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My Dog Won’t Shut Up! How to Stop a Barking Dog
Yapping dogs are perhaps the worst nightmare of any person living next door. These are typically toy or small breed dogs that tend to sit at the gate and yap sun-up till sun-down. This article will explain why these dogs are doing this and what you can do if you are the owner of a yapping dog.
Reasons why a Dog Barks Non-stop
Dogs that bark persistently are bored most of the time. There are rare causes like obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) that cause prolonged barking episodes, most owners want veterinarians to diagnose OCD as the cause for their dog’s bad barking behaviour because there is no real treatment. These owners are often in denial and do not want to face the fact that they have a bored dog. Here are some of the reasons a dog will bark continuously:
- Boredom is the most common cause. This is often built up energy that the dog has due to inactivity or lack of social interaction. They have no other route of expelling this excess energy, so they opt to bark all day long at anything they see.
- Habit of barking that has built up over months, even years. This is the worst of the lot. These dogs just bark anywhere and everywhere. At the gate, along the fence, in the house, some just sit in a quiet spot and bark for the fun of barking.
- Sight problems, dogs that cannot see very well or who have hair growing in front of their eyes are prone to barking. They usually calm down when they recognise the perceived threat.
- Hearing problems are also a concern. Deaf dogs or dogs that are losing their hearing are prone to barking. Dogs that have very acute hearing will also bark, often at sounds that you cannot even hear, such as construction work four or five blocks away.
- Very old dogs are more at risk of beginning canine cognitive dysfunction (dementia). This is where their brains are not working as well as they should due to normal old age changes inside the body. Old dogs on high protein diets are prone to this. Their bark will also often change in frequency and they may even howl or have a droning type bark.
- Aggressive dogs will bark and growl. If they have an aggression problem they will growl, crouch down and bark if the perceived threat does not move away. These dogs are dangerous and it is not advisable to keep them on your property. This world has no place for aggressive dogs.
- Protective barking is when a dog will bark at something they are not sure of. Dogs will bark at insects, snakes, rats, mice and almost anything they find intriguing. They will try to call you closer to have a look at what they have discovered.
- Instinct behaviour is also an important cause of barking. Some dogs still demonstrate normal canine pack behaviour and barking is a form of communication and to display territory. Breeds such as Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherd Dogs and dogs crossed with wolves seem to be more prone to this type of barking.
- Last but not least is an obsessive compulsive disorder causing dogs to bark persistently. These are dogs that seem to be habit barkers but do not respond to the corrective measures. This is very rare and your dog will only be diagnosed with this by exclusion of exploring all other barking related issues as described above. This is a tricky disease to treat at the best of times.
Bored Barkers Versus Habit Barkers
These two reasons make up at least 85% of all dog barking issues. This is very important for you to decide which is true for your dog. The reason being is that the method of stopping this unwanted behaviour is very different. If you have a habit barker, often you need to resort to more advanced correction techniques to get the dog over this type of behaviour. It is best that you be honest with yourself, it is difficult to admit that you have a bored dog at home. Here are some tips to help you decide which type of dog you have:
- Barks anywhere and everywhere.
- Will sit in one spot and begin to bark.
- Monotone hysterical barking.
- Continuous cyclical yap that can be timed, often one bark every 5 seconds.
- Calling these dogs might stop them for a minute or two then they will continue barking.
- These dogs are on their own most often, and will not socialize often.
- Often at some stimulating site such as along the fence or at the gate.
- Will often run up-and-down a fence or along the yard boundary.
- If something exciting happens, these dogs change their barking tone.
- Bark frequency depends on how much action there is, so it is highly variable.
- Calling these dogs often helps, as long as you have something more exciting to offer them, or else they will return to their barking.
- Dogs will spur each other on, especially the neighbour’s dogs. They will both run up-and-down the yard boundary barking at each other.
