How to Stop a Dog From Barking in the Yard
Barking in the yard is quite a common behavior we see in dogs and many owners wonder if there's a way to stop it. Barking in the yard or fenced acreage, may be perceived as a prized attribution when owners 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 perhaps, 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?
There are several products on the market ranging from no-bark collars emitting shock, to ultrasonic devices, to citronella spray bark collars. While these may seem to be a quick fix for dogs barking in the yard, they may lead to "side effects" and more problematic behaviors down the road.
For instance, if we take a look at how dogs learn, we can see problems with such devices. Dogs do not always necessarily associate only their barking with the shock, spray or ultrasonic sound. They may start associating other stimuli with the shock, spray or annoying sound.
For instance if the dog is barking at people walking by and receives the shock, spray or startling sound every time, he may start associating people with these unpleasant consequences.
Some dogs may even associate being in the yard with the shock, spray or sounds even to the point of no longer wanting to be in the yard and having accidents in the house because he dreads going outside.
Barking is an outward manifestation of an internal emotional turmoil, it is therefore important to address the underlying cause of the barking s to tackle the root problem.
First Some Facts About Dog Barking
There are several types of dog barking, and sometimes you may need to put on your investigative hat to identify the main reason why your dog barks when out in the yard. Following are some facts about dog barking.
Do Dogs Really Bark at Nothing?
Sometimes dogs may seem as if they're barking at nothing, when 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 (barking can be a socially-facilitated behavior), 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 about 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 may have therefore reinforced them with negative attention. From a dog's perspective, negative attention is better than no attention at all. 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 and 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.As mentioned, using shock collars, ultrasonic devices and citronella collars may not work (or work only initially) and they can also have deleterious effects on dogs. Also, if you're considering bark collars, consider that they may be activated by other nearby 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? Following are some possible solutions:
How to Stop a Dog From Barking in the Yard
Doggy Day Care. If you are away most of 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 or take them on a nice long walk. If you have friends who love to hike, ask them if they would a companion 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. If the dogs bark at windows it may help to limit access to them or mask outdoor sights with some window film. Also, if kept indoors, there should be fewer chances neighbors will hear them bark as the walls help muffle the barking.
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 safe 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. Train them. 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 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 behavior professional may help.
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.
© 2014 Adrienne Farricelli CPDT-KA, Dip.CBST