These 4 tips are crafted by Dr. Kang Nee, a certified professional dog trainer who works with us to help the dogs at our shelter – www.cheerfuldogs.com
An important part of being a good dog owner is being able to read how our dog is responding to us or to being in a certain situation. That means that we need to be able to identify our dog’s needs. So how do we conquer obsessive barking?
Barking Tip #1: The Attention-seeking Barker
When you’re watching TV and your dog sits in front of you, barks, and you reach out to stroke it, you’ve just taught your dog that barking gets your attention. Even if you scold it for barking, you’re still giving it attention.
How do you stop attention barking? You need to ignore it completely – don’t look at your dog, or talk to it. If he continues to bark, get up and walk away. If you need to, close the door and leave your dog by itself. You can expect that your dog will increase the intensity of its barking at first, but you need to wait it out. When your dog finally stops barking and is quiet for at least 10s or so, you can go back to the room and give it some attention. If it starts barking again, you repeat the whole exercise. What you’re teaching your dog is that barking makes you disappear, which is the opposite of what it’s looking for. Thus with repetition, it would stop barking for attention.
You also need to take care of why your dog is barking for attention. It’s bored so you need to make sure that it has enough exercise to tire it out, or it has something to do that provides mental stimulation, like a food dispensing toy. Brushing up on your training games and tricks is a great way to bond with your dog while giving it the attention that it deserves.
Barking Tip #2: The Alert Barker
If your dog barks to warn you that there’s something or someone outside your house, the solution is to remove the source(s) of what causes him to bark. If your dog barks at people as they walk past your house, keep your dog inside the house, and block off access to windows or doorways where he can see out into the street or corridor. If he’s barking because he’s sensitive to noises in the surroundings, you can reduce the intensity of these sounds by turning on the radio, and putting your dog in a room furthest away from the source of the noises. Your dog may also need to undergo an appropriate behaviour modification programme to address its noise sensitivity
Barking Tip #3: The Excited Barker
Your dog barks in excitement when you bring out its food bowl, when you get the leash, when you come home, when it sees another dog etc. The solution is not to let your dog get what it wants while it’s barking. For instance, put the leash away until your dog is calm, then take out the leash. If it barks again, the leash disappears as well. When you come home, ignore your dog’s excited barking and wait until it calms down before greeting it.
Barking Tip #4: The Lonely Barker
If your dog is barking when it’s left alone, change your dog’s environment. Dogs don’t do well when they’re left alone for long periods of time – if your dog enjoys the company of other dogs, explore daycare or pet-sitting options when you’re not home. When you’re home, set aside time for regular exercise, games and training sessions to give your dog that social contact, and the physical and mental stimulation that it needs.
Barking when left alone may indicate anxiety, though it’s not always the sole reason. If you think that your dog is anxious about being separated from you, please consult a qualified trainer or behaviourist to help you and your dog. You may also need to consult your vet to see if medication is necessary.
Note: Dogs bark in a variety of situations: in excitement, in fear, to warn, in frustration, to guard, or it may have learned that barking results in something that it wants, e.g. attention. Barking is annoying because it’s loud, it can be prolonged and it can occur at any time of the day or night. The key to addressing nuisance barking is to find out what is causing the dog to bark and then removing the cause or causes of that barking. The aim is not to stop all barking for good, but to get the barking down to a level and intensity that you can live with
Punishing a dog for barking with inappropriate methods (e.g. aversive corrections) and equipment (e.g. training collars like choke chains, prong collars, anti-bark and shock collars), is often ineffective because you’ve only tried to stop the symptoms of the problem, but not solve the cause of it. At best, the dog will not learn anything. In the worst case, it can escalate the problem into something more serious.