Downeast Dog News
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Barking - How Do I Get My Dog to Stop?

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA | Oct 01, 2018
Photo by: Debra Bell

Barking is very normal behavior for any dog, and to expect a dog to be silent is an unrealistic expectation. It is one of many forms of vocalization used by dogs to communicate with one another as well as with us and other living things.

Barking is a complex behavior, meaning there are several reasons that your dog may bark. He may be barking to alert you that something or someone is approaching, to solicit a treat or attention, or to tell you that he needs to go to the bathroom. Sadly, many dogs bark because they have been left alone and are frustrated, bored, or anxious.

Like any behavior, a dog barks because he finds the result of his barking to be rewarding. For example, your dog may repeatedly bark if he gets anxious or upset when strangers enter his territory; like the postal carrier delivering the daily mail. The dog barks, “Intruder!!!” “Go away!!!”, and eventually the postal carrier leaves, not because of your dog’s barking, but because he has completed his task. However, your dog does not realize that and may be celebrating because he has just driven away the invaders violating his territory. That is a huge reward!

If this happens 5 to 6 times a week, as it could in the above example, your dog’s barking becomes a learned behavior, and it becomes even stronger and more likely to occur again. Behavior that works is repeated.

Do NOT get into a barking contest with your dog. All too often we inadvertently contribute to our dog’s barking by yelling back at him. If your dog does not stop barking and you shout louder, your dog gets more excited and will likely bark even more. This will rapidly become a vicious circle. Also, please understand that the phrase, “No Bark”, means nothing to your dog unless you have trained him to respond to a cue and then have rewarded him for his response.

Punishing your dog for barking; yelling at him, throwing something at him, using a shake can or an anti-barking collar, or anything else that the dog may perceive as aversive, typically will not resolve the barking and will often make it worse. Aversives cause fear and anxiety, which are a common cause of excessive barking in dogs. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), all strongly recommend against the use of aversives for training or behavior modification. ( FMI – http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive ). The US Food and Drug Administration is concerned enough about the use of shock collars for barking that they have issued the following policy statement: “ Dog collars which are activated by the noise of barking to produce an electric shock are considered as hazardous to the health of the animal.” (USFDA-Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations-CPG Sec. 655.300 Barking Dog Collar, issued 10/1/80, revised 8/2/87) [Emphasis added]

As behaviorist Turid Rugaas so aptly noted above, before we can deal with a dog’s barking, we first need to understand why he is barking. In her book Barking: The Sound of A Language ( FMI – http://bit.ly/BookRvw-Rugass-Barking ), she recommends that the first step in getting your dog’s barking under control is to keep a chart of your dog’s barking so that you can better determine the cause. Things you will need to record are: the date, the time barking starts, the time barking stops, a description of what the bark sounds like, where your dog is located when the barking occurs, what the dog is doing (are they in motion?, what are they looking at?, what does their body language tell you?), and what you believe has triggered the dog’s barking. An entry might look like this:

4/6/18 - 6:55 AM to 7:10 AM, Woof, quiet, woof, then escalates to continuous barking, Rex is at the front window and the front door. He is racing from the window to the door barking. His body posture is forward and stiff. He started barking as soon as the postal carrier’s vehicle stopped by my mailbox. He stopped as soon as the vehicle pulled away.

Many people find it helpful to work with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) in developing a behavior modification plan to reduce excessive barking. Barking is usually the result of an emotional response, so training the dog a new behavior will seldom be sufficient to resolve the barking unless we also help the dog to have a positive emotional response. Barking is complex and having a thorough understanding of normal and abnormal canine behaviors is often necessary to determine why the barking is reinforcing to the dog. ( FMI – http://bit.ly/WhatIsPetBhxConsulting )

 

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonam.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.