessive barking. To increase the chances of success, you need to choose those actions that you can be consistent with.
- making your dog bring a present: Encouraging your dog to bring objectsto you or to your guests or by simply encouraging him to carry objects around the house will help keep the dogs mouth closed. Naturally, dogs that enjoy retrieving objects as a way of expressing their pleasure barks less. This is because naturally, dogs cannot bag when holding an object.
It is however important that you avoid giving the toy when the dog is barking because the dog might actually mistake the toy as reward for barking.
- Closing your dog’s mouth gently: If your dog is the type that will barkat people or other dogs a head halter, it is very simple to close his mouth and redirect him into the acceptable behavior by introducing the halter. When an unwanted bark occurs, you can lift the leash which closes your dog’s mouth and he sits. You can then guide him to the right direction.
This one simple step allows you to stop the barking while still gaining the attention of your dog.
- Creating distraction: Some dogs require a simple distraction to take off their mind from the stimulus to bark. There are cases when the barking is too intensified such that a verbal command cannot cut the behavior. In such a case, some distraction is needed to break the concentration on the barking.
The interrupter could be a higher frequency sound which will interrupt the barking. Dropping a can full of pebbles or a chain in front of the dog can provide the interruption.
- Bark on command: Teaching your dog to bark on command can be very effective. Do not wait for seconds after the dog has stopped barking to reward him because he might mistake the reward for barking which is actually a reward for staying quiet.
Dog barks, and the owner says “Quiet” and he stops barking, when he says “Speak” and the dog barks. This shows that the dog is under control and is ready to receive warning.
- Bark collars: The bark collars automatically set off an interrupter immediately the dog wearing the bark collar barks. There are bark collars that emit noise, others blast air of citronella while there are also those that use an electric stimulation between the two points on the collar which limits the feeling to that area.
All of them can work but professional advice is needed with bark collars especially if yourdog’s barking is out of fear, compulsion or anxiety.
The most important aspect is your relationship with the dog. Your dog should have enough confidence in you. This is acquired by spending quality time together, through dog exercise and showing appreciation to your dog when he does something good. This is the basis of building confidence and trust that lets your dog know when tobark and when to be quiet.