There is nothing more annoying than the neighbourhood barking dog and, not surprisingly, dog barking is the number one complaint that councils receive about noise. Being the owner of an incessant barker is also nightmare as it causes major friction with neighbouring residents, Unfortunately, barking can be a really difficult behaviour to stop, particularly as many dogs bark only when the owner is not home.
Most barking can be prevented if it is managed properly from puppyhood. If the dog doesn’t bark as a puppy, it is less likely to bark as an adult. Remember, barking is a natural canine behaviour, so you don’t want to place your puppy in situations that will trigger barking, such as being left alone in the backyard or watching dogs and people walk past the yard.
With puppies, using a puppy pen will allow you to control the stimuli around them. The pen should be placed in the main part of the house, but by closing the curtains or blinds you can avoid access to things that may trigger barking such as birds, cars, people, bikes and children. It’s a good idea to leave music playing to block out external noise.
Many owners unwittingly teach their puppy to bark because they think it’s cute the first few times it barks. They make a fuss and laugh and the puppy instantly thinks this is wonderful, in turn encouraging the puppy to bark again, and so the behaviour begins.
With adult dogs, boredom is a major cause of barking, especially during the day.
If you have a barker, here are a few things I recommend:
• Increase the amount of exercise especially before you leave the house.
• Give your dog things to do when you are out. A ‘Kong’ toy is great for this. Stuff it with wet food and put it the freezer and then give it to your dog to chew on as you leave the house.
• Try a citronella anti-barking collar. This is a little box that attaches to your dog and releases a squirt of citronella when it barks. Many dogs hate the smell of the citronella and stop barking while wearing the collar.
• Consider leaving your pet indoors during the day. Close the windows and blinds to reduce external stimuli that might trigger barking. Many dogs bark when left outside but stop completely when they are allowed indoors.
• Seek professional help. Hire an animal behaviourist or a dog trainer to work with you. If your dog barks at certain things such as the doorbell, they will be able to give you a strategy to help stop this. They do need to come to your home and assess your situation.
With the proper steps, the burden of a barking dog can be alleviated well before you and your neighbours go barking mad!
Dr Katrina has a new book, ‘Wonderdogs- Tricks and Training’, which is full of training tips for dogs of all ages. It’s available online and at all good bookstores.