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Dogs bark for lots of reasons. They can bark because they are insecure, excited, suspicious, aggressive, anxious, territorial, bored, they're responding to other dog's barking, they want something, because they have been trained to, or any combination of reasons. Training a dog to bark can be deliberate or unintentional. For example, you can teach a dog to bark to indicate it wants to go outside. This is quite helpful when housebreaking a dog. However, it may backfire when the dog realizes it can bark to demand anything, such as food or attention. Unintentionally, dogs can also learn to bark from other dogs. This is common in multi-dog homes, or dogs that attend doggy daycare or are boarded frequently.


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Other examples for the variety of barking causes:

Insecurity- Dogs who bark at the unknown because they are afraid or skittish and easily frightened. It is almost always combined with a heightened sense of suspicion. This could include barking at green bins on trash day, or barking at the dressed up, scary 16 year olds that are still trick or treating, even though they are way too old. I mean at what age is it too old? When does it become "robbery?" If I go into a gas station and say "Give me donuts, chips and a pack of M&Ms or I will vandalize your store," I would certainly hope I'd be arrested. But for some reason, it is ok for a 12 year old to TP a house because he got a leftover from last Xmas, stale mini-candy cane and didn't get the full-sized candy bars that the guy down the road had.

Excitement- Dogs who bark because they are happy or excited, e.g. when you get home, walk in and Spot is jumping up and down barking because he is so happy to see you.
Suspicion- Dogs who bark at something or someone they think is out of place or demands further scrutiny. An example would be walking at dusk, and a shadowy figure approaches, wearing a hoodie. It is probably just the neighbour kid, but it could be a vicious animal, so low growling and barking is necessary to warn it to stay away. Suspicion and territorial barking is what makes a properly trained watch dog so useful.




Suspicion- Dogs who bark at something or someone they think is out of place or demands further scrutiny. An example would be walking at dusk, and a shadowy figure approaches, wearing a hoodie. It is probably just the neighbour kid, but it could be a vicious animal, so low growling and barking is necessary to warn it to stay away. Suspicion and territorial barking is what makes a properly trained watch dog so useful.

Aggression- Whether fear-based or dominance/territorial based, towards other dogs or people, or inside or out, barking in an aggressive manner is commonly seen. It can be difficult to get under control, but solid training can accomplish it.

Anxiety- A dog who barks because it is stressed. Best example is separation anxiety after being left alone or in a kennel.

Territorial- A dog who barks because it is telling you that someone or something is in the vicinity. Often associated with aggression or guarding issues. An example not necessarily associated with aggression is barking at the door when someone comes or barking at something passing by the house.

Boredom- Dogs who are frequently left tied out or in an enclosure often begin to bark for no apparent reason other than they are bored, ignored and under-stimulated. Left without remedy, it can develop into a chronic issue, that is very difficult to correct. That is one of many reasons why you should never tie your dog out or leave it in a pen for long periods of time. No, the dog is not happier outside... bring the dog in the house or don't get a dog.

They Bark, I bark- If your dog hears barking, it will often bark back. Having more than one dog in the same household, it is important to stop all dogs from barking if you want to fix the issue.

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So, how do you correct barking? First, it is important to identify the cause(s). For example, if your dog barks when you leave him alone, the solution is very much different than if he is barking at someone walking by the house. If your dog barks and howls when you leave, please check out my other article on separation anxiety, which can be found here. The most important thing you can do when dealing with barking or any other behavioural issues is to BE CONSISTENT! If you are only correcting the behaviour half the time, the problem may get a little better, but it will never be fully eliminated or reduced. Remember, every time you provide a correction, use a stern, sharply toned verbal reprimand at the same time as your physical correction. Aim for tone, not volume.

If your dog is barking incessantly in the house, or in the car, there are three simple, low-cost ways of dealing with barking: shake can, spray bottle or leash correction. If your dog barks, correct him every time and once he has stopped for a FEW seconds, praise him. It is very important to not praise your dog immediately after, as he could actually think he was being rewarded for barking! If he barks again, correct him again.

