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Barking Dogs

Why Dogs Bark and How to Stop Excessive Dog Barking

Dogs will be dogs, and most dogs will bark, whine and howl at times - it's only natural. Dogs vocalize to communicate with humans and to express themselves. Sometimes we want our dogs to bark in order to warn us about potential danger or protect us from harm. However, excessive dog barking can be considered a behavior problem. What is the solution? Well, your dog needs to understand when to bark and when to be quiet, and it's your job to teach this to her. Start working on problem barking as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to curb the behavior. It is a good idea to teach your dog the Speak/Quiet Commands. This may be easier said than done. However, with dedication and consistency, you can teach your dog to bark on command AND to be quiet.

Why Dogs Bark

It is important to understand that dogs bark for various reasons. They do not bark just to annoy you and your neighbors, nor do they bark for spite or revenge. Dogs don't bark just because they can (though it might seem that way at times). Certain dog breeds bark more than others - some types of dogs were actually bred to be barkers. Then again, the Basenji does not bark at all (though the breed can vocalize in other ways). If you listen closely, you will eventually learn your dog's different barks. Understanding the reason why your dog barks is the first step towards controlling the behavior. In general, dogs will most commonly bark for the following reasons:
  • Warning/Alert: It is natural for a dog to bark when someone is a the door or when strangers pass the house or car. Many will bark if they sense some type of threat, proclaiming "I'm here protecting this place so don't mess with me." The sound of this bark is usually sharp, loud and authoritative. Honing this instinct with training can help protect your home and family.
  • Anxiety: Anxious barking often seems to be an an act of self-soothing for many dogs. It is often high-pitched and sometimes accompanied by whining. This type of barking is common for dogs with separation anxiety.
  • Playfulness/Excitement: This type of barking is especially common in puppies and young dogs. Many dogs will bark while playing with people or other dogs. Even the sound of the bark tends to sound upbeat and possibly musical. Some dogs will bark excitedly when they know they are about to go for a walk or car ride.
  • Attention-seeking: When you hear this bark, you will usually know just what it means. This bark says "Hey! Hey! Look! Here I am!" Other dogs may whine and bark together to get attention, almost like the tone of a whining child.
  • Boredom: The bark of a bored dog sounds like a dog that barks just to hear her own voice. Though it tends to be annoying, it is also kind of sad. Bored dogs often bark to release excess energy, and sometimes bark out of loneliness. They usually need an activity and perhaps even a companion.
  • Responding to Other Dogs: This is probably a familiar scenario - one dog down the street starts barking, and one by one the rest of your block joins in. It's like a cacophonous rendition of Row Your Boat.

Prevent and Stop Excessive Barking

Once you determine the cause of your dog's excessive barking, you can begin to control the behavior. The best way to prevent excessive barking in the first place is to try and remove any potential sources of the behavior. You also want to be certain not to inadvertently encourage the barking. Finally, give her better things to do besides barking.
  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so there is not as much pent-up energy to burn by barking.
  • Avoid leaving a lonely dog alone for long periods of time if possible.
  • Never comfort, pet, hug or feed your dog when she is barking for attention or out of anxiety - that would be rewarding the behavior, thus encouraging it.
  • Shouting at your dog to stop barking does not help. It may actually cause her to bark even more.
  • Avoid punishments like shock collars. They are not only painful and unkind - many dogs will learn to test them and eventually work around them.
  • Try to get her attention with a clap or whistle. Once she is quiet, redirect her attention to something productive and rewarding - like a toy or treat.
  • After getting your dog's attention, practice basic commands, like sit and down in order to shift her focus.
  • DO NOT let your dog bark constantly outside, regardless of the reason. You can hardly train her to stop barking by yelling at her across the yard. Plus, it is one of the fastest ways to turn neighbors into enemies and send an invitation to your local police.
  • Train your dog to Speak and Be Quiet.
  • Consult your veterinarian and/or trainer if you continue to face barking issues despite your best efforts.

A Note About De-Barking Surgery

"Debarking," or cordectomy, is an elective surgical procedure involving partial removal of a dog's vocal cords. Debarking does not take away the dog's ability to bark - it just makes it sound quieter and raspy (considered annoying by some). In this dog lover's opinion, debarking surgery is unnecessary and unfair to the dog. Surgery and anesthesia are always risks, so any procedure that is purely for human convenience and does not medically benefit the patient or animal community should be avoided. In addition, excessive barking indicates an underlying issue that is usually behavioral. Surgery takes the noise away, but the anxiety, fear or similar problem remains unaddressed. Rather than debarking your dog, spend your time and money on training and/or visiting a veterinary behaviorist.

When It's Not Your Dog Barking

The sound of barking dogs in the neighborhood can quickly go from nuisance to nightmare - especially when you are trying to work or sleep. If you are comfortable with it, try politely approaching your neighbor to discuss the matter, or write a direct but civil letter. You may try gently suggesting a local dog trainer or behaviorist. Many people prefer to contact the neighborhood association or other group to act as a moderator. As a last resort, you may need to call the police - just keep in mind how this could be detrimental to your future relationship with said neighbors. On the other hand, you may not even care about that after a certain amount of sleep deprivation.

