by Kelly Alver
We receive many questions about barking from dog owners and others concerned about barking dogs. Recently I sat down with Marie to ask her advice on what to do to curb a dog’s barking.
Dogs use barking to communicate information or emotions to others. They may bark from fear or frustration, to express excitement, to give a warning, or because they learned that barking helps meet a demand. Dogs are pack animals and can experience separation anxiety so some canines bark when left alone. Other dogs may bark to give a warning when there is a threat to their territory. Under-exercised dogs tend to bark more frequently.
Before tackling a barking problem (either with your own dog or a neighbor’s), you need to understand why the dog barks. Use a barking log to assess the situation. Document each incident and indicate when barking starts and stops, how long it lasts, how it sounds, where the dog is, what he’s barking at, and what he’s doing while barking. For example, a barking log may show that your dog barks every time he wants to go out. Or, if your neighbor leaves for work in the morning and then her dog begins to howl, her dog probably barks because he is lonely.
Once you determine why and when your dog barks, use positive behavioral training and other activities to enrich your dog’s environment. With “alarm” barkers, it helps to acknowledge the barking by going to the window or door and asking the dog to be quiet. Actively showing your dog that you are taking charge of the situation will settle him more quickly.
A dog should not be punished for barking. Punishing him can increase his anxiety or make the problem worse. Avoid collars intended to prevent barking; they may stop a dog from barking, but do not resolve the underlying issue. Instead, consider ways to ensure your dog is active and stimulated. Use interactive toys to challenge him mentally and increase his activity level to tire him out physically.
Great toys to entertain your dog include the Buster Cube, KONG products or the Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug toy. High-energy dogs can use the Buster Cube or the Tug-a-Jug to eat their meals while exercising at the same time. Hide a treat in a KONG toy and your dog will spend time trying to reach the treat.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise by taking him on regular walks or hikes. Play games such as fetch or hide-and-seek to help him burn off energy. Doggie daycare, play dates or visits to the dog park are other activities that will give him a good workout. Social interaction with other dogs can be beneficial, depending upon your dog, as well as mentally stimulating and physically challenging.
Addressing another dog’s barking issue, such as the neighbor whose dog barks when she goes to work, can be sensitive. If you have a good relationship with your neighbor, gently tell her about the dog’s barking. Offer to walk her dog so that he is exercised and receives some attention while she is away.
You may prefer to contact animal control, especially if there is an animal welfare issue. A barking log will help you explain the dog’s barking. Many towns have confidential tip lines for animal welfare issues and animal control is required to follow up on every call.
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, providing your dog with mentally stimulating activities and regular exercise that includes social interaction with other dogs can help minimize barking.