What can you do about a dog that barks constantly?
Barking is a normal behaviour for dogs and one of the main ways they communicate. However, when dogs bark constantly this can indicate an underlying issue. It can drive you and your neighbours mad.
The first step is to determine the cause of the barking.
Once the underlying cause and ‘triggers’ for the barking are identified, training techniques can be used to treat the excessive barking in a humane way.
Some reasons for excessive barking include:
- Dogs that are left alone all day with nothing to do often resort to barking out of boredom. Boredom barkers will bark continuously.
- To tackle boredom barking you should start by ensuring that your dog is receiving enough exercise. If you take your dog for a good walk in the morning they will be more likely to rest until you come home.
- You should also make sure that your house and garden are sufficiently enriched with toys, puzzles and a good quality chew like a deer antler.
- In relation to toys, keep their toys in a toy box and alternate the toys they have access to each day.
- If they like to dig provide a sand pit to divert their instincts away from your garden – you can even try hiding your antler in the sand pit. If your dog has any play mates in the neighbourhood you might alleviate boredom by inviting them over for the day.
- You may also consider organising a dog walker to walk your dog in the middle of the day while you are at work. You may also consider utilising your local ‘doggy day care’ services.
- Dogs are social animals and it is normal for them to become anxious when they are left alone for the first time. Take care to teach your dog how to cope with being left alone at a young age. Begin by trying small amounts of time apart.
- Make sure they have toys to play and antlers to chew on while they are outside so the experience is a positive one.
- Gradually extend the length of time you are leaving your dog alone. When you do leave the house make sure that they have 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 unexcited. Most dogs will adjust to periods of time alone, however some become severely stressed and may begin to bark incessantly and even self mutilate/injure themselves.
- If your dog suffers from separation anxiety you will need to manage the condition in consultation with a veterinarian. Though antlers have been proven to be great tools to alleviate separation anxiety.
Dogs can also bark due to fear. They may be afraid of people coming near their territory or fearful of noises. Barking due to fear is particularly prevalent at night. Common causes of fear include loud noises like fireworks, thunderstorms and slamming doors.
- It is natural for your dog to want to warn you about potential intruders. Your dog may not be able to distinguish between welcome visitors, people strolling past your home and intruders.
- If your dog barks at your neighbours, it is probably also because they are protecting your territory. Again, make sure you have some tasty treats at hand so that your dog associates your neighbours with the food (only give the treat when your dog is calm and not barking).
- You may also consider asking your friendly neighbours to treat your dog and supply them with their own stockpile – this is preferable to having them yell at your dog in frustration – yelling at a barking dog will only tend to reinforce the barking and protective behaviour.
Barking is also reinforced when owners yell or scold their own barking dog and should be avoided.
Successfully treating excessive barking relies on positive reinforcement – that is, reward good ‘quiet’ behaviour and avoid reinforcing ‘unwanted’ behaviour.
- Dogs can bark when trying to call out to their human owner or when bored through being left alone for long periods of time or having nothing to do while its humans are at work/away from the home.
- You can modify attention seeking barking by ignoring unwanted behaviour and rewarding good behaviour. When your dog barks for attention he should be completely ignored – avoid eye contact, even leave the room. Praise and pat your dog when he is calm and quiet so he realises that this is the behaviour required to secure your attention.
- You can also try giving your dog their antler, only when he/she is calm and not barking. This rewards good behaviour and does not reinforce ‘unwanted’ behaviour.
Never try and modify your dog’s behaviour by punishing them.
Anti-barking collars constitute a form of punishment and are unreliable – they do not address the underlying cause of the problem and are easy to abuse. Your dog will be punished for every bark, some of which will be appropriate, and he will not learn an alternative, acceptable behaviour.
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