Ending Problem Barking, Part 1: Preventing Overstimulation
Barking and other vocalizations are some of the ways your dog communicates with the world. In place of words, it is his voice. Barking, growling, howling, whining and whimpering are ways that dogs express excitement, anger, fear and other strong emotions. Within the context of their understanding, dogs use their vocalizations to communicate with varying pitches, tones and frequencies depending on a situation.
As we all know, however, sometimes a dog simply likes the sound of their own voice. Barking itself is most commonly an indication of excitement if a dog isn’t fighting or being aggressive. Seeing you, other humans, other dogs, cars or even a loud television can set some dogs off on quite the tangent. This five-part series will tackle the reasons dogs bark excessively and how to stop a dog from barking at inappropriate times.
Stop Counterproductive Training Methods
It’s easy to get annoyed at a barking dog when they simply won’t seem to stop. However, this annoyance and frustration can often lead to some problematic human behaviors. By not focusing on appropriate training methods, dog owners often set training back significantly and decrease the likelihood that Fido or Rover will respond to the training in the long term.
Yelling at your dog is the biggest no-no among these bad behaviors. At worst, your dog will be terrified, and that fear is not conducive to learning. Imagine being screamed at by a teacher as a child, and you’ll remember how easy it is to take away motivation and focus with fear. At best, your pup will think that you’re just barking with her, trying to be a member of the pack, and she will only bark more loudly to add to the cacophony.
When you’re training your dog, always maintain a casual yet positive and pleasant tone that asserts dominance without aggression, frustration or fear creeping into your voice. Do not approach dog training sessions if you’re already in a bad mood or tense – the likelihood of any good coming from the session is minimal. Your dog requires consistency to learn, and that consistency includes your mood and tone.
Understanding Reasons Dogs May Bark
One aspect of your dog’s problem barking that must be examined is what, if anything, the barks are directed at. If your dog is prone to get overstimulated when he sees cars go by or another animal in the neighborhood, it is your responsibility to remove your dog from that stimulus in order to cause the barking to cease. Often, dogs left outside for long hours develop negative barking behaviors that can lead to complaints from neighbors. It is crucial that as your dog’s caregiver, you make an effort to diminish your dog’s exposure to stimuli that trigger problem barking.
Dogs barking in a problematic way can stem from a number of sources. Amusingly, one of the reasons you may be hearing your dog bark is that they are, in fact, training you. If you often give your pup a treat, extra food or cave to a specific demand when he or she won’t stop barking, it’s time to stop. This reward for negative behavior defeats the purpose of training completely. You should know, however, that there are certain training methods that can and do use treats as a part of effectively discouraging excessive barking, which will be discussed later in the series. It is also important to note that removing stimulus that makes your dog bark is not a reward, as the stimulus itself rewards the dog by providing a reason to excessively vocalize.
Long Term Training Success
As we’ve established, one of the most important things about training your dog is consistency. If your dog’s problem barking is caused by overstimulation due to extended time outdoors unsupervised or access to constant views of high traffic areas, consistently making sure that your dog is indoors and out of view of these areas during times when lots of people or animals will be near is essential to this training method succeeding. Doing it one day and forgetting the next won’t help your dog because he can only learn through routine to feel calm and stop barking excessively.
Additionally, other members of your household should be aware of the training taking place with your canine and participate fully in making sure that they are in safe and quiet places during overstimulating times of day when problem barking occurs. This provides a full range of consistency in the training and increases the likelihood that it will be successful.