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How to Stop a Dog From Barking in the Yard
Barking in the yard is quite a common behavior we see in dogs. Owners may see this as a prized attribution when they have livestock that need protection or when they need a deterrent for their homes. Some owners though may see this as an annoying behavior, or worst, the owners may not care about the barking, but likely the neighbors do. When this happens there can be serious issues in close-knit neighborhoods. Whether the barking takes place during the day or during the night, you may be wondering what to do in such a case?
Every now and then, I hear from my former clients who e-mail me asking for help. Just last week, a dear client of mine who moved to another state, contacted me for help in stopping her dogs from barking incessantly in the yard. She was a bit in a peculiar situation due to work shifts. She told me she had already consulted with a dog trainer in her area, but wasn't happy when he told her to just put a no-bark collar on her dogs. I was happy to provide her with some tips. This is what she wrote to me:
"Dear Adrienne, as you know already I have two large dogs that have grown very quickly. Their behaviors have changed a lot since you last met them. They still obey obedience commands, but I guess they need some work on their barking, so I would love to have some advice. This is our current situation. We fenced our extremely large backyard so that we could let them out without having to put them on a chain. We work nights and sleep during the day. If we put them outside during the day, we can't sleep for the barking, But if we put them out at night, the barking disturbs our neighbors. They bark at nothing that we can see, or at the flying birds. It is incessant. I don't want to use a shock collar or muzzle on them as a local trainer suggested, but yelling at them does nothing. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated."
Tips to Stop Incessant Dog Barking in the Yard
And here is my answer to this former client of mine. I have omitted posting her name to protect her privacy."Hello! Thank you for contacting me. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods and that you are adjusting well in your new place. This sounds like a challenging problem, but there are some solutions.
Do Dogs Really Bark at Nothing?
While your dogs seem as if they're barking at nothing, in reality they may have a lot to bark about. Dogs are blessed with a superior sense of hearing compared to humans. While you don't see any flying birds or people passing by, your dogs may sense noises on frequencies humans are unable to detect. Also, consider that what a human can hear at 20 feet, a dog is capable of hearing at roughly 80 feet according to Service Dog Central When your dogs bark, therefore, they may be responding to other barking dogs at a distance, to critters emitting squeaks at high frequencies or other sounds you may be completely unaware of. If they're alarm barking, yelling at your dogs when they're in this strong state of arousal will not work and may sometimes actually contribute to increasing their arousal as they may not realize you are yelling at them but may rather think that you are also trying to scare the intruder away, joining in the barking...
Barking is a Self-Reinforcing Behavior
On the other hand, consider that your dogs may be also barking due to boredom or because they're seeking attention. While you would expect a nice, large yard to provide enough stimulation to keep your dogs entertained, they may indeed find a form of entertainment, but definitively not what you would expect. The constant barking may be a way for your dogs to spend time and fill up the day. Also, consider that barking is often reinforced. For instance, if your dogs bark at the mail carrier and the mail carrier leaves, they'll will feel more entitled to bark in the future. This occurs because, from your dogs' perspective, their barking behaviors are an effective strategy in sending unwanted visitors away. Add on top of that the fact that barking is often self-reinforcing, meaning that dogs get relief when they're anxious, frustrated or stressed and let their bottled-up emotions out.
Watch out for Attention Seeking Barking
There's another form of barking in the yard, the rebellious type of a dog who is protesting being left outside. If your dogs are barking for attention or because they want to be inside with you, consider that yelling at them will further reinforce the behavior. If your dogs don't see you for a good part of the day and the night, they may be eager to have all the attention they may get. If you wake up from your sleep to scold them for barking, you will have reinforced them with negative attention. From a dog's perspective, negative attention is better than no attention. They got to see you, hear your voice and they will want to see and hear from you more and more. The barking will therefore intensify and continue more in more.
Going to the Root of the Barking Problem
You are right to be concerned about your neighbors. Barking problems are some of the most common causes for disputes in tight-knit neighborhoods. You are also right about being concerned about using shock collars or muzzles on your dogs. Many muzzles prevent dogs from panting and drinking and dogs should be always supervised when wearing them. Shock collars also have deleterious effects on dogs. You can read more about them on the Holly's Den website. Also, if you're considering bark collars, consider that they may be activated by your other dog's barking which would lead to an unjust punishment.
When a behavior such as barking is punished, often another even worse behavior replaces it. So to solve the problem you really need to go to the root of the barking behavior. Suppressing the barking without considering the underlying emotions is counterproductive. So why are your dogs barking and what can be done about it? The ASPCA website lists several causes for barking. Here are some possible solutions:
Doggy Day Care. If you are both away during the night and sleep during the day, most likely your dogs aren't getting much exercise and mental stimulation. Yes, a large yard may seem like a good solution, but as you can see, it encourages unwanted behaviors and frustration. A trip to a daycare facility each day can help tire your dogs so they can sleep soundly at night.Alternatively, have a friend or neighbor stop by during the day to keep the pooches company, take them to the dog park or on a nice long walk. If you have friends who love to hike, ask them if they would like two companions for their outings. A pet sitter may work too.
Bring the Dogs Indoors. When a dog is indoors, there's much less to bark about. The difference is often astounding. Many of my clients report dramatic changes in their dogs' barking tendencies once they convert their dogs to an indoor life. Also, if kept indoors during the night, there should be fewer chances your neighbors will hear them bark.
Darken the Rooms During the Day. Close the blinds and untie the curtains so that your dogs are less inclined to bark at outdoor stimuli and may feel like taking a nap. Add white noise such as a radio or a TV so the outdoor sounds are muffled. Providing them with some chew toys and safe food puzzles may also keep them busy before falling asleep. Chewing releases helps release endorphins which causes a dog to relax.
Provide Loads of Exercise and Mental Stimulation in your Free Time. I bet you saw this coming. Walk your dogs, play games, enroll them in some sports. A tired dog is a good dog that is less likely to bark.
Prevent Rehearsal of Behavior. Keep in mind that the more your dogs are let out to bark, the more they get to rehearse the unwanted behavior. This continuous rehearsal will keep the barking behavior alive and thriving. Understanding the trigger for your dogs' barking behavior and preventing them from rehearsing it will go a long way. In some cases, where no solutions seem to work,and the barking behavior persists, the intervention of a force-free professional may help.
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For further reading
- Dog Behavior: Why Do Dogs Bark at Nothing?
Why do dogs bark for no good reason? Truth is, very likely there is a reason but humans cannot detect it. Learn which stimuli may trigger unexplained barking in your dog.
- Dog Behavior: Why Do Dogs Bark?
What causes barking in dogs? Is it in the dog's nature or environment? Is there a gene for barking? Learn which breeds are more likely to sound the alarm and what stimuli are known to trigger bouts of barking.
- Dog Behavior: How to Stop a Dog From Barking at Men ...
Learn how to help your fearful dog cope with men coming into your home. Understand effective techniques to change your dog's emotional state and perception about men.
- Addressing Attention-Seeking Whining and Barking in ...
Is your dog barking and whining excessively? There are chances you are unknowingly rewarding such behavior by giving attention. Learn some strategies to reduce such behaviors.
- Dog Behavior: Why Do Dogs Bark When Left Alone?
Is your dog barking when left alone? If so, you need to identify the cause of the barking so you can address the issue.