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Curbing Excessive Barking

One of the most frustrating and difficult behaviors to control is excessive barking. Our K9 companions can develop many behaviors that stress our coexistence such as counter surfing, jumping on people, jumping on furniture when they’re not invited, and destructive chewing. But none as disruptive and stress inducing as excessive barking.

Let’s take a look at some of the root causes of these frustrating behaviors. Counter surfing is simple once your dog discovers tasty food can be found on the counter and can be accessed with no consequences. They will frequently search the area for food. Jumping is often done to recreate a pleasant experience such as petting or ear scratching from the time when they were small puppies.

Barking can be for a number of reasons. Let’s look closer at some of these reasons. Dogs will often bark to alert the pack of a perceived danger or to sound the alarm. When one dog in the neighborhood senses a stranger and barks then that signals the rest of the dogs in the neighborhood to begin to bark. This is exactly what we would want them to do when a stranger approaches. But dogs also bark when they are bored or uncomfortable. We will look at two different approaches to modify this behavior. First, is your dog barking when they are left alone or have they developed a habit of barking in order to get what they want from you? It’s a lot like a baby left in their crib all alone for the first time. If the baby cries and you enter the room to see what’s wrong, then the crying stops. If you continue to do this each time they cry a habit can be formed. This type of behavior modification will largely depend on which one of these examples best fits your situation.

Dogs that bark when you are away will obviously be difficult to correct. We will need to identify the cause of barking. Unsupervised dogs may bark for a number of reasons such as the need for socialization, exercise, or separation anxiety. Dogs are pack animals and enjoy social interaction. In this case the barking may be corrected by eliminating long periods of time where the dog receives no interaction or mental stimulation. If barking is caused by separation anxiety exasperated by an extreme attachment to their owner, then you may have to use behavior exercises that reduce your dog’s dependence on just one person. Adding an additional dog may help, however you should be cautious or you could end up with two barking dogs.

One training method that works is when your dog barks in your presence; interrupt this behavior by saying the cue word ‘No’, call the dog to you, and when the dog arrives give him the cue word ‘Yes’ and reward. Repeat this often and with time and effort you will establish a reflex action that when they begin to bark, they will look for you in order to access a reward.

Other preventative measures can include lots of exercise to create a tired dog. Tired dogs are much less likely to bark excessively. In addition, don’t facilitate barking by allowing your dog to bark in order to get what they want. Provide plenty of social interaction and mental stimulation for your dog. Use the teaching method of learning how to win. When your dog does something right, identify the behavior with the cue word ‘Yes’ and reward. Unwanted behaviors can be self-rewarding, so if your dog receives a negative reward each time they will soon abandon the behavior.

Barking is one of the most difficult behaviors to change. Barking is a normal dog behavior and can even be desirable in certain situations. It is also self-rewarding for many dogs. Prevention will be key in stopping it from becoming a habit by creating an environment that helps your companion not to bark.

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