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Barking dogs are the number one problem reported to local authorities around the entire world and, with sounds reaching 113 decibels, it’s no wonder that our dogs can drive us barking mad!
So how can we quieten our noisy canine companions?
Understand dog barking behavior
Solving behavior problems is easiest if we can understand why our pets are behaving the way they do. Think of barking as a symptom and work out the cause of the unwanted behavior. Once we know why they bark, we can put solutions in place to reduce the amount of barking and minimize its effect on us and our neighborhoods.
Common causes of unwanted barking
Dogs can get bored easily, especially if they are alone all day or their needs for mental and physical stimulation are not being met. If your dog barks when alone for long periods, chances are they are bored.
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Set up some food-releasing toys before you leave them. Hide or scatter food around your home or garden. Vary your dog’s walks on a daily basis, to keep them stimulated and introduce some training into their daily activities. Consider hiring a dog walker or take your dog to doggy daycare occasionally, if they are sociable.
Barking can be a symptom of stress in your dog’s life. They may be barking at sounds they dislike or feel anxious at being left alone.
Work on any separation anxiety issues by gradual, positive separation from your dog, building up over time. Using music, especially classical, and calming scents, like lavender, can reduce the amount of barking too. If your dog is scared by many aspects of life, seek help from your vet or an animal behaviorist.
Some dogs bark at postmen, planes, possums or even a leaf that gently falls into the garden! Sometimes we refer to this as territorial behavior, but it can also be caused by the former two conditions – boredom or anxiety.
If your dog reacts to certain noises or activities, you may need to desensitize them to these events. Introduce your dog to the mailman or your guests on neutral ground and give them a treat for calm behavior. If your dog reacts to noises, record them and play them back when your dog is relaxed.
To save your neighbor’s sanity, relocate your dog to an area of your home where they are not exposed to the trigger event. For example, if they bark at children coming home from school, move them away from the gate. If they bark at nocturnal sounds or activities, keep them indoors where they cannot hear or see the disturbances.
If you produce a ball or your dog’s lead and your dog barks, chances are it’s due to excitement. Fortunately, this barking tends to be short-lived but ensure that your dog has enough stimulation in their lives so that they don’t need to bark at every new activity.
Lots of noisy dogs have learned that barking is a great way to get their owner’s attention. Bark and their owner appears. Bark and their owner shouts, joining in, and ultimately reinforcing the behavior they wish to prevent!
Instead, try rewarding your dog with your attention when they are quiet. You can even give your dog a command when they bark – “Speak” – and then a command and reward when they are quiet.
Dog Barking Solutions
Even if you can’t work out why your dog is barking, you can try some of the given solutions. Having enough stimulation in their lives through mental and physical exercise and having an occupation to entertain them while alone are essentials for all dogs. Rewarding quiet behavior is the key to long-term barking reduction.
About the author:
Dr Jo Righetti is a PhD animal behaviour consultant, helping people understand their pets and solving any behaviour problems. Through Pet Problems Solved, Dr Jo offers practical solutions through books, websites, social media and consults. Jo has a dog, 4 cats and several chickens.