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It drives you up the wall and your neighbors certainly don’t appreciate it either. Sometimes we wish we could just wave a magic wand and get our pup to just be quiet! Unfortunately, we have tried that and it doesn’t appear to work.
There are many different reasons why your dog could be causing all of the noise complaints, including both medical and behavioral reasons. Determining the cause of your dog’s barking is the first step in finding out the right course of action. If your dog only barks while you are not home you might employ the use of a video camera to gain more insight to what is going on. You might even want to ask your neighbors if they have identified your dog’s barking trigger.
A note about barking – it is a self-rewarding behavior to your dog. The more he practices the barking, the more he gets reinforced for it. Limiting the opportunities your dog has to bark can go a long way in reducing nuisance barking. Also, don’t yell at your dog to be quiet – often the dog perceives yelling as barking, which can make him bark even more!
Dogs bark to let their family members know when there’s something going on – someone passing by outside, a strange noise, or even to warn off “intruders”. Start by limiting your dog’s access to points where they can see any of the stimuli outside by moving furniture, closing blinds, using baby gates to close off an area, or even by frosting windows.
Is your dog getting the adequate socialization and stimulation they need during the day? Dogs need time with and attention from people they live with every day, including play time and mental exercise. Dogs who are left outside for long periods of time will probably get bored, so you may want to bring your dog inside more, and consider getting a friend or dog walker to come over when you have to be away from more than 4 hours. Another option is doggie daycare, which will provide supervision and activity for your dog while you are not home. Also consider other ways to occupy your dog like chew toys and puzzle toys.
If your dog barks at you to get your attention or get you to do something they want, and you give in, your dog learns that barking is a way to get things they want. If you don’t want your dog to demand bark, you must not respond to them when they do. Attention-seeking barkers can have their barking reinforced by you talking to them, touching them or even looking at them. This means that if your dog is already in the habit of using barking to get attention, you will have to ignore his barking completely – no talking, no touching and no eye contact.
When you first start, your dog will take some time to figure out the new rule, so be prepared to continue ignoring your dog’s barking until they stop. The barking could get worse before it gets better, so don’t give in! Doing so could risk making the behavior even worse than it started. Don’t forget – if your dog has been using barking to get something they need, like taking walks or being let outside, you’ll need to provide these things, as often as they need them, when your dog isn’t barking.
If your dog’s barking happens when they are left alone, beginning immediately or very soon after you leave, and there are other signs such as destructive behavior, anxious behavior when you prepare to leave, frantic greetings upon your return, or reluctance to be away from you – even in another room – when you’re home, your dog may suffer from separation anxiety. Again, doggie daycare or a canine companion may alleviate some of their anxiety. For more information on separation anxiety, please email BehaviorTeam@spca.org.
Most dogs that bark when left alone are often just bored or frustrated and in need or more attention, activity, and/or a job to do. If you are having trouble determining what the cause might be or if you think that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, contact a behavior specialist for assistance.
A Note about Bark Collars
Anti-bark collars are designed to give dogs an unpleasant consequence every time they bark. Some of these collars are inhumane and many are ineffective for dogs with barking issues. The SPCA of Texas behavior team recommends trying other solutions before resorting to this tactic.
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