Barking in Dogs

Barking in Dogs


There are numerous reasons why a dog will bark.  Therefore, it can be a difficult behaviour to modify.  The following are reasons why dogs bark:

  • Inherited behaviour of all dogs
  • Learned behaviour: Dogs will bark in order to get something.  When that behaviour is rewarded dogs will continue this behaviour (ex: when your dog barks at the mailman, then the mailman leaves)
  • Territorial defense: Dogs will bark when their territory is threatened.  This is an inherited behaviour and may be difficult to eliminate. (ex: dogs that bark when strangers or other animals approach the yard)
  • Play
  • Stereotypic barking: Some dogs may bark as a method of dealing with conflict or stress.  It is similar to a person biting their fingernails which can be a difficult habit to eliminate.

Whether there is one cause or multiple causes as to why your dog barks, here are some tips to help eliminate the problem:

  1. Eliminate any reward the dog may be receiving for barking: You may have to totally ignore your dog.  Do not look at, speak to or touch your dog while he is barking. (If you give in and yell at the dog after 15 minutes of barking you are only reinforcing the bad behaviour).
  2. Train the dog to come, sit and stay: Use these commands when a situation arises to cause your dog to bark.  Try and have the dog in the command before the event occurs. (If you know someone is coming over have them wait in the drive way until you have your dog in the sit and stay command, then allow the guests to come in the house.) 
  3. Change the environment to prevent the situation that causes your dog to bark: For dogs that bark while they are outside, keep them in the house or set up an area in your back yard where they cannot see people walking by.
  4. Bark Collars: There are bark collars available that will sense the vibration in the dogs throat as he is barking.  These collars will either expel a citronella scent or produce a shock when the dog barks.  We recommend using the collars with a warning beep that sounds before the shock or the spray occurs.  Over time your dog will learn that once he hears the sound of the beep, a negative reinforcement will follow.  This makes training easier and will help reduce the amount of negative reinforcement your dog is subjected to.

Barking can be a difficult habit to break but with time and patience it can successfully be achieved.  If you have any questions or concerns please contact us at the Town and Country Animal Clinic at (519) 250-0099.

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