Imagine you are relaxing after a long week of work, and as you start to daydream while enjoying the silence, your dog starts barking. You investigate and all seems well. With a wag of the tail, you are content in knowing all is well in your home. Then the barking starts again…
Dogs bark, but when your dog barks constantly or for no apparent reason, this can make for an unpleasant environment for you, your family, and your neighbors. Speaking of neighbors, if they have dogs as well, the stress from neighbor dogs can cause your dog to react. Though humans may read compulsive barking as annoying, it is in many cases an indicator that your dog is suffering from emotional stress.
Many owners end up yelling at their dogs, spraying them with water, or worse, spanking them. Using punishment as a way to stop the barking to a dog that is already anxious can be confusing to your dog, since to them it’s natural to bark and they believe it’s the right thing to do. Other than stress, barking can come about from boredom. It can also come from attention-seeking behavior or even from being frustrated (like being kept outside or inside for too long).
The goal here is to find the underlying causation for the barking and to help your dog.
If you have determined that the reason your dog is barking is because of another dog that is setting yours off, it’s easier to help minimize the barking. Don’t expect your dog to never bark. It’s a tool of communication and could even save your life should you get an early warning sign about an intruder who is meaning your family harm!
Frequency is something to be mindful of. Are there certain times of the day when your dog is barking more often? Have you noticed your dog barking a lot more when the mailperson comes, if there are loud noises, or maybe when children are around? Sometimes allowing your dog to discover what is really there may calm their nerves and get them used to the stimulus up close and personal. Just be cautious that it’s not a potentially dangerous situation if your dog is exhibiting aggressive behavior, projected onto that source.
If you discover the reason your dog is barking during certain times (say for example the daily delivery of your mail, or when the school bus arrives) then during these times, you can find ways to distract your dog. If your dog seems bored and barking really at nothing (seemingly) try to implement some activities to stimulate their mind and body. Safe chew toys can also be a good distraction from boredom. Expending this energy will help your dog rest more in a healthy way.
If it is evident that the causation for the barking is due to visual stimulation, perhaps limiting your dog’s view of the source can help. Keeping your dog in a part of the house where it can’t see or hear more of this source can help to reduce barking. Alternatively, if limiting your dog’s view of the source doesn’t reduce the barking, try to show your dog what the source really is and involve them with the source. The idea here is that the typical canine has better senses than you, but just like yourself, it relies on those senses to feel safe. Interaction can show your dog that the source is not a threat.
If you find you have done all that you can do, and you still need help, consider the services of a positive reinforcement trainer with a lot of experience. At AtlanticK9 we offer affordable behavior modification courses. We service the North Shore of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Give us a call today at 978-468-1616 to see how we can help you and your dog live a more peaceful and playful life.