Solving Barking Problems
If your dog has a barking problem, it can be a very stressful situation for both you and your neighbors. First and foremost, you will need to determine what is causing your dog's behavior. This may prove to be more difficult if your dog is barking when you are not home. If this is the case, ask the neighbors if they notice any probable causes or even consider setting up a camera (video or webcam) so that you can view the situation yourself. The solution to your dog’s barking problem will depend on the cause of his barking.
Social Isolation / Frustration / Attention-Seeking:
Your dog likely is barking due to loneliness or boredom if he is barking when:
• He is left alone for long (or short) periods of time.
• His environment is lacking in companions, toys, or other mental stimulus.
• He is not experiencing the right outlets for his energy.
• He is particularly high energy dog.
Recommendations for Social Isolation / Frustration / Attention-Seeking Barking:
• Walk your dog at least twice daily, for as long as it takes to tire them.
• Engage your dog in other physical activities such as frisbee or fetch.
• Attend training classes to build confidence.
• Provide safe and interesting toys for your dog to play with while you are not home.
• Make sure to set aside time for your dog daily, in which he has your full attention.
• Keep your dog inside while you are not available to supervise him.
• Let your neighbors know that you are actively working on the behavior issue.
• Once socialized, inquire if you can bring your dog to work with you.
• If your dog must spend an extended amount of time alone, take him to a doggie day care, hire a pet sitter, or ask a friend or neighbor to stop in and play.
Territorial / Protective Behavior:
It is likely that your dog is barking to guard his territory if he is barking when:
• He sees or hears strangers.
• His posture appears defensive (tail flagged, ears forward, tall stance).
• He hears or sees something outside.
Recommendations for Territorial / Protective Barking:
• Teach your dog a “quiet” command: when he is barking, interrupt him with a firm and abrupt “quiet!” As soon as he stops barking, praise and reward him with a treat.
• Desensitize your dog to the people, sights, and sounds that he finds alarming. For example, teach him that your mail carrier is a friend and good things happen when the mail carrier is around. Start by asking someone to walk by your home, far enough so that your dog is not already barking, while you stand outside with your dog. As this “stranger” walks by, reward your dog for quiet behavior. When the “stranger” has come close enough without your dog barking, have the “stranger” reward your dog with a treat.
• Do not encourage your dog to react or bark to stimulus such as passersby, neighborhood cats, etc.
• If your dog is barking while you are at home, call him over and have him obey “sit” or “down.” Reward him for his obedience and quiet behavior.
Fears and Phobias:
Your dog may be barking due to a fearful response if he is barking when:
• He is exposed to loud noises such as fireworks, thunder storms, or construction.
• His body language conveys fear (body low, ears pinned back, tail low or between his legs).
Recommendations for Fears and Phobias Barking:
• Identify what your dog has come to fear and desensitize him to it slowly.
• Consider working with a professional trainer, because fears and phobias can be difficult to treat.
• Under no circumstances should you attempt immersion techniques, as they will likely be more traumatizing. Immersion techniques can cause your dog to redirect his fear energy in the form of a bite. It is not an effective therapy. An example of an immersion technique would be taking a child that fears swimming and tossing them into a pool.
• Be careful not to coddle your pet while he displays fearful behavior as he may misunderstand this as a reward. Instead, try to get him to engage in play.
Your dog may be barking due to separation anxiety if he:
• Barks whenever you leave him alone and the barking begins immediately or shortly after your departure.
• Displays behaviors indicative of an attachment to you, such as following you from room to room, reacting anxiously when you prepare to leave, and greeting you frantically when you arrive home.
• Is destructive when he is separated from you.
Recommendations if Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety:
• Consult your veterinarian and inquire if your dog can benefit from anti-anxiety medication.
• Work with your trainer on a counterconditioning or a desensitization plan.
For more useful information, please download our free Dog manual.