Understanding it and dealing with it
Some pet owners seem to want their dogs to stop barking, period
thinking that a good dog is a quiet dog, and the only time that barkings
permitted is when theres a stranger clambering in through your bedroom
Dogs dont see barking in quite the same light. Your dog
has a voice, just like you do, and she uses it just how you do: to communicate
something to the people she cares about.
I dont think that
barking is necessarily a bad thing in fact, I think its
encouraging that my dog wants to talk to me, enough so that I can
overlook the stentorian qualities of his voice (which, in enclosed spaces, is
positively overpowering) in favor of his desire to communicate with me.
Its the thought that counts (even though I feel better-equipped to stand
by this sanctimonious belief when my ears are sheltered safely behind
Unfortunately, the language barrier
between dogs and humans is pretty well impermeable, which means its up to
us to use the context, the body language of our dogs, and the circumstances of
the vocalization to parse meaning from a volley of barks.
do dogs bark? Its not easy to say (its like trying to
answer the question, Why do humans talk? in so many words).
Lets start off by saying that dogs bark for many different reasons.
A lot of it depends on the breed: some dogs were bred to bark only
when a threat is perceived (this is true of guarding breeds in particular, like
Rottweilers, Dobermans, and German Shepherds); some were bred to use their
voices as a tool of sorts, to assist their owners in pursuit of a common goal
(sporting breeds such as Beagles and Bloodhounds, trained to bay
when they scent the quarry), and some dogs just like to hear themselves talk
(take just about any of the toy breeds as an example of a readily-articulate
However, all breed specificities cast aside, there are some
circumstances where just about any dog will give voice:
- Shes bored
- Shes lonely
- Shes hungry, or knows its time for a meal
- Something is wrong/someone is near the house
- Shes inviting you to play
- She sees another animal
- She needs the toilet
If your dog is barking for any of these reasons, its not
really realistic for you to try to stop her: after all, shes a dog, and
its the nature of all dogs to bark at certain times and in certain
situations. Presumably you were aware of this when you adopted your friend
(and, if total silence was high on your list of priorities, youd have
bought a pet rock, right?).
Of course, there are times when barking
isnt only unwarranted, its downright undesirable. Some dogs can use
their voices as a means of manipulation. Take this situation as an
Youre lying on the couch reading a book. Your dog awakes
from a nap and decides its time for a game. She picks up her ball, comes
over, and drops it in your lap. You ignore her and keep on reading. After a
second of puzzled silence, she nudges your hand with her nose and barks once,
loudly. You look over at her she assumes the play-bow
position (elbows near the floor, bottom in the air, tail waving) and pants
enticingly at you. You return to your book. She barks again, loudly and,
when no response is elicited, barks again. And this time, she keeps it up.
After a minute or so of this, sighing, you put down your book (peace and quiet
is evidently not going to be a component of your evening, after all), pick up
the ball, and take her outside for a game of fetch. She stops barking
Im sure you know that respect is an
essential part of your relationship with your dog. You respect her, which you
demonstrate by taking good care of her regardless of the convenience of doing
so, feeding her nutritious and tasty food, and showing your affection for her
in ways that she understands and enjoys.
In order for her to be worthy
of your respect, she has to respect you, too. Something that many kind-hearted
souls struggle to come to terms with is that dog ownership is not about
equality: its about you being the boss, and her being
the pet. Dogs are not children; they are most comfortable and best-behaved when
they know that you are in charge. A dog has to respect your leadership to be a
happy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved pet.
In the situation above,
there was no respect being shown by the dog. She wasnt inviting
her owner to play; she was harassing her owner to play. In fact,
Id even say bullying. And even worse, the behavior was being
reinforced by the owners capitulation effectively, giving in to
this behavior taught her that to get what she wants, she has to make a noise
and she has to keep it up until her goal is achieved.
and play-times are obviously necessary aspects of life with a dog, but they
have to be doled out on your own terms. If she learns that she can get what she
wants by barking, then your house is going to become a Noise Pollution Zone
(and this is not going to endear you to your neighbors, either).
prevent this bullying behavior in your dog from assuming a familiar role in her
repertoire of communications, you have to prove to her that youre not the
kind of person that can be manipulated so easily. Its simple to do this:
all you have to do is ignore her. Im not talking about passive
ignorance, where you pay her no attention and simply continue with whatever it
was you were doing you need to take more of an active role. This means
conveying to her through your body language that she is not worthy of your
attention when she acts in such an undesirable manner.
best and most effective thing for you to do in this case is to give her the
cold shoulder. When she starts trying to bark you into doing
something for her, turn your back on her straight away. Get up, avert your eyes
and face, and turn around so your back is towards her. Dont look at her,
and dont talk to her not even a no.