Rules of Correction and Reward
In order for you to win the war of unwanted barking you must learn to discipline your dog correctly. If you do not learn the art of appropriate discipline then you will suffer from poor results. Discipline is such a harsh word with many connotations, so you may use the word correction to help make you feel a bit more positive over winning the war. In most cases it is a war, as the dog owner will either be battling with fed up neighbours, fed up family members and a disheartened attitude towards your once loved pet before they became a barking demon. Follow these tips and tricks and you will restore confidence in yourself, your pet and the disgruntled people putting pressure on you to resolve the issue.
You will need to do the following:
- Always remain calm and collected. A person who is frantic, hysterical and angry will not be able to correct their dog.
- Build trust with your dog, if you do not spend time with them, then this is a great start. Talk to your dog in a soft, warm friendly tone of voice.
- Learn to speak clearly and in varying tones without shouting. This is going to help you immensely when you begin your verbal correction.
- When you correct your dog there is an uneasy period where the dog may not trust you. It is vital to regain this trust after a correction. You must do this, a dog will never listen to a person who they do not trust or who they are afraid of.
- Reward all good behaviour. Such as when they are not barking, show them some caring. Or when you see they want to begin barking, but stop when they see you. Your reward is important as this reinforces good behaviour.
- Reward them with your time, friendly warm tone of voice and a good tickle on the head or belly. Never use food as a reward or distraction.
- Always be on time with your correction and reward after they respond to a correction.
- If you are over correcting your dog will run away with a tail tucked under them. If this is the case do not correct again as roughly as you did. Always regain the trust by inviting your dog over for a belly tickle. This may take time for them to trust you again. You must regain their trust to win.
- Never chase your dog to correct them. This will turn into a game and you will lose.
The plan is first to gain your dog’s trust. Get them to come to you when you call them. Once they come to you, reward them by giving them good praise and a belly tickle. This is the most important part before you begin the correction process. This can take as long as a week to do. They must come to you when you call. Often you may need to crouch down and pat your thigh while calling them. Never chase after them and grab them. Once they are close to you, hold out your hand, palms facing them and let them sniff your hands. Never grab them closer if they are nervous in the beginning. They must learn that coming to you is fun and exciting because they get attention and a belly tickle. Once they willingly come over to you when you call you can begin the correction methods.
Remember that once you correct your dog you must restore trust that same day of correction. This is done as described above, call them over and reward them in a friendly manner.
Never call them over and correct them! This will destroy the trust built between you and your dog.
If you see that they are being good reward them. If you correct them with a verbal cue and they respond you must also reward them.
Most owners are afraid to correct their dog, they believe that correction is cruel and not a good idea. If you rear a belligerent dog that is disobedient and a trouble maker that nobody likes and do not want it, it is your fault for not correcting them. Their fate is far worse than giving appropriate discipline to correct unwanted behaviour. Dogs that cannot be handled live a life of misery. Nobody wants them and they are often put to sleep to end their suffering.
Correcting a Bored Barker
These dogs luckily do not require much correction. The correction comes in correcting the owner in owning a dog. These dogs are bored day in and day out. They are not active enough during the day and have lots of built up energy. They will often run up-and-down along a fence and are quite fit. The first tip you can try is getting into the habit of spending time with your dog. They need you to help use up their unspent energy. You can try the following:
- Teaching your dog to retrieve a ball, rope toy etc. A 20 minute play in the yard helps a tremendous amount for you and your dog. Not all dogs will retrieve, however most will chase balls. So if your dog is not a retriever you can make him chase balls by buying 4 balls and throwing them around the yard. Once he catches one throw the next.
- Going for a walk around the neighbourhood. This is excellent for your dog. Sometimes it is unpleasant as there are so many dogs in the area that walking your own one becomes a tedious job of wrestling them to leave all the other dogs. Or the cacophony of noise while you are walking is very unpleasant. Refer to Part 2 & Part 5 in particular of the Basic Dog Training Article Series for information on how to walk your dog correctly.
- Take your dog to a park or sports ground for a good run around. Take balls and toys and really get in there and play with your dog. They will greatly appreciate this.
