Man’s Best Friend Can Be a Noisy Housemate
It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect your dog to never bark, nor would it even be desirable. After all, your dog’s barking might alert you to the presence of an intruder in your home, and there’s nothing like a friendly “Hello!” from your best friend to perk up your spirits.
But for dog owners whose animals bark excessively, barking can become a headache-inducing nuisance, not to mention a source of tension among neighbors. If you’ve got a dog that has been exhibiting some problem barking tendencies, then here are 10 things you can do to quiet the barking while still keeping your dog happy.
Identify the Cause of the Problem Barking
Dogs bark for different reasons, and some dogs are quite vocal about defending what they see as their territory. When a person or another animal encroaches, your pet may feel duty-bound to let that person know they’re not welcome. Dogs may also bark out of loneliness, separation anxiety, or fear.
Don’t Bark Back at Your Dog!
When you’re frustrated, you might be tempted to raise your voice. But always resist the urge – your dog might think you’re joining in on the barking, and that might cause them to bark more. Instead, speak in a low, calm voice.
Keep It Simple
Dogs can be trained to recognize certain words, but it’s important to stay consistent with your commands. Choose whichever synonym for “quiet” you prefer, but always use the same word when you want your dog to be silent.
Reward Good Behavior
Dogs don’t understand that their barking is annoying you or causing your neighbors to lodge noise complaints with the local police department. Treats, on the other hand, make perfect sense to your average pooch. When your dog is barking, calmly use your one-word command. As soon as she stops, reward her with a treat.
Exercise Is Key to Stopping Dog Barking
Exercise is one of the best ways to ease your own tension, and it’s excellent medicine for anxious animals, as well. Make sure your four-legged friends are getting plenty of exercise each day. If possible, time the exercise session to take place right before typical problem barking periods. As an added bonus, you can get a nice walk or trip to the park in before work – a pleasant way to start your day, too.
Nip the Barking in the Bud
The longer you allow your dog to continue problem barking, the more ingrained the habit will become. It’s always best to try to address barking issues as soon as they arise, rather than letting your pet grow accustomed to habitual barking.
Give Your Dog a Checkup
Barking is normal behavior in dogs, but there’s an outside chance that excessive vocalization could be indicative of a medical issue. If your formerly quiet pet has suddenly taken to making a lot of noise, it’s not a bad idea to stop by the vet for a checkup.
Limit Exposure to Stimuli to Reduce Dog Barking
For territorial barkers, it may be useful to limit exposure to external stimuli by keeping window treatments closed while you’re away, or by installing privacy fencing for outdoor pets. Dogs have keen hearing, so they might still be stimulated by the sounds of people or animals encroaching on their territory, but limiting their ability to see the action may be helpful.
Hire Someone to Check in on Your Dog
Dogs are pack animals, and their desire for companionship is strong. If your dog barks while you’re away at work, it may be helpful to hire a dog walker (or a trusted neighborhood kid) to check in on them every day, and to walk them while you’re away.
Keep That (Formerly) Barking Dog Amused!
For dogs that bark out of sheer boredom, it may be useful to leave some extra toys around to keep them occupied while you’re away. Chew toys, food-dispensing toys, and other amusing diversions can help your pet stave off boredom and resist the urge to bark.
Special Toys for Special Occasions
Dogs, like children, often have favorite toys. It may be worth identifying which toys your dog likes best, and setting a few of them aside for times when problem barking is typically an issue. For example, you might keep your pet’s preferred food-dispensing puzzle toy out of reach until you leave for work. That way, your departure becomes a special occasion rather than a source of anxiety.
Ignore the Barking
This piece of advice can be tough to follow, especially if you’re concerned about upsetting the neighbors. But if you’ve conditioned your dog to expect that barking will elicit a response from you, you’re going to have to undo that conditioning. And the best way is to ignore the barking until it stops, then reward your pet for being quiet.
Problem barking is one of the least pleasant aspects of dog ownership, but it’s an issue that can be addressed with training and patience. Follow these tips, and hopefully you’ll find a few that work wonders for you and your best friend.
Author: Giano Panzarella
[Photo via: Wikimedia]