Dog barking is for the most a natural behaviour in the canine world and serves various and essential purposes, however when it becomes constant especially in a residential environment then it creates a nuisance and peace is lost.
Dogs bark for various reasons and then so do humans, in fact humans bark, scream and shout more than dogs if we are talking about unreasonable or nuisance behaviour!
There are many reasons why a dog barks and owners need to identify and distinguish between healthy barking and unhealthy barking.
For example: When the post person comes near your letterbox then off goes the dog barking again.
To some extent albeit briefly this is healthy barking where the dog is letting out a warning sound for what it perceives to be an intruder or a predator approaching the dogs lair.
By the way your house is the dog’s lair from its perspective, it is their den where they feel safe and protected until it perceives threat or danger coming near.
If the dog is constantly and incessantly barking all the time on and off then there will be a good logical reason coupled in with habit barking.
Is the dog trying to communicate with you? Are they bored or hungry?
Are they frustrated with pent-up energy? How many times a day do you walk them?
A dog needs a minimum of two walks a day.
We humans can burn up calories by the things we do by choice and freedom however with a dog trapped in a house all day long without walks and has no way of burning off the calorific intake (stored up energy) other than barking.
Most barking dogs usually settle down and bark less after a long run.
If the dog is affected by passers-by from your property, pull the curtains or block the visual access to the street windows.
Is there something specific that sets up the dogs barking? Such as a trigger, if so remove or block that trigger but first identify it.
The common thing with dogs is they learn through association, so if the dog is barking and you start stroking it to calm it down then you are indirectly associating a soothing reward and without realising it you are giving the dog more of a automatic need to bark.
If you attempt to calm a dog down by making soothing physical contact with them because their noise is possibly disturbing the neighbours then that is just as bad as giving them treats to bark and you wouldn’t give a dog a treat directly after their barking would you?
If your dog was going crazy or is spinning around in circles, jumping up and down and barking at the front door, you wouldn’t then walk up to the dog and give him a plate of his favourite food! So bear that in mind when you try to calm a barking dog down and how you are doing this.
Don’t ever use shock or electric type dog collars which are available on the market and that goes for noise emitting dog collars or even collars that squirt out jets of water up into the dog’s face when the motion detector senses the barking sound vibration.
This just creates more negativity on top of the fight or flight negativity that the dog is already experiencing by feeling and experiencing the potential impending danger of an intruder or a caller at the front door – that is how it perceives all callers to your home, as a threat.
Please bear in mind there are many unpleasant gadgets on the market which should be avoided as most of them are cruel. Additionally surgical operations by a veterinarian to alter the dogs bark should never be attempted as the problem is in most cases psychological.
Here are some dos and don’ts about dog barking and what you can do about it.
When a dog is excessively barking with aggression at the front door because the doorbell has been pressed or mail came through the letterbox. One of the worst things you can do is rush to your dog and shout at it or make physical contact and pull it down to the ground or shout in its face for it to shut up – this is very common.
Shouting at the dog while it’s barking just looks like you’re barking back at the dog and together both of you are reinforcing the dogs need to continue bark warning.
From this point on all your training sessions to bring the barking down must be positive, intelligent and constructive with considerable patience required on your part.
When you deliver an instruction to your dog make sure the delivery of the instruction is singular, in other words one thing at a time so that you don’t confuse the dog with different signals or movements.
Dogs naturally experience feedback or benefits otherwise known as a reward or pay off when they do things.
A dog receives information differently to how you perceive it or a reward can be gained from something negative and bad where the human may see this as not a reward.
In other words a dog may be gaining a reward by barking therefore you may need to identify what this is and remove it.
A good approach to try is when the dog barks at a passerby, take hold of the dog respectfully by the collar and immediately lead the dog away from the window and put them outside your back door, at this point they will be scraping to get back in as a form of objection to your action and return to the event.
This denial of access to the window or the trigger carries the consequence which is to firmly but respectfully to lead the dog out the back door and should be for around 1 minute which is in effect the dog’s punishment or denial of the stimuli.
Each time the dog barks at a passerby take them out behind the closed door and you will see by the scraping or whimpering as they do they will not like this negative experience.
This door that you put them through could be simply another room but you must do it each time and every time directly as they bark at a passerby. Then you calmly open the door and allow them to quietly come back in until the passerby does not evoke the bark response any further and it is at that point you give them the reward such as the food treat or the toy or words.
This simple exercise can appear to be quite time consuming and exasperating for the amateur dog trainer or dog owner and most people will at this point give up.
This is one of the many reasons why dogs can be so difficult to handle as often the problem lies with the owner and their inability to handle this situation.
Professional dog trainers will have success with this in minutes. Remember calm and quiet non movements or slow to move on your part is essential keeping everything low key and quite as this is the state you are producing in the dog.
Another approach is to stand there beside the dog barking and wait patiently until they stop all on their own and the moment they stop you then give them the reward treat.
At this point you have a one second window of opportunity to associate the reward to what they just did which was they stopped barking.
Stand next to him quietly and calmly without eye contact making no physical contact and giving no movements or attention and wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait till that level of energy stops then immediately give the treat and praise him and or with another down command.
The second he stops give him the treat and make sure it’s a good quality treat such as a piece of cheese, steak or sausage, something they normally don’t receive.
Remember, you have about one second for the dog to receive and associate the reward to that moment of stopping barking.
Dog trainers cannot stress this enough and this one second window of opportunity is often taught in clicker training and dolphin training, the timing is crucial.
You will not resolve this overnight but doing this daily may take you two weeks and you’ll start to see an interruption in his barking.
Ideally you will already have the sit or down commands in place as these must be followed through to the position the dog must take after its barking episode stop.
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