- Teach your dog to swim if you have a pool. This will help in the warmer months. Swimming uses a lot of energy and will tire your dog.
The idea here is to first burn all your dogs’ energy during the day. Once evening comes they would rather rest instead of barking the whole time. If this does not work you can go to a higher level of correction.
Here are appropriate correction techniques:
- The first step is verbal correction. Walk outside in visual and hearing range of your dog. When they bark, say in a loud, clear tone “Name of Pet – Quiet.” Remember that you must be calm and collective, not yelling and screaming at your dog. Take charge and show them you mean business. If they stop barking, call them over and reward them with praise saying that they are a good dog. A belly tickle helps a lot. Wait for 5 minutes and make sure your dog does not begin barking again.
- If the top approach does not work then you must make your correction more meaningful to distract the behaviour and get their attention. You will need ammunition to help you get the message through. Some of these dogs are so worked up that they need firmer convincing to abandon this behaviour. The best ammunition are light stones found in the garden, just smaller than a hand size. If you cannot throw accurately you may need to get sand clods instead. Keep a few of them handy at the door where you will be coming out of to correct them. Walk into visual and auditory range and give a clear, commanding tone verbal correction as above. If your dog ignores you, give the command once more then throw the stone or sand clod at the dog. Do not worry if you hit them, this stone is too small to hurt them seriously. Remember that you are trying to get a point across and you must sometimes bruise them a bit to get the message through in stubborn dogs. How hard you throw the stone will depend on their tolerance to correction. If the dog stops and looks at you, you have thrown it hard enough. If the dog runs away with its tail between its legs, you have over corrected a bit and next time you should throw a bit softer. The most important aspect is to regain trust right after this correction. You must crouch down and call your dog in a warm and loving tone as described above. Once you have regained trust it is time to see if this has worked.
- In most cases you will need two to three weeks of correction to stop the behaviour of boredom barking.
Remember to correct and reward, if you break trust you need to regain it for this to work.
Correcting a Habit Barker
These dogs are often stubborn and very independent. They will look at you defiantly and bark often with just verbal correction. You can use the boredom barking correction to begin with. Very often you will need to strengthen your correction to imbed the message that barking is an unwanted behaviour. You can try the following:
- Water acts as a great deterrent. You will need to arm yourself with a bucket of water. If the dog barks, command them to stop with a verbal command. If they persist, repeat the verbal command and then throw them with water. You can walk right up to them with the water and throw it in their face.
- You can also try a high jet of water from a high powered water gun or hose connection. Remember to always give the clear, loud verbal command as described above, then if they continue give them the last verbal command and wet them.
- Once this is done, most dogs are very confused and scared of you. You must regain their trust and reward them when they come to you.
- Never chase your dog. Or else you will be in trouble by making this correction a game.
Water does the trick in almost all cases.
With all corrections, you must regain trust after you have corrected. Remember to reward your dog every time you see they are not barking, if they respond to a verbal command call them over for a reward.
Correcting Other Causes for Barking
Many other causes of barking have been mentioned, they only make up the remaining 25% of causes. Some can only be channelled and not cured such as instinctive and protective barking. If your dog has excellent hearing often the most helpful is locking them indoors at night to solve the problem. If your dog has hair growing in front of its face, trim it and this will often help.
If your dog has dementia, deafness or OCD then you will need more effort to correct this. These causes of barking are extremely difficult to cure. Luckily these make up the least amount of cases. You will need to work with a licensed veterinarian and a behaviourist to cure these.
Barking dogs are a real life concern for all dog owners. If you are an unlucky owner with a noisy dog it is your job to correct it before they become a neighbourhood disturbance. Often working with your dog will solve the issue. Remember that the first step is to gain a trust relationship with your dog before you begin correction. Most trouble dogs are detached from their owners, so securing a good bond will often solve most of the problem. Luckily most of the barking dogs fit into two categories, either a boredom barker or a habit barker and these require owner participation to correct in all cases.
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