Barking is a normal behaviour for dogs and an important means of communication.
However, when dogs bark excessively they become a nuisance to their owners and the neighbourhood. Before you can successfully manage a barking problem you will need to determine the cause of the barking.
Any training should be based on the principles of positive reinforcement. That is, reward ‘good’ behaviour - when the dog is quiet give a food treat or a pat on the head and avoid rewarding ‘unwanted’ behaviour - when the dog barks ignore the behaviour. Training should not involve punishment which tends to exacerbate the barking problem.
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons and it is important to work out why your dog is barking excessively. Once the underlying cause and ‘triggers’ for the barking are identified, training techniques can be used to treat the excessive barking.
Barking can often occur when your dog simply has too much energy and becomes bored.
• Take your dog for a good walk in the morning and they will be more likely to rest until you come home
Dogs that are left alone all day with nothing to do often resort to barking out of boredom
• Make sure that your house and garden are sufficiently enriched with fun toys and puzzles to keep him entertained
• Make sure your house and garden are sufficiently enriched with fun toys to keep your dog entertained
• Keep your dogs toys in a toy box and alternate the toys they have access to each day
Dogs are pack animals and it is normal for them to become anxious when they are left alone. Teach your dog how to cope with being alone at a young age.
To deal with separation anxiety:
• Start by sending your dog outside for short periods of time while you are still at home – make sure he has a toy to play with or raw bone to chew on while he is outside
• When you do leave the house make sure that he has 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 unexcitable
Dogs can bark when trying to call out to their human pack member or when bored and lonely.
• When your dog barks for attention he must 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
• Give your dog a food treat when he/she is calm and not barking
It is natural for your dog to want to warn you about potential intruders.
To deal with territorial behaviour:
• Use predictable passers-by such as the postman to change your dog’s association from territory protection to a positive experience - preempt the postman’s arrival and offer your dog a delicious treat or favourite toy
• Reward your dog when he/she is calm and not barking
• If your dog barks at your neighbours when they are in their garden, make sure you have some tasty treats at hand so that your dog associates your neighbours with the food
• Consider asking your neighbours to treat your dog and supply them with their own stockpile - this is preferable to having them yell at your dog in frustration
• If your dog is barking at the dog next door arrange a meeting time and supervise play between the two
For more information please consult the RSPCA Knowledge Base.
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