Dealing with Excessive Barking

Living with a dog that barks excessively can be very stressful. It’s hard to relax at home with a barky dog, it can be difficult to get along with neighbours if you have a dog that barks too much, and chances are, your dog is pretty stressed out as well. Excessive barking is a behavioural issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later for everyone’s well-being. The first step towards working on this issue is to identify why your dog is barking. Dogs bark for a lot of different reasons and your training plan will need to be designed so that you’re addressing the correct source of the problem.

Management

Some barking problems can be addressed quickly and effectively just by changing little steps in your routine or changing your dog’s access to places or objects in his environment. If your dog likes to bark at the mailman every day at 2 pm, then restrict his access to the front door during that time. You can give your dog an interactive toy or a bone to chew on and block him from lurking near the front door and waiting for the mailman to arrive. Similarly, if your dog tends to bark at the neighbours while he’s out in the backyard, make sure that he’s not out there unless you are available to supervise him. If he starts to bark, either call him over to you or go over to him and walk him away from the fence to interrupt his barking before it gets out of control. By managing the situation differently, you are preventing your dog from practicing unwanted behaviours and making it easier for your dog to make better choices.

Proper Exercise & Mental Stimulation

Proper exercise, both physical and mental, can go a long way in decreasing your dog’s desire to bark. Many dogs spend long days at home alone while their owners are at work. Imagine if you stayed home alone all day with no TV, no computer, no books or magazines, and no phone. You would probably be lonely, frustrated, and bored out of your mind! That’s what most dogs deal with every day! It’s easy to see why some dogs resort to incessant barking – it gives them something to do to make the time pass more quickly. It’s also easy to understand why they are so excited when you come home. Make sure that you are giving your dog an appropriate outlet for his energy so that he can relax while you’re at work instead of get himself into trouble. Make sure that he is getting plenty of regular aerobic exercise: several walks or jogs each day, a trip to the dog park to play with friends, a bike ride, a hike, anything to get him moving. Don’t forget to help him exercise his brain too. Get an assortment of interactive toys and leave him with a different one each day to keep things fresh. He can spend his day resting after his work out session and playing with puzzles and you can come home to a calm, happy dog!

Train an Incompatible Behaviour

Another way to deal with excessive barking is to teach your dog to do something else that is incompatible with barking. For example, if your dog barks at noises at the front window, you can train him to go lie on his bed at the other end of the room. When he gets to his bed and lies down, toss some treats onto the bed for him. Continue to toss treats at random intervals as long as he stays on his bed until you release him. He can’t stand at the front window and bark if he is lying on his bed and eating bits of food. Similarly, if your dog is reactive to other people or dogs on walks, you can teach him to sit an offer eye contact to you as part of your training plan. Your dog can’t bark and lunge at strangers or other dogs if he is sitting calmly and offering eye contact to you for treats and praise. A certified dog trainer that specialises in behaviour modification using positive reinforcement can help you work through your dog’s reactivity so that you both can enjoy quiet, peaceful walks around the neighbourhood.

Ignore Demand Barking

Some dogs have learned that barking at their humans gets them what they want, whether it’s attention, food, toys, or access to the backyard. Trainers call this behaviour “demand barking” because the dog is literally demanding that you give him what he wants! In order to stop the cycle of your dog barking at you for something that he wants, you need to figure out what it is that he wants from you and then make sure that he NEVER gets it by barking at you. If your dog is barking at you while you’re preparing his meal, set the scoop down, put the food back in the container, and walk away. If he is barking at you to throw his ball, make sure that you don’t touch the toy. If he is barking to get your attention, do your best to ignore him or move away from him. Wait it out until he can be quiet for at least five seconds, and then calmly ask him to do something simple like a Sit or a Down. As soon as he does, praise him and give him a piece of food, throw his toy, or call him to you for some pets. Your dog can absolutely have whatever it is that he wants, but he does not get it by barking at you.

Seek Professional Help

If you need help developing a management plan or training incompatible behaviours to address your dog’s barking problem, don’t hesitate to call a professional dog trainer. Professionals have that title for a reason. They are experts in their field and have the knowledge and experience to help you change your dog’s behaviour quickly, effectively, and humanely. Do your research and find a respected dog trainer in your area that specialises in behaviour modification and positive reinforcement. He or she can help you get to the root of your dog’s barking problem, develop a personalised plan just for your dog, and also be available to answer questions and provide support during the training process. It is well worth the investment!

It can take time to see definitive changes in your dog’s barking habits, especially if he happens to have a long, loud history of barking. Be patient and consistent with your training, and you will be rewarded with a quieter, happier dog that you enjoy spending time with!

Photo Credit: Lianne Viau, via Flickr





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