HOW TO STOP MY DOG FROM BARKING TOO MUCH?
Having a dog in the home is a very effective deterrent for burglars. Of course, the canine’s size and intimidation factor play a role as well. But most of the time, even the barking of a smaller dog behind a fence or a door is enough to keep unwanted visitors at bay. For this reason alone, having a dog that alerts us when someone is approaching our front door is beneficial. But what if your dog is taking matters further – and barks far too much? How do you stop such undesirable “nuisance barking”? You can remedy unwanted barking as soon as today, and we will explain how in this article.
WHY IS MY DOG BARKING SO MUCH?
Barking is a form of communication used by different canine species, such as wolves, foxes, dingoes and coyotes. But domestic dogs have taken barking to an entirely new level: Whilst wild canines rarely bark, our house dogs can express a wide range of emotions and intentions with their vocalisations. The alert barking of a watchdog or guard dog, for example, can signal the approach of a potential threat. This could be someone sneaking along the fence-line, a car stopping outside the gate, or a fox trying to break into our chicken coop. Most owners would agree that short bursts of alert barking on such occasions are desirable.
But many dogs bark far more than is required. Excessive barking can be breed-related: Small terriers, Chihuahuas, or Pinschers, for example, are typically quite quick to raise their shrill voices. Energetic herding or sporting breeds like Belgian Shepherds, Border Collies or Pointers are equally prone to barking more than the average dog. Hounds like Beagles or Dachshunds also vocalise a lot, And large livestock guardian breeds such as Caucasian Ovcharkas or Turkish Kangals often bark without any apparent reason. This “preventative barking” is a flock guardian’s way of proactively keeping wolves and other predators away from their flock. But in a home environment, or in a suburban neighbourhood, such loud and prolonged barking is neither useful nor desirable.
In our Western world, many dogs simply bark out of separation anxiety, frustration, or boredom. After all, there is nothing much else to do for them: Left alone in the home (or outside in a kennel) whilst their owners are working, these dogs seem to entertain themselves with barking. Usually, they do not receive anywhere near enough daily exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction to fulfil their needs. Prolonged barking is neither enjoyable for the dog’s owners nor for their neighbours. And it certainly is not healthy for the dog, as it can irreparably damage their vocal cords.
TOOLS TO REMEDY EXCESSIVE BARKING
So, what can we do to keep our dogs from barking too much? In our experience with our clients, one of the best ways to counteract excessive barking is crate training. We want our dogs to perceive their crate as a comfortable den, as a safes space that induces a calm, relaxed state of mind. After all, a dog that is barking obsessively is not a calm, relaxed or happy dog. And not only do we want our canine companions to be quiet in the house – we also want them to be content. And we have seen over and over again how much a crate can contribute to a dog’s well-being.
One of the main reasons for “nuisance barking” is a lack of leadership. What this means is your dog does not perceive you as their leader. Instead, they are feeling the need to making their own decisions – such as barking at everyone who walks past the window, or at every noise in the distance.
Building a solid foundation of leadership is the best thing you can do for your dog: Having a loving leader in their lives alleviates dogs from the perceived burden of having to make their own decisions. Dogs do not want to do this. And the absence of a leader in their lives causes them tremendous stress. All too often, this stress expresses itself in loud barking. To address this core problem of lacking leadership.
Correct – Redirect - Reinforce
Of course, there are complementary tools you can use to discourage unnecessary barking. We have seen many people succeed with following the simple method of CRR: Correct – Redirect – Reinforce. One simple way to implement this method is to put a few treats into your pocket, and to have your trusted Ragnar Slip Leash to hand. You can even put the leash on your dog inside the home, and let them walk around with it: Because unlike conventional slip leads, this model is very safe for dogs. The Ragnar Slip Leash comes with an adjustable metal plate that keeps it from constricting too much around the neck. In this way, the leash allows for effective communication with your dog without putting their health at risk.
So, once you have the leash and a few tasty treats ready, you are prepared for the next episode of undesirable barking. Once it occurs, you instantly voice a verbal correction, such as a stern “Ah-ah-ah!”, or a “Leave it!”. Then, wait a moment to give your dog the opportunity to stop barking. If they continue, apply a short pop on the slip leash. Once they have ceased vocalising, you redirect them to a desirable action – such as going into their crate, or lying down on their dog bed. Once they show this desirable behaviour, you immediately mark it with a “Yes!”, and reinforce it with a tasty treat. Most dogs only need a few repetitions to understand that following your guidance works out to their advantage. And in the future, they will automatically connect triggers (such as people walking past the window, or hearing dogs barking in the distance) with the new behaviour of going into their crate or lying down on the dog bed.
Initially, you want to give them plenty of verbal praise, cuddles and treats whenever they are showing the desirable behaviour. But with time, you can phase out the treats: Once this new behaviour has become a habit, your dogs will repeat it more often by themselves. In this way, you have effectively modified the unwanted behaviour of barking at certain triggers.
The methods we have touched upon in this article work best when combined with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. And contrary to “quick fixes” like anti-bark collars, these methods (and programs) tackle the problem at a deeper level. Here at Fenrir, we want to address the root causes of any unwanted behaviour, and not simply put a “band-aid” on to supress the problem. For example, if an excessively barking dog’s accumulated nervous energy is being supressed by an anti-bark collar, this energy will seek other outlets. Such a dog can then turn to destructive chewing, digging, scratching, or show other undesirable behaviours. Unless the root causes for the obsessive barking are addressed, dogs can become even more anxious, stressed or aggressive than before.
And this completes our discussion on how to stop your dog from barking too much. As we have seen, some barking is useful, but once it escalates, we have to intervene. Obsessive barking is neither healthy for us nor for our dogs. But there are simple ways to counteract this behaviour. It may not happen overnight, but with patience and calm perseverance, you will succeed. Wherever you find yourself in your journey with your dog, please known that you are not alone: Our entire Fenrir team is dedicated to helping you and your canine companion to living the best lives possible.