Shell probably be confused by this, and will likely bark harder. This is
particularly true if youve given in to her bully-barking in the past
the more times youve reinforced the behavior, the more persistent
shes going to be. In fact, the barking will almost certainly get a lot
worse before it gets better after all, its worked for her the
past, so its understandable that shell expect it to work again.
As in all aspects of dog training, consistency is very important. You
must ensure that you dont change your mind halfway through and give in to
what she wants because by doing so, youre teaching her to be
really, really persistent (OK, so I just need to bark for
ten minutes instead of five to get a walk, is the message
But what can you do in other situations where
bullying isnt an issue and you just want her to stop the racket? If you
want to get the message across that youd like her to cease fire and be
quiet, the most effective thing you can do is to use your hands.
Im not talking about hitting her: this is a perfectly humane, impact- and
pain-free method of conveying that what you require right now is peace and
Heres what you do: when shes barking, give her a
second to get it out of her system (its a lot kinder, and a
lot more effective, to give her a chance - however brief to express
herself before asking her to be quiet). If she doesnt calm down under her
own steam, reach out and clasp her muzzle gently, but firmly, in your hand.
Shell try to shake you off, or back away, so you can place your other
hand on her collar to give you greater control.
This method is useful
for two reasons: firstly, it effectively silences the barking (since no dog, no
matter how loud, can bark with her mouth shut!). Secondly, it reinforces your
authority: youre showing her through direct physical action that
youre a benevolent but firm leader who will brook no nonsense, and who
wont balk when it comes to enforcing your guidance.
her muzzle and collar until shes stopped trying to break free: only when
she calms down and stops wriggling does it mean that shes accepted your
authority. When shes still, hold on for one or two more seconds, then let
her go and praise her.
In addition to this short-term fix, there are
also a few things you can to do to reduce your dogs need to bark in the
The number-one cause for unwanted barking (as in, the
kind of barking thats repetitive and is directed at nothing) is nervous,
agitated energy the kind she gets from not getting enough exercise. Most
dogs function best with one and a half hours exercise every day,
which is a considerable time commitment for you. Of course, this varies from
dog to dog, depending on factors like breed, age, and general level of health.
You may think that your dog is getting as much exercise as she needs, or at
least as much as you can possibly afford to give her but if her barking
is coupled with an agitated demeanor (fidgeting, perhaps acting more
aggressively than youd expect or want, restlessness, destructive
behavior) then she almost definitely needs more.
Fortunately, the fix
for this problem is pretty simple: youll just have to exercise her more.
Try getting up a half-hour earlier in the morning itll make a big
difference. If this is absolutely impossible, consider hiring someone to walk
her in the mornings and/or evenings. And if this is impossible too, then
youll just have to resign yourself to having a loud, frustrated, and
agitated dog (although whether you can resign her to this state
remains to be seen).
The second most common cause of excessive
vocalization in dogs is too much alone time. Dogs are social
animals: they need lots of attention, lots of interaction, and lots of
communication. Without these things, they become anxious and on edge. If
youre at home with your dog, youre not paying attention to her, and
shes spending a lot of time barking at what appears to be nothing,
shes probably bored and lonely and would benefit from a healthy dose of
affection and attention.
like more information on unwanted behaviors that your dogs exhibiting,
youll probably be interested in taking a look at
SitStayFetch. Its a complete, A-Z manual for the
responsible dog owner, and deals with recognizing, preventing, and dealing with
just about every problem dog behavior under the sun.
Gift Items for Dog Lovers
Lots of gifts and other products for dog lovers, books, games,
puzzles, magnetic poetry, t-shirts and more.
Dr. P's Dog Training Library - Behav.
Information related to behavior problems in dogs.
Dog Barking by Perfect Paws Dog and Puppy
If you have a dog, you better expect some barking,
whining or howling. It is unrealistic and unfair to think you can train your
dog to stop barking altogether. However, you, your neighbors and your dog will
all be much happier if the barking is under control.
After tons of messages regarding
this problem being posted to my bulletin board here at the Dogpatch, I decided
to put together this article on how to train a dog not to bark...or other
options in the event of failure. Please remember that these are MY opinions,
not everyone may agree with them.