There’s nothing more annoying than a barky dog. Dogs bark for a number of different reasons, and some dogs are just more vocal than others. I feel that putting up with a little barking comes with having a dog. After all, they’re dogs, and dogs will bark from time to time – it’s one of the things they do.
There’s a big difference between some appropriate barking and incessant, non-stop yapping. The treatment depends upon the situation. Let’s go over a few of the more common triggers for barking.
Barking At You
Most of the time, the dog is barking at you for attention and they are in some way rewarding it. As with jumping, ignoring the barking in this situation is the best way to get rid of it. Acknowledging the dog (including disciplining the dog) could be seen as a reward, so withholding attention is just about the worst thing you can do from the dog’s perspective.
Ignoring the dog is much easier said than done, but if you can deal with the barking long enough for the dog to realize the barking is not working, the dog will stop. When the barking does finally come to an end, you should reward your dog (with attention, play, treat, or whatever the dog wants at that time).
Barking At Window
Dogs that are able to look out the front window of the house are much more reactive towards people walking by and coming to the house. And every single day, they are rewarded for their behavior.
Your dog is rewarded every single time someone (dog or person) walks by. Your dog thinks his reaction is what sent them on their way.
This is why treating barking at people and dogs as they walk by the house is impossible. For us to successfully work on this issue, we would need to control the person coming toward the house. The person walking by would have to stop when the dog reacts and wait while we work with the dog to get them back to a calm state of mind, and then continue on their way.
As you can see there is no realistic way to get this work. There’s just no way to control the environment, so it is impossible to treat.
The best thing to do, if possible, is to completely restrict the dog’s access to the front window. I know it sounds like a cop-out of training, but there really is no way to properly address this behavior. And dogs that react to people and dogs at the window are more likely to carry this habit outside and react on a leash, as well.
At People or at Dogs on Leash
For reactivity on a leash, we must first identify why the dog is barking. Possible causes could be anxiety, aggression, or a relationship issue. Without knowing the motivation for the barking, it will be impossible to prepare a treatment plan.
If the dog is anxious or fearful toward people, dogs, or both you must respect the dogs’ need for space and work on changing his perception. This should be done in a controlled (or as controlled as possible) environment so that you can identify the dog’s threshold of tolerance and work (using food) to change his perception of people or dogs.
One of the most common reason that dogs go nuts on a leash is a relationship issue with the owner. If the owner is not being a calm, stable leader, some dogs will assert themselves in a number of situations. This is typical of owners who are laid- back, insecure, anxious, or who just baby the dog. None of these qualities provide the dog with the stability they need and crave.
If some dogs sense a lack of leadership from their humans, they will assume the leadership position and take it upon themselves to determine the rules. In these cases, there is typically some problems in other areas as well, where the dog is taking the initiative.
The easiest way to spot this is observing that the dog doesn’t bark on a leash with all family members. If anxiety was the issue, he would bark no matter which family member was holding the leash. If this is the case, some people are not doing their job of providing necessary leadership, and by asking lots of questions, you can usually determine who, and why.
You should look as to how you’re interacting with your dog in every aspect of your life and change what you do to communicate leadership more effectively. Make sure you are in control of all resources (for example, no free-feeding or running out the door without permission) and that you are taking advantage of daily opportunities to show your dog that they have a solid human leader.
While You’re Away (a.k.a. separation anxiety)
If you’re dog is barking himself horse when you leave, there’s a good chance he’s got separation anxiety. The treatment for separation anxiety is a kind of entailed so I’m not going to be able to cover that here. I did a whole podcast on helping dogs with separation anxiety. Check it out if you want detailed info on how to treat it.
The big thing to remember with barking is you need at address the reason for the barking instead of just trying to get rid of the symptoms. Tools like a bark collar that spays the dog in the face with citronella or gives them a shock, will only inhibit the barking (and possibly cause anxieties and may even make the barking worse) – not treat the cause.
Take the time to figure out why your dog is barking and work with him to remedy the root of the problem. If you do that you’ll get a better dog and have a better relationship with him.