A shake can is an aluminium pop or beer can. Clean it out, and put 5 pennies, or pebbles, or BBs... whatever is loud when clanged against metal. Tape up the top and put it somewhere easy to grab. Timing is very important when administering a correction. RIGHT when the dog starts barking, shake the can loudly right at him. If the dog is startled, he will stop barking. If he stops barking, praise him and then wait. If he continues his barking, shake the can again, and if he stops, praise. Repeat as necessary as long as there is improvement. If he is not bothered by it, or he thinks it is a toy, it will not bother him. Thus, the can is useless and should be discarded i.e. Recycled.

A spray bottle is a NEW bottle, and not an old cleaner spray bottle. You can get one at most stores. Make sure it sprays in the stream setting and not the mist. Mist is good if you are giving your dog a Summer spa treatment, but if you are trying to correct him, it has to be a bit more unpleasant. So, wash out the bottle, put plain tap water or distilled water in it, and every time the dog barks, spray him right in the face. I don't like getting sprayed in the face, and a lot of dogs don't either. If it works, repeat as necessary. Make sure you place it somewhere where the dog frequently starts barking, so that you can quickly grab it if he starts up. If the dog bites at the stream, it isn't going to work, so discard it i.e. use it to water plants or put vinegar in it and mist it onto french fries or popcorn.

A physical correction will usually work if the other two easy ways don't. This involves leaving a short leash or a "tab" on the dog's collar, and every time the dog barks, you give the leash or tab a quick, short snap. Use enough force that the dog notices it. It won't hurt the dog at all, but it should snap him out of his barking frenzy. The dog should have the tab on or drag a short leash all the time, so that it is always available for correction. PLEASE take the leash or tab off when the dog is kennelled or not supervised for a length of time! Always remember, correct the barking, and when you get a few seconds of quiet, praise, praise, praise. Repeat the correction as necessary and don't blur the timing on the corrections and praise.
Once the dog is somewhat corrected for his barking fit at the door, take the dog to his bed, which should be placed in a corner of the adjacent room. Make him stay on his bed until you let him up. Keep a leash on him, and if he tries to get up, correct him, redirect him to the bed, and praise him once he is on it. Correct the barking and then control his actions afterwards by keeping him on his bed. When he is sufficiently humbled and under control, you may release him. Repeat as often as necessary.

What about the easy collars for lazy people? Citronella, sound, or shock collars are commonly use, often without much positive effect. They do work with some dogs, but they can actually take longer and the results not be as permanent as when the owner corrects it. Owner operated shock collars are quite effective for REALLY bad in-car barking, but the other methods should be tried first. It is important to effectively correct your dog, but you also have to be able to safely drive your car!

Some dogs learn very quickly, others it takes a bit to make it better, so if you are seeing some progress, continue. If it seems to have plateaued and you are no longer making any difference in the dog's behaviour, there needs to be an increased focus put into socializing. For example, if your dog barks a lot in the car, but he only goes in the car once a month, try going for a drive everyday with him for a month and try a variety of correction techniques to see if you can make an improvement. Don't forget to praise your dog when there is a FEW SECONDS of silence. It is very important to not praise your dog immediately after, as he could actually think he was being rewarded for barking! Some things just take hard work. Suck it up, and work on it for a while, and you'll have a more enjoyable relationship with your dog until the end of your days. Good luck!

Oct 30, 2011: Barking... why does my dog bark so much?
Polly barking (baying) at other dogs in play
With trick or treat only a day away, many dog owners are dreading the few hours of non-stop knocking and doorbell ringing, when their dogs will bark incessantly, with increasing intensity as the night wears on. The good news is that it IS correctable or at least way more manageable than the uncontrolled frenzy it is currently. Before we look at how to correct it, I should discuss the why.