Barking is a normal instinct for dogs and an important means of communication. Dogs that bark excessively do so for numerous reasons, including boredom, excitement, distress, territorial defence and fear and anxiety. Therefore the solutions to problem barking differ for each dog.
Any training should be based on the principles of positive reinforcement. That is, reward ‘good’ actions – when the dog is quiet, give a food treat or a pat on the head; and avoid rewarding ‘unwanted’ actions – when the dog barks, ignore the action. Training should not involve punishment, which tends to exacerbate the barking problem.
In the first instance, we highly recommend that you talk to your veterinarian, who can help you determine the underlying cause of the barking. It is important to work out why your dog is barking excessiely, and this will involve identifying your dog's barking ‘triggers’.
Once the underlying cause and triggers for the barking are identified, you'll be able to develop a tailor-made treatment plan and employ strategic training techniques, which can be used to treat your dog's excessive barking. Below are a number of common triggers and simple effective solutions to try.
Barking can often occur when your dog simply has too much energy and becomes bored.
- Take your dog for a good walk in the morning and they will be more likely to rest until you come home.
Dogs that are left alone all day with nothing to do often resort to barking out of boredom
- Make sure that your house and garden are sufficiently enriched with fun toys and puzzles to keep your dog entertained.
- Make sure your house and garden are sufficiently enriched with fun toys to keep your dog entertained.
- Keep your dog's toys in a toy box and alternate the toys the dog has access to each day.
Dogs are pack animals and it is normal for them to become anxious when they are left alone. Teach your dog how to cope with being alone at a young age.
- Start by sending your dog outside for short periods of time while you are still at home. Make sure he has a toy to play with or raw bone to chew on while he is outside.
- When you do leave the house, make sure that he has somewhere safe to retreat to such as a kennel.
- Do not fuss over your dog when you come home. Make sure both your departure and return are quiet and unexcitable.
Dogs can bark when trying to call out to their human pack member or when bored and lonely.
- Dogs can bark when trying to call out to their human pack member or when bored and lonely.
- Praise and pat your dog when he is calm and quiet so he realises that this is the action required to secure your attention.
- Give your dog a food treat when he is calm and not barking.
It is natural for your dog to want to warn you about potential intruders.
- Use predictable passersby such as the postman to change your dog’s association from territory protection to a positive experience. Preempt the postman’s arrival and offer your dog a delicious treat or favourite toy.
- Reward your dog when he is calm and not barking.
- If your dog barks at your neighbours when they are in their garden, make sure you have some tasty treats at hand so that your dog associates your neighbours with the food.
- Consider asking your neighbours to treat your dog and supply them with their own stockpile. This is preferable to having them yell at your dog in frustration.
- If your dog is barking at the dog next door, arrange a meeting time and supervise play between the two.
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