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When to consider your dogs barking as excessive?

Updated on June 25, 2013

"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.

However...

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.

The Fix

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:

  1. Don't intimidate your dog - If you show dominance you can make the situation worse.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Resources

101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog
101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog

101 Dog Tricks is the largest trick book on the market and the only one presenting full-color photos of each trick and its training steps. The step-by-step approach, difficulty rating, and prerequisites, allow readers to start training immediately. Tips and trouble-shooting boxes cover common problems, while "build-on" ideas suggest more complicated tricks which build on each new skill. No special tools (such as clickers) or knowledge of specific training methods are required. Trick training is a great way to bond with your dog and help him integrate into your family. It keeps him mentally and physically challenged and helps to establish paths of communication between you. Many tricks build skills needed for common dog sports, dog dancing, and dog therapy work. It's every dog lover's privilege that Kyra and Chalcy took time from their performing schedule to share their secrets in 101 Dog Tricks.

 
The Dog Tricks and Training Workbook: A Step-by-Step Interactive Curriculum to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog
The Dog Tricks and Training Workbook: A Step-by-Step Interactive Curriculum to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog

The Dog Tricks and Training Workbook is a follow-up guide to 101 Dog Tricks. This new book invites the reader to focus on 30 foundational tricks and to track and gauge his or her progress in teaching them. The workbook explores integral behavior and training concepts, which enhance not only the dog’s performance but the overall relationship between dog and owner. The accompanying deck of 30 trick cards illustrate the step-by-steps of the tricks themselves, and are excellent teaching tools for the working, training, and bonding sessions outlined in the workbook.

 
Brain Games for Dogs: Fun Ways to Build a Strong Bond with Your Dog and Provide It with Vital Mental Stimulation
Brain Games for Dogs: Fun Ways to Build a Strong Bond with Your Dog and Provide It with Vital Mental Stimulation

Ideal for the growing number of dog owners who know that mental activity is as important as exercise when it comes to their dog's health and happiness.

This book provides more than just fun ways to challenge a dog's thinking and puzzle-solving ability. Claire Arrowsmith strongly suggests that such challenges help build a strong bond between a dog and its owner. She examines the accepted evidence of the importance of mental stimulation and why it's important to use only reward-based teaching methods. She also explains how to use hand signals and incorporate mental challenges and learning into everyday activities.

 
Imagine Life with a Well-Behaved Dog: A 3-Step Positive Dog-Training Program
Imagine Life with a Well-Behaved Dog: A 3-Step Positive Dog-Training Program

Do you consider your dog part of the family? Most dog guardians do. But just like children, dogs need structure. Structure to show him that he shouldn’t jump on every person who enters your house, or urinate indoors, or drag you down the road when you walk him. In Imagine Life with a Well-Behaved Dog, Julie Bjelland offers all the information you need to make your dog confident, secure and able to understand and follow rules. Drawing on years of experience, Julie has created a thorough guide that teaches basic training, how to communicate with your dog, and how to prevent and solve behavior problems. She discusses how to train your puppy and how to train adult dogs, even special needs dogs, and tells how to choose the right dog for your family and how to integrate him into a home with kids, other dogs, or cats.

 
51 Puppy Tricks: Step-by-Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Puppy
51 Puppy Tricks: Step-by-Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Puppy

51 Puppy Tricks gives puppy owners the tools they need to teach behaviors and tricks to their puppy through step-by-step instructions and photographs. Most other puppy training books focus on curbing bad behavior. Some have training, but only the most basic tricks. Kyra’s curriculum differs from that of 101 Dog Tricks in that the instructions are geared for the less mature dog. Young puppies are not yet well-tuned to humans, and respond better to a clicker than to a voice. Also, young puppies have so few skills that everyone benefits from a technique called “shaping” which breaks a behavior into minute steps for easier learning. And, of course, puppies receive extra gentle care when we teach, focused more on instilling a love of learning and a communication pathway rather than accomplishing the goal behavior.

 

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