The barking dog

Bark, bark, bark!

Barking is a natural and completely normal dog behaviour.  It is one way for dogs to communicate with humans BUT if it becomes excessive or continual it could be a sign that there is problem that needs to be addressed.

When beginning to deal with a problem the most important thing is to determine the actual cause of the barking, as each cause will have its own treatment plan.  You should find out when, where and for how long your dog barks and what's causing them to bark.  Knowing the sound/pitch and sequence of the barking will also be of help.  Some detective work may be required to obtain this information, especially if the barking occurs when you are not home.  You may need to ask neighbours for help, drive or walk around the block and watch and listen for a while, or start a tape recorder or video camera.  Some of the common causes of, and possible help for, inappropriate barking can be:

Social isolation/frustration/attention seeking

To help:

  • Provide adequate mental and physical stimulation/exercise on a daily basis
  • Consider a "Doggie Daycare" facility
  • Don't inadvertently reward the barking - i.e. by giving attention

Separation anxiety/fears or phobias

To help:

  • Desensitisation and counter-conditioning techniques should be used, with the assistance and supervision of a qualified trainer

Territorial/guarding/protective behaviour

To help:

  • Minimise the ability to rehearse the behaviour - if your dog barks at passing people/dogs, house them in area where they cannot see these things, so cannot practice barking at them
  • Don't inadvertently reward the barking - i.e. by encouraging your dog to bark at things they hear or see outside
  • Teach a "quiet" command

A note about bark collars and muzzles

The main drawback of a bark collar is that it doesn't address the underlying cause of the barking. You may be able to eliminate barking, but ‘symptom substitution' may occur and a dog may begin digging, escaping, or become destructive or even aggressive.  Bark collars can cause pain and stress to a dog and if the barking is due to anxiety, fear or phobia a bark collar may make the problem worse, as you cannot treat fear with fear.

You should never leave a muzzle on your dog unattended or for long periods of time, especially on a warm day.  A muzzle that is tight enough to prevent barking will also prevent a dog from opening its mouth to pant or drink, which could be disastrous.

Inappropriate barking can be a very complex topic, so please do not hesitate to give us a call or come in to see us at the Feilding clinic for more information or advice.

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