Barking Is Natural Behavior
Why Do Dogs Bark?
As speech is with humans, so barking is with dogs; it is a form of communication. When a dog barks, it is trying to convey some thought or emotion. Probably the greatest reason why dogs bark is because they are giving warning of an intruder or other danger. Dogs have given their families warnings about fires, gas leaks, even carbon monoxide before any harm has been done. Of course, dogs will also bark for a number of other reasons, and sometimes for no reason at all.
Dogs will often bark when they are bored, or have been left alone. Almost everyone is acquainted with the nuisance barker who is chained outside day in and day out. It is no wonder that the dog is working out some frustration by barking. Even a normally quiet dog can become a barking problem if left alone while the owners are out. Many dogs will exhibit separation anxiety when their family is away, and will indulge in destructive or negative behavior, like barking continuously.
A puppy, or even an adult dog, will sometimes bark simply to get the attention of the nearest human. As the barks of puppies are not really loud, most people will respond to the barking by going to the pup. The trouble is, this reinforces the barking behavior and tells the puppy that when he barks, you will pay attention to him.
And, sometimes, I think dogs will just bark for fun. One of our French Bulldogs, Pip, likes to stack on the arm of the couch once a day and just bark for several minutes. He does not bark very much at other times, but he just likes to let loose in the afternoon. He is totally joyous, and frisky while doing so, and as it only happens one time a day (and no one else is around to be bothered by it), we let him get it out of his system.
Start Your Puppy Off Right
Problem barking often starts when your dog is still a puppy. The first few days of the puppy’s life in his new home will lay the basis of his future behavior. While many dog trainers recommend that a new puppy be placed in a basket, crate, or box in the kitchen or family room for the night, I totally disagree. Your new puppy is a member of the family and is coming from a situation where he was sleeping with his mother and siblings. To expect a pup to meekly accept sleeping alone, away from the ‘pack’ is just unrealistic. Your new puppy should be in the same bedroom with you right from the beginning. If you do not want the pup actually on your bed, his bed should be placed next to yours, where you can reach down to pet and reassure him during the night. The ultimate size of the dog, as well as your preferences, will decide whether the pup joins you in bed or sleeps next to you on the floor.
A puppy that feels isolated, alone, and afraid is going to bark to try to get someone to help him. This is absolutely natural behavior, and if you isolate your pup at bedtime, expect to establish a barking behavior pattern. Keeping a new puppy close to you, so that he does feel as much need to bark will help to keep the house quieter in the long run.
Puppies will also bark when playing, lonely, when excited, or when they hear a noise. To curb unwanted barking, the first thing to remember is not to pay attention to it. Even yelling at a barking puppy is giving it input. Wait until the barking has stopped, then reward the pup with a treat and a pet. While positive reinforcement takes some time to produce results, it will make the training more enduring.
Problem Barking In Adult Dogs
Whether your puppy started excessively barking when young, or whether you acquire an adult dog that barks, there are ways that you can curb this behavior and make the dog a happier and more valued companion.
It is fitting that a dog bark to let you know when someone has approached the house – one or two barks are generally enough to alert you. Unfortunately, many dogs will begin to bark as a warning but then continue without end. You can train your dog to give a warning bark or two, then stop – it will take some time and effort on your part, but it can be done. When someone comes to the door, allow the dog to bark a few times, then say, “Quiet down” or “Hush” or any phrase with which you are comfortable. Do not shout at the dog, speak quietly yourself, but firmly. Lead the dog to a suitable spot, and have him sit. If the dog has been quiet, give him a treat. A dog that will not stop barking after the quiet command can sometimes be startled into stopping barking by shaking a can with pennies in it.
Another way to condition a dog to stop excessive warning barking is to let him bark several times, then stick a treat under his nose. Most dogs will stop barking as soon as they smell the treat, and this is when you should give him the treat and praise him.
If your dog is barking continuously because he has been left outside on a chain or in the yard, the solution is simple – bring the dog inside. A dog that is lonely will bark, as will one that is bored. Try to imagine how you would like to be confined to small area for hours on end, sometimes when the weather was bad; your dog will like it as little as you would.
Be Patient And Positive
Listening to a dog bark can be frustrating, and most people will find that screaming at the dog will do little good. The dog may even think you are joining him! When you start to train your puppy or dog not to bark, you have to be patient. Dogs are intelligent animals, but they simply do not have the level of mental acuity as do humans. Hitting a dog that is barking will only make the dog fearful of you, and can lead to worse problems than barking. Remember too, that dogs are very sensitive to our moods, and if you become excited and angry, there is a good chance that your dog will, too.
Praising your dog and giving him a treat when he is quiet is a good way to positively reinforce his behavior. Many of us tend to ignore the dog when he is not making a fuss, but let him know that you appreciate him when he is quiet. If your dog has been barking, then stops for several seconds, use those seconds to give him a treat and a pat. He will eventually come to understand that when he is not barking, he will get something good to eat.
Remember, too, that some breeds of dogs just tend to bark more than others, and if you are very concerned about barking, look for a breed that will be quieter when shopping for a puppy. In most cases, your dog wants to please you, it is up to you to let him know what you want.