Bark Management 101
By the Editors of Exceptional Canine for Exceptional Canine
Dogs bark. That's how they communicate. But what if your dog barks incessantly? What if your dog is waking the baby up all the time or driving the neighbors crazy? Don't call the doggie psychologist quite yet. Sometimes, you simply need to correctly diagnose the problem, and then teach your dog to stop the behavior. Here are some strategies:
Figure out What Your Dog Needs
Your dog barks because it wants your attention. Instead of ignoring the barks or hushing your dog, step back and try to figure out what your pal is trying to tell you. Ask yourself: Is your dog bored? Sad? Anxious? Afraid? Lonely? Most of these conditions can be fixed by spending more productive time together. Here's what you can do to help:
- Engage your dog. Instead of sitting on your patio and reading a book with your dog nearby, play a game of fetch or teach a new command.
- Burn energy. Your dog might need more stimulation in the way of longer walks or jogs to feel part of the greater world. Moreover, exercise will zap excess energy that your dog will otherwise burn by barking.
- Hire help. If you find you're short on time, hire a dog walker or neighborhood kid who can entertain your pooch.
- Be good company. Keep your dog inside with you, if possible, so that your best friend can at least feel your presence.
If you know your dog is perfectly self-actualized, perhaps you've unknowingly taught your dog to bark. For example, the owner who opens the door when the dog "speaks" reinforces the dog's notion that you will respond to vocal commands. If this is the case, you'll have to try behavior modification.
Teach your dog the command "Be quiet": First, ask your dog to bark. Then, hold a treat in front of your dog's nose. Your dog will immediately stop barking to sniff, at which point you say, "Be quiet." When your dog complies, reward it with verbal encouragement and strokes. After three seconds of quiet, give your dog a treat. If your dog makes a mistake (and your pal will), clap your hands to provide a distraction and repeat the exercise.
Dogs With Barking in the DNA
Several breeds are known for barking, and unless you aim to purchase a watchdog, you may want to take this into consideration when you select a dog. These breeds include:
- Cairn Terrier
- German Shepherd
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Scottish Terrier
- West Highland White Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
Dogs that bark too much can be completely irritating. Make sure your pet minds its manners and barks only when necessary -- such as when your football team scores a touchdown.