Part of: The Most Common Dog Problems.
Barking is a natural behaviour for a dog; it becomes a problem in a human community when it’s inappropriate.
Causes of inappropriate barking may include:
- Boredom, frustration
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of training
- Stress or anxiety – and/or separation anxiety
- A particularly well-developed natural reaction to unexpected or unfamiliar sights/sounds.
- Owner’s reinforcement (usually not intended)
- Insecurity; owner not perceived as leader
- Social interaction: two dogs barking through a fence, or several dogs within a home “socialising” by barking.
To help your dog, yourself, your family and your neighbours …
TRAIN, DON’T COMPLAIN!
Don’t react to your dog’s barking: don’t shout at him, don’t throw things at him, don’t pat or soothe him, don’t offer him a treat “if you stop barking”. None of this works; it simply reinforces barking by rewarding it with attention (even negative attention can be better than no attention at all). Instead ….
Decide what may be the cause of the barking.
Keep a diary. What time of the day (or night) is he barking? Does he bark when you’re home, or when you’re out? Could there be a routine distraction on the other side of the fence? – a cat, possums, neighbours, kids going to school? Once you know the cause, you can begin to work on a solution.
Boredom is the most common cause of nuisance barking. The following are recommended: –
- Be sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise – unused energy will often be expended in barking! He will “let off steam” by running, instead of barking – and while he’s exercising, he’ll be exposed to lots of new sights, sounds and smells.
- Enrich your dog’s environment. Provide toys, perhaps a big tyre, perhaps large balls, a ‘Buster cube’, a sand pit. Hide some treats around the house and/or garden, for him to look for and find. Tie some treats up into old rags, and leave them for him to dissect.
- Socialise your dog. Playing with other dogs will provide both mental stimulation and exercise.
- Begin obedience training, to engage your dog’s mind and improve your role as leader.
Boredom barking may be helped by the use of a citronella collar. They work by releasing a spray of citronella in the dog’s face automatically when he barks. It doesn’t hurt or harm, but it is unpleasant. A collar may or may not stop the behaviour, either temporarily or permanently. Citronella collars are expensive, but may be hired from many Councils.
And remember: PRAISE when the dog isn’t barking!
Is his barking a symptom of separation anxiety?