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When to consider your dogs barking as excessive?
"My dog barks and barks"
I get asked frequently how to stop excessive barking, and it's a difficult questions to answer because the cause of excessive barking is not always the same, and thus, the treatment of which is also not the same.
But first a little lesson in dog communication. Much of a dogs communication is non-vocal and communicated through body language, however a dog does use vocalisations as a means to communicate, especially over distance or as a warning. It is a part of their makeup, dogs bark, cats meow, crows crow. You can't stop a dog from being who they are, and you should never have the expectation of removing a dogs desire from barking.
Excessive barking is not communication, it is an outlet. An outlet for excessive energy, boredom, worry, fear, panic, anxiety, aggression, the list goes on. Your dog may choose to externalise those feeling through barking. To me, excessive barking, is more than 2 or 3 barks within a reasonable period of time, and dependant on external circumstances, if a precession of dogs is walking past your gate every 10 minutes you can expect to hear a bark every ten minutes. It becomes excessive when there is no external stimuli to account for the barking. This indicates an internal issue that is causing the external vocalisation.
Typical examples are boredom and anxiety, especially separation anxiety. To over come your dogs excessive barking is to overcome the root cause of the external vocalisation.
Boredom is easy to remedy, 30 - 45 minute walks daily, 10 minutes of training and 10 minute of play. That would be enough to tire most dogs out and give them a sense of accomplishment for the day. And a tired dog couldn't be bothered in making too much noise.
Separation anxiety is more difficult to fix, and solutions vary depending on the dog or circumstance. If you think you have a separation anxiety issue you are best to get a trainer into your home to check out your dogs temperament and give you some one-on-one advice.
It is important for you to determine if your dog is barking as a result of external stimuli, or barking as a result of an internal issue. Only then can you determine if the barking is really excessive and that will give you clues as to how to move forward.
A technique you can try is to teach your dog to speak. This reenforces when it is, and isn't appropriate to bark. As counter-intuitive as that sounds, most dogs do get the idea, "ok, I can bark when they tell me, and not when they don't" however just as important in teaching your dog to speak is teaching them to be quiet.
There are many resources on the net and in bookstores for teaching your dog various tricks such as speak. I have listed some resources below.
What not to do.
There are many many ways that you can stop your dog from barking excessively. And I don't necessarily think one way can be better than the other. It's up to you to choose the right method for you.
That said, here are some things you definitely shouldn't do:
- Don't intimidate your dog - If you show dominance you can make the situation worse.
- Don't hit your dog - Seriously, have you ever seen one dog smack another? They don't understand what it means and it's cruel.
- Don't shock your dog - Meaning, don't get caught up in shock collars or e-collars. They don't get the message across clearly.
- Don't yell at your dog - They'll just think your barking with them!
What to do next.
If you are wanting to start developing a closer relationship with your dog, you should start with regular training. Start with the basic obedience tricks, then move into the more advanced tricks. You will start to see that you and your dog will establish a much stronger bond, and open up communication channels that didn't exist before.
Trust me, you will have a really good time once you get into regular training. It's a bonding experience, it's a learning experience and it is a huge amount of fun.
Just remember, you and your dog must be having fun for any training to be successful. So have fun, choose the method that is right for you and you will start to see problem issues like excessive barking disappear.