How To Stop Dogs Barking
Barking is a natural form of communication for dogs and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Identifying why your dog barks goes some way towards finding a way to restore quiet.
Barking behaviour is completely normal dog behaviour and stopping nuisance barking will not mean your dog won’t bark at all. They will still let you know if there is an intruder, the aim is just to get the barking to a more manageable level.
Dogs bark for a number of reasons, so it is important to sit back and try to determine why your dog is barking. Some dogs bark for attention, out of boredom, at people or birds and some bark because they are stressed or anxious. A dog barking due to anxiety needs a different approach to a dog who is bored.
For this reason bark collars are considered by veterinary behaviourists to be a costly investment for something that most likely will not work long-term and may even be harmful. More exercise, chewing, company and stimulation can assist.
If you have a problem barker make an appointment with your veterinarian. Many vets have additional qualifications or a special interest in behaviour, so it is worth asking whether one of the vets has a special interest in behaviour. Often there are health conditions that could be exacerbating the problem, such as dementia, pain, vision or hearing problems.
Dogs also bark if they are anxious, so medications can be used in the short-term to help your dog learn some coping skills. They need not be permanent. While there are some excellent dog trainers, there is little regulation in the industry, so skills and methods can vary. Ask your veterinarian to recommend someone if they can’t help.
Keep a Bark Diary
If you are not sure what your dog is barking at or if he seems to be barking at everything, keep a bark diary. You may start to see a pattern, for example he barks at 3pm when kids are getting out of school. It might be useful to ask your neighbours to do this also, so you know when he is barking when you are not home. Your neighbours also then know you are attempting to resolve the problem.
There are also voice activated recorders available, phone/tablet apps to monitor your pet and many different home security monitors you can set up via webcams to see what your dog gets up to while you are out.
Types of Barking
Dogs naturally will bark to warn you, and this may become a problem if there are lots of things your dog sees, such as birds, cats and people walking by the fence. He may feel the need to alert you to every small thing that approaches. Sometimes it is as simple as blocking off a gate to block the stimulus of people walking past. Dogs will also bark out of boredom, or because they are worried about being alone.
Sometimes you can tell whether the type of bark is a play bark or anxious bark. A play bark is usually made while the dog has loose, relaxed body language. An anxious dog has ears back and the whites of the eyes are showing. If your dog barks only when you go out, he may have separation anxiety.
Medications may be necessary for those dogs who are tense and anxious, and in some cases a dog appeasing pheromone collar (DAP®) can help. The following video shows some happy and not so happy dogs.
Extinguish the Behaviour
Many times we have unintentionally taught our dog to bark by reinforcing the behaviour. If your dog barks in the yard and you go out and shout at him, he has gotten your attention and may even think you are joining in with your own funny little human bark. Even looking at your dog when he barks can be a reinforcer.
To extinguish the behaviour you must completely ignore it. Walk away, or look away and do not speak or give eye contact. Bear in mind that the behaviour will temporarily increase before it improves, and you must be persistent and consistent. Try never to enter the house or yard or let your dog inside while your dog is barking, as this can easily reinforce the behaviour too.