What's all the barking about?

Posted by Sheena Neil on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 Under: Problem Behaviours
Do you have a vocal dog? A dog who likes to voice their opinion on just about everything? Or maybe they bark just for the sake of hearing their own voices? 

We can easily teach our dogs when barking is appropriate and when it is not.

But first, let's look at why dogs bark.

Dogs bark to communicate with other dogs. If you live in a neighbourhood with multiple dogs you've probably noticed one dog barks and soon after every dog for a 2 block radius is chiming in. 
We can only speculate as to what the conversation entails.
Maybe Fido 2 doors down spotted a squirrel climbing a tree. Perhaps Curly smelled the trail of a cat who crossed his yard in the night. 

Dogs also bark to communicate with us. They often try to tell us they need to go outside, or they want back in. Maybe their bowl is empty and they're hungry. These examples are obvious. What isn't always obvious is the sounds and smells that our dog is able to perceive that we humans are clueless about. 

We can easily remedy the "I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I need to pee" barking, we can't always "fix" the things we are not aware of.

First, we need to look at Why our dog is rushing at the window in a mad dash.

Visual Stimulus
Dogs have a very very keen sense of sight and movement. They are able to pick up slight movements at long distances.
I have often looked out the window to see what the dogs are barking at and there's nothing. No people, no cars, no loose dogs. Then, 5 minutes later, a cat will wonder out of the neighbours hedges. 

Solution: Reduce or eliminate the visual stimulus. Close the curtains. If you do not have curtains or your dog tends to destroy them purchase a window film. Most home improvement stores carry various types of window tint or frosting. 
Window frosting still allows light through but vision to the outside world is reduced. 
To see a before and after video Click Here.

Auditory Stimulus
Again, dogs have much better hearing that we do. While we can not control the noises of the outside world we can try and mask them to the best of our ability. 
There are CDs you can purchase that are designed to calm and relax our canine friends. Check out Through a Dogs Ear.
You can play music or leave the T.V. on.
A word of caution: if your dog is barking while you are gone (separation anxiety is a different issue than just nuisance barking and should be discussed with a training professional) do not wait to turn the T.V. on as you are leaving.
Choose a radio station or television show that you don't mind having on in the background when you are home. 
Some people choose the cooking channel, or sports. Others play the music they listen to while at home, such as Spa or Jazz radio stations. If you only turn the radio on as you are leaving then it becomes the cue for the dog that they will soon be alone.. 

If your dog is generally noise sensitive and has trouble with various loud or unexpected sounds check out the Sound Proof Puppy app. The Sound Proof Puppy app has various sounds that you can use to counter condition your dog to. 
Sounds include grooming tools, vacuum, thunder, fireworks, motorcycles, crowds of people, babies and more. To see a video of the app being used Click Here

Lack of Confidence
Dogs who are unsure of their surroundings are more likely to react to unexpected sights and sounds.
Positive reinforcement training helps dogs build confidence and trust in themselves. 
There are several YouTube Channels to help you train various behaviours. Trick training is also an excellent confidence builder. Here are some channels to get you started.

Pent up Energy
A lack of physical and mental exercise can cause various behaviour issues, including excessive barking. Dogs require both physical and mental exercise to remain healthy. 

Physical Exercise: 
  • 30-60 minutes walk 
  • Doggy play date
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Biking
Mental Exercise:

  • Food dispensing toys (ditch the food bowl and feed at least one meal per day in some type of food puzzle or dispenser) Examples Here.
  • Scattered food hunt. Hide small handfuls of your dogs food around the house, allow them to sniff and search for their dinner.
  • Trick training
  • Mental games and exercises. Muffin Tin Game

Now that you are well on your way to controlling the visual and auditory stimulus of the outside world, and your dog is physically and mentally satisfied, you can go ahead and add one more trick to your toolbox.

Putting Barking on Cue
My favourite video for this game is from Treatpouch.com. YouTube video is Here.

If you struggle with excessive barking or an anxious dog please contact Keystone Training.

In : Problem Behaviours 

Tags: dog training  dog barking  stop barking  positive training  mental stimulation 

About Me

Sheena Neil Owner/Trainer Keystone Training