Barking is the way dogs express an emotion of some kind. In order to be able to reduce it, we need to know why the dog is barking. – Turid Rugaas, Barking: The Sound of A Language, Dogwise Publishing, 2008
OBJECTIVE: To resolve issues with a dog whose barking is disruptive.
Barking is one of many forms of communication for dogs. Some breeds of dogs have a tendency to bark more frequently than others. Barking is a complex behavior, meaning there are several reasons that your dog may bark. He may be barking to alert you that something or someone is approaching. He also may bark in order to obtain something such as a treat or attention. He may bark to tell you that he needs to go outside to go to the bathroom. Many dogs bark simply because they have been left alone and are frustrated, bored or anxious.
Like any behavior, a dog barks because they find the result of their barking to be rewarding. For example, your dog may bark repeatedly if they get anxious or upset when strangers enter their territory; like the postal carrier delivering the daily mail or children gathering at the end of the drive as they wait for the school bus. The dog barks and barks. “Intruder!!!” “Go away!!” Shortly thereafter the postal carrier and children leave, not because of your dogs barking, but that’s not how your dog sees it. From the dogs perspective he has just driven away the invaders in his territory. That is a huge reward! And if it is repeated 5 to 6 times a week, as it would be in the above example, it becomes even stronger every time it occurs. Lastly, some dogs can also bark for the pure joy of it. In this case, the behavior is self-reinforcing and can be even more difficult to control.
NOTE: Do NOT get into a barking contest with your dog. All too often we inadvertently contribute to our dogs barking by yelling (barking) back at them. If your dog does not stop barking and you yell louder, your dog gets more excited and thus barks more. It will rapidly become a vicious circle.
Punishing your dog for barking; yelling at them, throwing something at them, using a shake can or an anti-barking collar, or anything else that the dog may perceive as aversive, typically will not resolve the barking and will often make it worse. Aversives cause fear and anxiety, which are a common cause of excessive barking in dogs. Green Acres Kennel Shop as well as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) all strongly recommend against the use of aversives for training or behavior modification.
“This Task Force opposes training methods that use aversive techniques. Aversive training has been associated with detrimental effects on the human–animal bond, problem solving ability, and the physical and behavioral health of the patient. It causes problem behaviors in normal animals and hastens progression of behavioral disorders in distressed animals. Aversive techniques are especially injurious to fearful and aggressive patients and often suppress signals of impending aggression, rendering any aggressive dog more dangerous. Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior. Non aversive techniques rely on the identification and reward of desirable behaviors and on the appropriate use of head collars, harnesses, toys, remote treat devices, wraps, and other force-free methods of restraint. This Task Force strongly endorses techniques that focus on rewarding correct behaviors and removing rewards for unwanted behaviors.” – from the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines, published August 2015
As behaviorist Turid Rugaas so aptly noted in the quote at the beginning of this article, before we can deal with a dogs barking we first need to understand why they are barking. In her book Barking: The Sound of A Language, she recommends that the first step in getting your dogs barking under control is to keep a chart of your dogs barking so that you can better determine the cause. Such a chart might look like this:
Many people find it helpful to work with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) in developing a behavior modification plan to reduce excessive barking. Barking is the result of an emotional response so training the dog a new behavior will seldom be sufficient to resolve the barking unless we also help the dog to have a positive emotional response. Barking is complex and having a thorough understanding of normal and abnormal canine behaviors is often necessary to determine why the barking is reinforcing to the dog. You can learn more about Green Acres Behavior Consulting services at our website <click here> or by calling us at 207-945-6841.
Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)
Book Review: Barking: The Sound of a Language by Turid Rugaas – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/29/book-review-barking-the-sound-of-a-language-by-turid-rugaas/
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