What a nuisance! Maybe because I’ve been exposed to several million dog barks over forty-odd years of vet practice, I seem to have a low tolerance for barking dogs.
Thankfully, I don’t have any neighbours with barking dogs, but to my horror and shame my older dog has become a bit of a barker in recent times. Isn’t it funny how the behaviour of our dogs changes over time?
Maybe you’re here reading my blog because your dog has started barking and you want to do something about it, or perhaps your neighbour’s dogs are causing you gried?
Let’s take a look at barking problems!
Our barking problem! Yes – our old dog started barking!
I liked to think I had a good understanding of barking problems from the aspect of providing advice on barking issues, but now I’m one of “those” people whose dog has annoyed someone else!
My wife and I didn’t really know Phoebe was being a bit of a pain until a lovely nearby neighbour made an ever-so-polite complaint. This allowed us to instigate some training before it became deeply entrenched behaviour.
We know this: Barking is really annoying!
But: It is not always normal. Conversely, it is not always abnormal.
Like most other behavioural issues, barking is influenced by genetics, environment and learning.
Choosing a bark-prone breed (e.g. dachshund, schnauzer or terrier), having them in an unsuitable environment (e.g. lots of triggers for barking, nothing else to do) and poor puppy-parenting and incorrect management of early barking issues, is the perfect recipe for deeply entrenched, refractory barking at an early age.
However, barking can become an issue at any age, due to a host of factors. Particularly anxiety, boredom, senility, pain and other health and environmental changes.
So, if your dog has a barking issue, do something about it before it escalates.
Please do not wait until the Council letter arrives in the letterbox. Please act when you get that helpful hint from your neighbour, or preferably, even earlier.
The longer your dog is allowed to bark inappropriately, the more it becomes learned behaviour. The more barking becomes learned behaviour, the harder it will be to re-train your dog to be a good boy.
Not all cases of barking will require the help of a behavioural trainer, but if some examination of the situation to see why your is barking doesn’t yield some progress very quickly, a proper home visit assessment and behavioural modification programme will be necessary (or at the very least, highly recommended!)
I strongly recommend Positive Response Dog Training!
Please understand that all barking is not abnormal, and we cannot expect every dog to be silent every minute of the day. Dogs bark for all sorts of reasons and must be accepted for doing so.
An occasional greeting or excitement bark is part of a dog’s personality! There’s nothing wrong with this, and you shouldn’t punish your dog for it.
As the neighbour of anyone else’s barking dog we need to be aware of this and play our part. Shouting and making a fuss is no help. Ignoring the dog and letting them settle, and making efforts to let the dog get to know you are a better thing to do.
If your neighbour’s dog’s barking is a nuisance, being understanding and discussing the matter with your neighbour is the number one best approach. You know, addressing it like the adults you are!
The Do’s and Don’ts of Barking Problems
As with any issue, there are DOS and DON’TS when it comes to barking problems with dogs.
- Please DO treat the problem seriously. Barking is really annoying and causes countless neighbourhood disputes.
- Please DO get professional help if a simple solution is not apparent quickly.
- Please DO persist, even if no-one else seems to be giving you any grief about your dog barking. A barking dog is not a happy dog. Do it for their welfare, just as you would for any obvious physical medical disease.
- Please DO be positive. Reward, your dog, enrich their environment, give them exercise and treat their anxieties.
- Please DON’T shout, throw things at or near the dog, spray them with water, lock them away as punishment or just get mad at them and treat them like they are barking to spite you. Barking is a natural dog thing, but accidentally gets over-expressed. Aversive strategies and punishments heighten anxiety, further inhibit learning, destroy the bond between people and their dogs, and simply JUST DON’T WORK. Shouting is also useless. Dogs do not speak English. Your dog hears you barking but has no clue how to interpret that bark, unless they have been trained to.
- Please DON’T EVER, EVER contemplate using an electric shock collar device or other similar aversion training device. JUST DON’T, PLEASE. They are a special category of abuse and uselessness, a category also occupied by the so-called dog training “boot-camp” method for out-sourcing all manner of behavioural issues. Please DON’T.
How to stop your dog barking
So… what should you do?
Please try to set your dog up for success in all aspects of its life. This starts by not having an inappropriate breed in an environment not suitable for it. In the case of the bark-prone breeds, maybe they are not for your current situation, e.g. a dachshund, in an exposed front yard, on a busy street corner with lots of passing pedestrian and car traffic, left alone from 8am until 6pm is bound to have a problem (and probably not just with barking).
For the dog already in your home who is a bit of a barker, or you are worried may turn into a barker, start by trying to identify the stimulus for barking and do something to avoid it.
Also, make sure your dog’s general health and welfare issues are attended to. Make sure they are not bored or anxious, in good general health and have as much varied environmental enrichment (that’s code for stuff to do as a substitute for barking) and exercise as possible.
If you are fairly sure you have a deeper-seated, ongoing barking problem with your dog, please don’t despair, but do realise that time, energy and some financial resources are going to be required.
None of us would baulk at engaging professional help for our children with a behavioural problem, so why deny help to the barking dog in the family?
We would not think well of anyone who left their dog with an untreated painful medical condition, because it was a bit hard. So again, why deny help for your barking dog?
Barking is really annoying, but there does not need to be so much of it around if we all make a bit of an effort.
David & Phoebe