 

How To Train Your Dog to Speak or Be Quiet

Teaching your dog to "speak," or bark on command can be fun as well as useful. A barking dog can ward off intruders and alert you to potential danger. Excessive barking can be a huge problem, but teaching the speak / quiet commands can sharpen the natural instinct to bark. With dedication and consistency, you can teach your dog to bark on command AND to be quiet. Different dog trainers and owners have varying techniques, but here is one basic method that works for many dogs.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 10-15 minutes, 1-2 times per day (may take several weeks)

Here's How:

  1. Choose one simple word for the bark command. The word should be easy to remember and used consistently. Good choices: "speak," "bark" or "talk."
  2. Choose one simple word for the quiet command. This word should also be easy to remember and used consistently. Good choices: "enough," "quiet," or "hush."
  3. When your dog barks, briefly acknowledge it by checking for the source (look out the window or door, go to your dog). Then, get her attention with a clap, whistle or similar sound.
  4. Immediately after the barking stops, say your quiet command in a firm, audible and upbeat voice while giving a treat.
  5. Practice the "quiet" command frequently. You can do this anytime she barks, but keep sessions brief.
  6. Once your dog seems to understand "quiet," you can move onto the bark command.
  7. Create a situation that will cause your dog to bark. The best method is to have a friend ring the doorbell or knock on the door. As this occurs, say your speak command in a clear, upbeat voice.
  8. After your dog barks 2-3 times in a row, say "good speak!" in a clear, upbeat voice while giving a treat.
  9. Repeat the speak command process several times until your dog seems to understand.
  10. Once your dog learns "speak" and "quiet" separately, you can use them together - have your dog speak a few times, then tell her to be quiet.

Tips:

  1. Rewards should be immediate and very tasty. You need to make obeying "worth it" to your dog. Small, stinky liver treats or similar goodies work best.
  2. Some people prefer to teach "speak" first, and "quiet" second. Others like to teach them together to begin with. This is your choice - it is about your comfort level, confidence and your dog's ability to learn. Use your best judgment. Dogs with a tendency to become "excessive barkers" might need to learn the quiet command first.
  3. Be patient yet consistent. These commands can take weeks to master for some dogs.
  4. Teach speak only works on dogs that will bark. If you are training a puppy, wait until she develops the ability and desire to bark, otherwise she will become confused. Remember that the Basenji dog breed does not bark.
  5. Clicker Training works very well when teaching the speak/quiet commands

 

Clicker Training for Dogs

Learning to Clicker Train Your Dog

 

Operant conditioning is a scientific term that describes the way animals learn from the consequences of certain behaviors. Positive reinforcement is a type of operant conditioning often used in dog training.

Clicker training, a common form of positive reinforcement, is a simple and effective training method. The clicker is a metal strip inside a small plastic box that makes a distinct clicking sound when pressed. The click is much faster and more distinct than saying “good dog” and much more effective than using treats alone. To teach a dog the meaning of the click, a treat is given immediately after clicking. Once the dog learns the positive effects of the clicking sound, the clicker itself acts as a conditioned reinforcer.

According to Alyssa Walker of Walker Dog Training, clicker training is not meant to completely replace the use of treats. The sound of the click instantly tells the dog that what he has done will earn him a reward. To emphasize this, clicks should frequently be followed by treats. Otherwise, the clicker will lose its effectiveness. "While some clicker trainers may not give a reward every time they click, pretty much all clicker trainers continue to follow the click with a reward," says Alyssa. "It's very important to use strong rewards a lot during initial training stages, and treats are often the strongest reward for a dog."

Here’s how to you can easily train your dog to respond to the clicker before moving on to basic and advanced training. The following steps are often referred to as “loading” the clicker.

  • Begin with your dog in a quiet area.
  • Have a handful of your dog’s favorite treats ready. Ideally, this should be done when your dog is hungry.
  • Press the clicker and immediately give your dog a treat. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • You can test your success by clicking when your dog is not paying attention to you. If your dog responds to the click by suddenly looking at you, then looking for a treat, you are ready to move on.
  • Next, begin teaching your dog basic commands. At the exact moment your dog performs the desired action, press the clicker. Follow with a treat and praise.
One of the best things about the clicker is the accuracy. "It's like taking a photo of the exact behavior you're rewarding", Alyssa explains. The dog associates his action with the click and, subsequently, the reward. Not only does he better understand what he is doing, this also makes him more likely to repeat the action when asked in the future.

Clicker training can also be very effective for advanced training. "You simply click for small steps toward the behavior and work the dog toward the final, completed behavior," says Alyssa. "This allows you to be totally hands-off (except for delivering the reward, of course). You don't need to manipulate the dog into position, which can often slow the process."

Overall, the clicker is a very valuable tool in the training process. When creating an obedience and training program for your dog, consider using the clicker and see for yourself how well the method works.

 

 

 

 

 

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Revised: 07/30/17

 

 

KIHEI PET SUPPLY

 

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SUNDAY CLOSED

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                                                                            FEEDBACK  -  CONTACT US                                                                                                  

KIHEI PET SUPPLY©2008

Copyright © 2001 [Kihei Pet Supply Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/30/17