We all know those neighbours with the barking dog. As a dog owner you might even feel guilty (or at least uncomfortable) of this. It’s kinda like the parent of a screaming baby onboard of an airplane. And annoyed people can be quite rude… So this article is for those poor dog owners that have a barking dog, what they can do about it, and if and how to deal with such uncomfortable and stressful situations. Let’s start with the fact that a barking dog can be happy, angry or a number of other things. So, you need to observe your dog carefully and take into account a few environmental factors to decode which kind of barking you are dealing with.
WHY is your dog barking?
First and foremost, it is your dog’s way to COMMUNICATE with you. So, what is your dog trying to say?
Territorial – protecting against a threat
Your home is your dog’s territory. So, if he or she feels an intruder, it is normal that your dog barks. And the closer the threat, the louder the barking. The problem is when it becomes too excessive, i.e. every time your dog bell rings. The solution – obedience training. Make sure your dog listens to your commands so you can instantly make him or her stop barking in these cases.
Entering the emotional kingdom which is pretty much endless. So, fear is the most obvious emotion – it will be scared by another dog, lightning, a running car etc. And the good news is that you can do plenty to ease your dog’s anxiety. If your dog is scared of loud noises such as fireworks, create a ‘safe-surrounding’ with the favourite pillow and treats. Also, consider calming aids. There are so many, like Adaptil which releases a special scent that replicates the pheromone that mother dogs naturally emit to their puppies just after birth, comforting your dog whenever he or she is scared. You can also use herbal medicines, like Phytopet’s Calming formula or Bach’s Rescue Remedy.
Boredom or loneliness – attention-seeking
If your dog is bored or lonely, he or she will tell you. And it will likely be bored and lonely if he or she is not getting enough exercise, attention, etc. So make sure to spend quality time with your dog as opposed to just ‘being there’. Besides obedience training, there are many things you can teach your dog or even games that you can play. The sky is the limit! And having a dog and a busy lifestyle is not ‘mission impossible’!
Greeting – Hello / Goodbye
According to Cesar Millan, the world-renowned dog whisperer, the worst mistake dog owners make is jumping from joy when they see their furry friend’s joyful welcome when they return home. The rule of thumb is : if you don’t want your dog to make a big deal (and bark!) when you leave the house, don’t make a big deal when you come back home either. So, enter calmly, leave your things and then greet your dog, but in a calmer vibe. Dogs respond to VIBES. So check your energy first and then reward your dog when he or she is calm, not when it is barking with excitement. A calm dog is a happy dog, according to Cesar.
Going further after you mastered the ‘bye and I’m back’ routine, there are scenarios which can trigger separation anxiety in dogs. Obviously, a dog is bound to feel scared if he or she is left alone for the first time. This is why you need to do it gradually and increase the time horizon. Dogs that most often suffer from separation anxiety are those that are left alone after never being left alone. Then there are traumatic events, like the death of a family member, or simply any change in the family’s structure. There are many tricks you can use to ease your dog’s anxiety like leaving your clothes that smell like you, but the most effective is: training and exercise. You can teach your dog a command by establishing a word or specific action that you do every time you leave, that makes your dog know that you will be back. And again, there are many calming remedies.
Expressing a physical need
Is your dog thirsty? Does it have a bowl of fresh water? Is your dog hungry? Or maybe it’s time for a walk? Dogs love a good routine and if you break it, you’re bound to get a reminder!
Remove the motivation for barking
The key thing is to remove motivation. Your dog is barking for a reason, never ever forget that. This can be really simple sometimes as in if your dog is barking at people who are passing by your house: pull the drapes across the window or just move your dog to a different room.
Teach your dog to ‘be quiet’
The easiest way is to say “quiet”. But it’s easier to just teach him to only bark when given the command to do so. Give the command “speak” and when your dog does speak out, put a treat in front of him. As soon as he starts sniffing, praise him and give him the treat. Do it as long as needed for your dog to only bark at your command. After you conquered that fortress, in a calm and quiet environment (meaning NO distractions), you will teach your dog the ‘quest’ command. Do the same thing and ask your dog to bark. When he starts speaking, put the treat in-front of him and say “quiet”. And as soon as he stops barking, give him the treat.
The tips to make it work
But the thing to remember is: DON’T YELL! By yelling at your dog, it’s like barking with him or her. Second, keep your training session positive, don’t be all about grounding and frustration. And most importantly, BE CONSISTENT. This means that EVERYONE in your household, family, and wherever your dog resides, need to behave in the same manner. So whenever your dog barks inappropriately, the same treatment must be given by everyone, otherwise you will only confuse the poor animal. How would you like if someone tells you behaviour is not appropriate ,then that it’s fine and then back to being unacceptable- frustrating, right?
Ignore ignore ignore
By giving your dog attention when he or she barks excessively, your dog won the game. He or she has your full, undivided attention! So, don’t reward him or her for being too noisy. This means not talking, not cuddling, and literally not even looking at your dog. When he or she finally quiets down, even if it is just to take a breath as this is a highly calorie-consuming activity, be as quick as Flash Gordon itself to reward him or her with a treat. And what cannot be emphasised enough is PATIENCE. If you lose it after 30 minute and yell ‘be quiet’, sorry to break it to you, but the next round will be one hour and so on and so on. Why, well because you taught your dog that all it needs to do is bark long enough to get your attention – and he or she will do it for as long as it takes. So if you want this method to work, you really need to be patient for as long as it takes for your dog to stop barking.
Can you get evicted from your flat for all this exploding noise?
This is definitely not an ideal scenario for anyone in your building, but don’t worry odds are you won’t get evicted although it is technically possible. If anything, your landlord could just choose not to renew your lease. But, if you deal with the situation at hand and act on it, odds are you’ll be fine. Worst-case scenario, you can always sound-insulate your apartment! But financially-burdensome actions on the side, if you get a trainer, be kind to your neighbours and let them know you are doing everything you can, normal people are likely not to take action against you. One thing is for sure, the worst thing a barking dog owner could do is – not do anything about it! So as long as you don’t ignore the issue, you should be fine and things should get better over time :)
The importance of exercise and training
Always make sure that your dog is getting sufficient exercise. And it’s so simple, it’s just about getting your dog too tired to do anything else. If anything, barking is a good way to get rid of excess energy so you need to check that of your list by making sure your dog is properly exercised. Moderate barking is not a big deal, it’s normal… and if it gets excessive, don’t despair: you can tone it down. And if anything, things could be worse like having a destructive dog. And even if that’s case, all you need to do is dog-proof your household and train your dog more. Training and exercise are really the cure for everything, and especially barking dogs! Don’t forget: your dog is a part of your world, but to your dog, you are the whole world. So, your dog wants to listen to you, even though you might think just the opposite with all the noise that is making your head explode! But, it is true and all you need to is learn how to communicate :)