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Dogs have been man's best friend for humans for some 20,000 years now. In that time, they have learned a few things and picked up a few tricks about what it takes for us to all get along. It's surprising how much of the human vocabulary dogs can understand. With training, our furry friends have the intellectual capacity to understand upwards of 1,000 words and can even comprehend a few compound sentences.
The above tells us that dogs are intelligent creatures that like to communicate, which they do through touch, visual cues, and barking. Dogs also have complex feelings and can quickly get bored and lonely, and most importantly, they will never bark unless they have a reason to do so.
If your dog's barking is driving you or neighbours to your wit's end, the best way to stop a dog barking is to find out why.
There are many reasons why a dog will bark, and if you address the cause of the barking quickly, then it shouldn't become a problem.
Attention seeking barks - Is it dinner time? Some dogs will bark for their food.
Excited barking - Dogs get excited when their owners come home, or they see you with the leash. They will often let you know they missed you or how much they are looking forward to a walk by letting out a few high-pitched yips. Once the dog gets settled, the barking will quickly subside.
Territorial, or Anxiety Barking - Dogs like to let you know when strangers are approaching or bark to warn people or other dogs off, which is quite often your neighbours who just want to hang out their washing.
Barking from Pain or Injury - Dogs will use a high pitched bark to indicate that play is getting too rough or they are injured.
Surprised Barking - A surprised dog can let out a yelp. The barking may continue if they feel threatened.
Barking from Boredom - a lonely, bored dog tired of looking at the same old fence line day in and day out may start barking uncontrollably. Dogs with separation anxiety - such as when their owner rudely leaves for work every day - can often bark without pause for hours on end.
All types of barking are natural behaviours for dogs and expecting them never to bark is unreasonable. However, a dog that barks incessantly due to boredom or separation anxiety will very quickly strain the relationship you have with your pet and your neighbours. Dogs also need to learn good manners about when and where it's appropriate to bark. Well-mannered dogs are less likely to start up with problem barking.
As mentioned before, bored dogs and those with separation anxiety can bark continuously. Unfortunately, many will do so only when you are not at home. Quite often, dog owners only become aware of the problem when they receive a letter from the council or find a strongly worded note from an understandably frustrated neighbour.
Barking can be annoying, but separation anxiety can present other challenges such as destructive behaviour, digging, inappropriate elimination, pacing along the fence, and depression. Here are a few tips on stopping your dog barking, as well as a few ideas on how to deal with a dog that barks while you are not at home.
Firstly, if the barking is getting on your nerves, shouting back at them is not how you stop your dog from barking. Your pet will think you're joining in and will start making more noise. Talk quietly but firmly.
Dogs won't know what you want from them if you yell at them to shut up, but you can teach them the meaning of the word 'Quiet,' when it's spoken as a command. When the dog starts barking in your presence, say the word 'quiet' in a commanding tone.
When they stop their noise, reward them with a treat. Make it a worthwhile reward, such as a delicious piece of chicken, otherwise, they may lose interest. Dogs pick up on visual cues as well, so use the shushing motion of a single finger to the lips along with the command.
You probably don't want to continue giving your dog treats every time you need them to be quiet. Once they have learned the required behaviour, dogs will respond to positive reinforcement of the non-food variety just as well. A vigorous pat with an enthusiastic compliment like 'good dog' will do the trick and make your dog feel on top of the world for pleasing you.
Territorial barking can become a problem if your dog always barks at the neighbours every time they step outside. It can be even worse if there are pets in the surrounding properties as well. You can lessen the perceived threat your dog feels by limiting what they can see. A solid wood or Colourbond steel fence will help keep a territorial dog's barking under control.
If your territorial animal only barks at the neighbours when you're not home, one solution may be to bring them inside when you go out. Close all the blinds and doors, and your dog won't perceive any threats that typically trigger their barking.
A dog that barks for food or as a way to let you know that it wants to go outside can be taught proper manners by ignoring them. Don't pay any attention to your dog while it's making a ruckus, and only give them what they want after they quiet down. Recognize and reinforce the positive behaviour as soon as it happens, and your dog will catch on quickly.
Dogs will often bark when they're bored, so the simple solution is to provide them with some mental stimulation. Walk your dog every day. Not only will this stop them from getting bored so quickly, but it will also tire them out, and tired dogs are less motivated to bark, even when they have a reason. Don’t forget, the walking will also do you some good, so it’s a win/win.
Professional training classes will also help to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Practice with your dog what you have learned every day to tire them out mentally and physically.
Give them a toy to play with when they have some alone time. Have a variety of dog toys on hand and don't put them all out at once. Keep them all stored out of the way and bring a different one out every couple of days for variety. Mentally stimulating and interactive toys like those that hide a treat inside to make your dog work for it will keep them occupied for a few hours and prevent them from getting bored.
Every domesticated dog still has a little bit of wild wolf DNA in them. Wolfs are pack animals and don't do well on their own, and your dog has genetically inherited those traits.
A lonely dog will most likely be a noisy dog, but it can be challenging to detect when they are as quiet as a mouse while you are home. You can check if your dog is barking when you're not home by parking away from the house and hiding your presence by listening some distance from the property for a while. Or you can use a security camera with audio that connects to the internet and is accessible via your phone.
Many dog owners have success using cameras with two-way audio and a noise alert on your phone that lets you know when your dog is barking. The two-way audio allows you to communicate with your dog even when you're not at home so you can address the noise issue right away.
Another suggestion from professional dog trainers is to leave a radio or TV on when you're out. Familiar household sounds can make the dog feel secure even though you are not physically present.
Unfortunately, the only real solution on how to stop a dog from barking because of loneliness is to spend some time with them. If you are away from home for most of the day, make sure there is someone available who can spend quality time with your pets. Professional dog walking services are also a great solution if you have the budget. If not, why not enlist the services of neighbourhood families and kids to come and play with or walk your dog for pocket money. Are there families in your area who don't yet have a dog that would love to spend some time with your dog? Whether it's professionals or neighbours, be sure to get them involved in the training of your dog as well as playtime to reinforce behaviours and for increased doggy mental stimulation.
Dogs are always going to bark on occasion for a variety of reasons. Barking is not always a problem, but if it's constant, then you need to find out the cause of the barking and address it with an appropriate solution as soon as possible. If the incessant barking is recent, then book a consultation with your vet as some medical conditions can cause a dog to start barking for no apparent reason.
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