Too much barking or howling from your four-legged, fur-coated, tail swinging companion can really put a strain on your relationship. And not only the relationship between you and your dog but also with your neighbors and visitors alike. Although dogs have an instinctive need to bark in certain situations – too much barking can be a sign of psychological problems such as fear or aggression.
Luckily, there are ways of dealing with this that you can do yourself with enough patience and a few treats.
STIMULATION AND HOW TO REMOVE THEM
All dogs bark, and it is natural to them as it is for a human to talk. Apart from nonverbal communication via body language (position of the tail, showing teeth, bowing down or standing upright, etc) they communicate, for the most part, via sound. Barking, howling, growling and any other number of noises they can produce are due to some form of inside or outside stimuli they are reacting to.
Dogs bark to defend territory. As they are very territorial animals they will act aggressively towards anything they consider a threat, and usually all the way until it is gone. Barking at the mailman while he is at the door and until he leaves the dog’s “circle of influence” is a good example of that. The key is to cut out any such stimuli for starters.
If your dog is always barking at passersby outside the fence, it needs to be moved to a quieter area, such as indoors or a secluded backyard. Although this may seem like abuse to some – it is the first step towards a more peaceful dog.
EQUIPPING YOURSELF PROPERLY
“Gearing up” is not the first thing that comes to mind when dealing with a dog that is misbehaving but there are several resources that can help you manage. Note that a stick to beat your dog is never the right tool and will only lead to trauma.
The most popular “anti-barking” utensil is citronella, a chemical extracted from lemongrass. Although very pleasant to smell for us, it irritates and scares dogs and has therefore been used as a spray to stop them when barking. But excessive amounts are poisonous and can harm your dog, so you might want to consider getting citronella alternatives. Various electrical and vibrating collars, high-pitched sound devices, and other non-harmful tools are used.
The point is that you will benefit from having a helpful anti-barking device at your disposal, as sometimes chasing after your dog is too much of a burden after a day’s work.
A few typical dog commands are taught and used specifically towards dogs to be more calm and quiet. We are talking about, of course, “quiet”, “sit”, “stay” and “down”. Even when not dealing with excessive barking they should be taught as basics to any dog and all dog owners should have them at their disposal.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” goes the proverb, so it is best to start with them while they are still puppies. The first few tricks they are supposed to learn are those concerning the place and paying attention, such as “sit” and “stay”, but once those are figured out (which can be effectively done in a few days or weeks) you should teach them to respond to “Quiet!”
To teach this trick you would need to first find a proper environment to get them barking (such as a dog park, or having multiple loud people come over) and then, after shouting the command and showing them what needs to be done (by holding their jaws shut, for example) you would reward them with a treat. Do this exercise several times, sometimes changing the dynamic by punishing them when they disobey.
CONSULT AN EXPERT
Dressage of any kind of service dog, like those destined for hunting or competitions, is a long and difficult process and should be approached with a lot of preparations. If you are not ready to commit yourself to an entirely new skill such as this, then we advise you to hire a professional “dog whisperer”.
The same goes for any type of behavioral problem you have with your dog, barking, and aggressiveness being most frequent. Vets and dog trainers will come with an experienced background and will already know what root cause to look for and what are proven techniques to solve them.
Although we cherish them and simply love to see how they react when we return home from work – they are still living creatures and will behave weirdly sometimes, or even outright aggressive at others. As we are their owners and mentors we must make sure they are healthy and well, but also obedient when we ask of them.