Barking is an important form of communication. Dogs bark as a way to ‘talk’ with other dogs and communicate with us. In your house, your dog uses his super-sensitive awareness, hearing, sense of smell…to alert the pack of possible danger. At the same time, barking serves the purpose of telling the intruder they’ve been noticed.
Barking is like crying or yelling in humans – too much barking is a sign of stress or some kind of problem. A dog that barks all the time is probably not feeling confident. Take the time to understand why your dog is barking and teach him to be calm and relaxed. This is the foundation of the KC Dawgz training system.
Determining Why Your Dog is Barking
Is your dog barking because she; is nervous, overly protective, or demanding attention?
Barking, aside from an alerting bark, is usually due to some kind of frustration. Nervous dogs might bark at a person or other dog because they want them to go away. Dogs, just like humans, have a “fight or flight” response when they feel threatened or unsafe. Many dogs learn that barking will make scary things go away. As this works more and more, the behavior becomes stronger and stronger (it is being reinforced). On the flip side of nervous/fearful dogs are overly protective dogs. This type of dog might bark at people or other animals as a way to keep them from being able to hurt their owners or themselves. Unfortunately, dogs cannot always tell who they should or shouldn’t protect their owners from. The longer this behavior goes on, the stronger it gets. Just like the previous example, it is being reinforced as something that works every time the barking makes someone back away. Dogs who bark to seek attention typically learn this behavior as puppies. If you have ever heard of kids “acting out” to get some attention (even if it is negative attention), this is the dog version. When we make our dog the center of attention too often, they start to get frustrated when our attention is on something else. Having a good balance between being engaged with our dogs and letting them be independent is key to avoiding this. If it is already a problem, you can find some things for them to do during times that your attention needs to be elsewhere. Puzzle toys, a play date, daycare, anything that lets them get some mental and physical stimulation will help them learn to be able to do things on their own. In the meantime, we shouldn’t give attention when they are barking at us. If they get what they want by barking, they will be more likely to continue to do it in the future. Wait it out until they stop (it may take a bit at first), and then give them attention once they are calm and quiet. Repeating this throughout the day will help them to make the connection that barking makes the attention stay away, but being calm ad quiet makes the attention come back.
Having a Training Plan
Coping Strategy – When you have time to train make it a “training moment”.
Interrupt and Manage – When there’s NOT time to train, stop the barking and manage.
Refocus – Ideally, you can teach your dog to listen to you during stressful situations.