Dogs bark for a lot of different reasons. They bark when they’re excited that their owners are coming home, and they bark to share feelings of happiness and fear. Dogs bark to get attention, to deliver warnings, and to ask for food. They’ll bark when they are surprised or in pain. Sometimes, growling and barking is a show of anxiety or feeling territorial. These are warnings that your dog feels there’s a problem. Unfortunately, dogs also bark when they get bored.
Identify the Reasons for Barking
Depending on how much dogs bark, owners and the neighbors may be annoyed, concerned, or even angry about the unwanted noise. Before trying to stop your dog from barking, it’s important to get to the bottom of why your dog’s barking. One good way to figure out why your dog’s barking is to pay attention to her body language. If your dog is jumping at her leash, she’s probably bored and reading for some exercise. If she’s licking herself and whining accompanies the barking, your dog is probably in pain.
Take Your Dog for Walks
Making sure that your dog has plenty of exercise is a great way to prevent barking before it happens. When you take your dog outside to walk, he gets fresh air, feels healthier, and enjoys some mental stimulation. If your dog is home alone all day, consider hiring a dog walker to stop by during your absence.
Reduce Distractions While You’re Gone
Many trainers recommend that dog owners set up an environment that provides appropriate distractions while dogs are home alone. Some suggestions include leaving a familiar television show playing or turning on the radio. You should also close the curtains and blinds, so your dog isn’t tempted to bark when the mail comes or when the neighbor’s cat jumps into the yard. Puzzles also offer some distraction from boredom.
Set Up Positive Interactions
Dogs often bark at people or animals they don’t know. The best way to avoid this situation is to set up positive experiences with people who come to the door, the mailperson, and people you pass while walking. You don’t need to wait for someone to come over; set up playdates and opportunities to meet people and other dogs. Bark prevention techniques that are delivered with praise and affection are more effective than other techniques.
Respond to Inappropriate Barking
When barking is already a problem, you have a couple of options. First, don’t give your dog attention until he’s quiet. Wait until the barking has stopped before opening the door, handing out a treat, or offering some food. Remember to provide positive reinforcement when behaviors are appropriate. Next, spend time working on the “quiet” command. Stay calm when speaking the command and give your dog a treat and plenty of affectionate praise when he responds.
As a dog owner, you already know that dogs bark, and maybe you’ve figured out why your dog barks. When this behavior becomes inappropriate and annoying, however, you know that it’s time to get to the root of the problem. You can use a variety of preventative and training techniques to consistently and positively correct problem behavior and reinforce appropriate behavior.