Barking is as natural to dogs as talking is to humans. It’s how they communicate their needs and wants to you and to each other. Given that this is a naturally occurring method of communication for dogs, there are many different reasons why dogs bark and you should learn about those reasons before you attempt to curb the behavior. Incessant barking is annoying and can be a nuisance, particularly if you live with other people, but it can be mitigated — and there are many methods you can try before resorting to anti-barking devices which many perceive as inhumane. You just need to provide your dog with the right tools to learn that the incessant isn’t okay and it will be disciplined.
The first step in this process is to identify why the behavior is occurring. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what the root cause of it is. Dogs bark for all kinds of reasons: boredom, pain, feeling threatened (either themselves or you, as they are territorial animals), hunger, stress. It is their method of communication, and you need to address why that behavior is happening before you can fix it.
Identify the reason why
If you suspect your dog is barking due to boredom, then make sure that they get outside more often. If there’s a tense emotional situation in your household — say lots of arguing that sets the dog off, then remove yourself from the home to argue. It is unfair to the animal that they should suffer because of the dysfunctional relationship around them. If you suspect that they are barking because they are in pain, be sure to get them to a vet right away.
Sometimes dogs bark for attention, particularly younger puppies. If you think your dog is barking to get attention, try ignoring them. Let them keep barking and don’t engage. If they’re in a crate — as some dogs are — then let them bark once you put them in there. Eventually, they’ll learn that barking won’t get them anywhere and cease the behavior. Every time the behavior stops, go to them and reward them for being good and stopping barking. If it begins again, simply ignore it. The silent treatment doesn’t just work on humans.
If you find that your dog is a particularly active barker at other dogs whilst on a walk, it might be useful to carry a bag of treats and distract your dog once you see another dog approaching. This distraction technique takes their mind off the ‘threat’ and draws their attention towards you and their treats. Over time, they will eventually desensitize themselves to the presence of other dogs. They will simply become other dogs on the trail, rather than a threat. Or their fear will turn to curiosity, and they might make a new friend.
Call in a professional
Most of the time, you can curb your dog’s barking behavior on your own. However, if your dog displays aggressive tendencies towards humans, whether that’s yourself or your family — or, worst of all, children — it is definitely time to call in professional help. You should also call in a professional if you feel as though your dog is overly aggressive with other dogs, too. Certified dog trainers know dog psychology and useful techniques that they can use to help mitigate the circumstances that lead to the aggressive behavior and eventually (hopefully) help your dog to lose that aggression.
This doesn’t always work, but it might be worth rewarding your dog with something big if they’ve successfully curbed their barking behavior. A grooming session is (mostly) always a huge hit among all dogs. They love to be pampered, and your dog might even deserve it after curbing that annoying bark.
Many things contribute to a dog’s behavior, and learning what those triggers are and how to manage them will ultimately help you help your dog lead a more productive, healthy life. As mentioned before, barking is as natural to dogs as talking is to humans but learning when to ‘talk’ is an acquired skill.
Remember to be firm but fair when you discipline your dog. Nobody learns by harshness and anger. Remember to look inward when trying to figure out why your dog is barking so much. Consider their environment, their eating habits, their exercise routine. Also consider everything that might make a difference to their behavior and could trigger that bark response.
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