There are certain things that can't be avoided. If you are a dog owner, you will have to learn to deal with some barking, or howling, or baying, depending on your dog 's breed and his mood today. What you should not accept, however, is constant, uncontrolled barking. This kind of thing leads to stressed-out dogs, stressed-out owners, and stressful meetings with your homeowner 's association.
As with any knotty behavior, the Human In Charge needs to begin by figuring out why her dog is barking.
When we acquire dogs, we usually expect them to bark if a stranger comes into the house, if they or we are being threatened. If your dog is doing this kind of barking regularly enough to annoy you, you need a new neighborhood.
Sometimes dogs bark to identify themselves. If they see another dog in the area, or the dogs in the neighborhood are already having a conversation, your dog will just want to join in with a bark that says, "Hey! It 's me and I'm over here!" Usually a sharp reminder from the Human In Charge will stop the conversation, and if not, moving the dog inside the house will usually take care of it.
Sometimes dogs bark to get your attention. This behavior is most common in puppies. It should also be discouraged in puppies, because as your puppy gets bigger, that bark will get louder. If your dog is barking to get your attention, withhold your attention until the dog calms down. If your dog is already large and loud, and the Human In Charge is just now dealing with this, make sure you are on good terms with the neighbors; it could take a while.
Sometimes dogs bark if they get too excited during a game. The barks are often short and sharp. These barks signal that a time out is in order, until your dog can get himself under control.
Sometimes dogs bark because they are bored, lonely, or anxious. At times, this means that they are experiencing separation anxiety. Anxious or panicked barking can be continuous while you are gone, and tends to get higher in pitch as the dog gets more upset. See the article on separation anxiety to deal with this barking, and the other incredibly annoying behaviors that go with it.
Now that the Human In Charge has an idea of why her knotty doggie is barking, she needs to look to some general principles for controlling that barking.
The first step to controlling barking, or anything else, is being able to control the dog. If the dog will stop what he is doing and come when called, the Human In Charge can accomplish great things. If you can call him, tell him to lie down. Dogs aren't comfortable barking when lying down. If you can just accomplish this one task, you are well on your way to solving your dog 's inappropriate barking.
As with any other communication between the Human In Charge and the knotty dog, consistency and brevity are the key. Pick one word, such as "enough" or "quiet" and use the same tone of voice (your command voice) every time. If you have other helpers in the house, make sure they use the same command in the same manner. When one person is trying to correct the dog, and three others are shouting "Shut up!" at the dog, your dog will not calm down.
Do not attempt to calm a barking dog by hugging him, petting him, or talking soothingly to him. If you do, you have just rewarded your dog for inappropriate behavior. Just stick with a firm, calm command.
When your dog stops barking, reward your dog with good behavior. Words of encouragement or a pat on the head go a long way after he has calmed down. When he doesn't stop barking, just be patient. Modifying behavior does not happen overnight, and you won't speed it up by yelling at your dog or by physically punishing him.
It is helpful, if possible, to "stage" a barking scene so that you can control the situation. If a knock on the door gets him going, have a family member or a very understanding friend knock on the door. If someone walking another dog past your house does it, then enlist someone with a dog to do that, or you could just wait until someone 's normal waling time and make sure you are present when the barking starts. Put your dog into whatever situation sets him off, and then practice your command and his response. Practice in short, frequent sessions, if possible, about five to ten minutes each.
Finally, don't be afraid or embarrassed to talk to your veterinarian. She has information specific to your dog that this website doesn't, and she has resources that she is quite happy to share.
It is much easier to train a puppy not to bark excessively than it is to change the habits of an older dog. Even if your dog is set in his ways already, excessive or inappropriate barking is something that can and should be dealt with. Your family will appreciate it, your dog will be more relaxed, and your neighbors will begin speaking to you again.
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