How to Deal With Your Barking Dog

by Ragtimelil

Dogs bark for a lot of reasons. It can have consequences for the owner, however. Here's some ideas for putting an end to excessive barking.

Barking is what dogs do. It’s one way they communicate. It has its downside however. For dog owners living in apartments or have near neighbors, barking can be a nuisance and have unpleasant consequences. Dog owners can be fined or asked to get rid of their dog. I’ve been through the trials of having barking dogs myself and have learned a little about coping with it.

Why Dogs Bark

Sometimes, when I take my dogs out for a walk, my neighbor is also walking her small breed puppy. My dogs would stop and say hello, but the puppy hits the end of the leash and goes into a barking frenzy that lasts until he’s taken out of sight. The woman sometimes will stop and reach down and pet the dog. I know she’s trying to calm him down, but what she is really doing, is rewarding him for barking.

Dogs bark for a lot of reasons. It might be to get attention, boredom, anxiety, fear, or go in or outside. The first step is to teach the dog to be quiet on command. I start a young dog out by teaching him what the word quiet means. I enjoy clicker training and generally start with that. I distract him from barking with a treat or toy and click and treat when he stops barking.

Clicker Training

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Put it On Command

For dogs who bark or whine out of stress, it can be harder to get them to stop long enough to reward them. I honestly think a dog who whines constantly out of stress doesn’t even realize what he is doing. Punishing him for it just creates confusion and more stress.

 In this case, I recommend putting the barking or whining on command. Then you can teach the quiet command easily. When the dog is barking or whining, give them a command for it and reward them. It sounds counter intuitive to reward the dog for what you don’t want them to do, but once they do it on command, you can reverse your approach and teach the quiet command. Then you can start to ignore the barking and whining and concentrate on the quiet.

More About Clicker Training

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Barking When People are at the Door

There are situations in which I do want a dog to bark. I might want people to know I have dogs.  It’s fine if they bark at the door as long as they stop when I tell them to be quiet. You can train them to be quiet on command with a clicker and treat or toy. Have someone come to the door several times so you can set up for a practice. 

 

Barking to Come In or Go Out

Many people want their dog to bark to let them know when they want to go in and out. It’s a system that has been in place for generations and it works. The only thing is that the dog gets the idea that barking is an acceptable way to get what he wants. He may have been put out in his kennel or a fenced yard to stay for a while. He might stand there and bark until someone comes to let him in.

Another solution would be to teach the dog to hit a bell hanging on the door. That would be his signal to go in or out. Then, when the owner wants the dog to stay in or out, he simply removes the bell.

 

Bells and Chimes

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Barking at Other Dogs

Barking at other dogs is generally a sign of lack of socialization. The best remedy is to get the dog out around other dogs as much as possible. Enroll in an obedience class, or take him to a dog park if he’s young enough or sociable enough.

Barking When Left Alone

This is a particularly difficult situation since the owner is not home to teach the dog to be quiet. This was my particular dilemma. At one time I had a kennel full of Border collies. My dogs knew better than to bark when I was home, and there was no need to. They might bark if someone came to the door, but they always stopped politely when I told them I had things under control. When I left, it was another story.

A couple of my dogs had a touch of separation anxiety and would express it by barking. They would escalate into a fight if I left them together. I tried keeping them in a kennel where they could see each other but not fight. That Barking Colliewasn’t a great idea. They developed the habit of fence fighting. That is running up and down the fence raging at each other. That got everyone else barking. The neighbors weren’t too happy. (Sometimes, even if the gate was open, my two girls would race to opposite sides of the fence just so they could fence-fight.)  Putting up a barrier so they couldn’t see each other helped somewhat but didn’t end the barking.

 

\dogI tried many solutions. I gave them toys. I left the radio on. I tried driving a sort distance down the street and walking back. They were never barking. I tried stopping up the street and tiptoeing to the house. Same thing – no barking. Once I left a tape recorder running. Yes, they barked long and loud.

There are several devices on the market that claim to stop dogs barking with an ultra sonic tone. I tried one and couldn’t say it made much difference. It might work for other dogs but not for mine. A student of mine tried the citronella spray no-bark collar. Barking triggers a quick spray of citronella which dogs supposedly don’t like. She didn’t think it did much for her dog either. I decided to save my money. Like a lot of remedies, it might work on one dog but not another

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Petsafe GentleSpray Citronella Anti-Bark Dog Collar

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Bark Collars

I finally resorted to an electronic bark collar. I picked one that would not activate if another dog barked. It also had a variable response and didn’t activate on one single bark. In other words, the dog could bark once or twice. If they continued, they would receive a mild response. If they continued, they would receive a stronger one. I didn’t expect, or want, my dogs to be totally silent. I did want them to stop the excessive, frenzied barking. I bought three collars from Innotek and (after conditioning them to the collars) put them on the worst barkers when I left the house. The complaints from the neighbors stopped.

The interesting thing about these collars is that some dogs, mine included, learn to bark “around” the collar. In other words, they would bark when they knew they wouldn’t get a shock or only a mild one that didn’t bother them. Then they would stop long enough for the collar to reset. It did stop the frenzy barking though so my neighbors were happy.

No Bark Collars

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A Last Resort

A last resort is a surgical procedure called debarking. Some tissue is removed from the vocal cords so that the dog barks at a reduced volume. The surgery is less invasive than having the animal spayed or neutered.

There are, however, some drawbacks to this solution. One is that sometimes the vocal cord will repair itself and grow back. The second drawback is that for a dog that is trained for an activity which requires physical exertion, it is possible for scar tissue to interfere with the intake of air. People who race sled dogs, for example, would never do this procedure on their dogs. Debarking is outlawed in the UK and in some states in the US. There are some exceptions when the dog is in danger of losing his home or life, and no other solution has worked.

Updated: 07/18/2012, Ragtimelil
 
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Ragtimelil on 08/03/2012

I think you'd get in trouble for some of these solutions. Try clicker training...haha

Tolovaj on 08/03/2012

Good tips on dealing with barking dogs. any idea on screaming kids?
;)

Ragtimelil on 07/24/2012

Yes, I have a neighbor now that I've asked to listen for my dogs and tell me if the pup is barking. I'm trying to wean him off the collar but don't want him to fall into the habit again. She has been a great help in training him.

dustytoes on 07/24/2012

I would definitely talk to the neighbors about it first. I agree Lana that they might not even realize it. Staying friendly with neighbors is important!

Ragtimelil on 07/20/2012

I really would talk to the neighbors. If, like mine, the dogs only bark when they are gone, they may not realize it. They might be able to leave the dogs in the house. You can even tape it if it gets too bad. I would rather only complain to the dog officer if nothing else works. I had a neighbor who lived a half a mile away and called the police about my dogs often enough that I got a fine. (Funny the neighbors across the street never heard them...but that's another story...)

katiem2 on 07/20/2012

I have two older dogs who have proven these methods to work. They only bark to alert us if someone is on our property. Your helpful techniques really do work. Great help for barking dogs. Now I just need to send this to a few of my neighbors, they leave and the dog barks and barks. One of our neighbors called the police to report a noise complaint. It can be so annoying and disruptive. :)K

Ragtimelil on 07/18/2012

Have you talked to the owners? Sometimes the owners don't even realize their dogs are barking when they're not home. That happened to me more than once. Some of the ultra sonic devices are advertised to work on your neighbor's dogs. If all else fails.

dustytoes on 07/18/2012

Right across the street I have 2 dogs that sometimes bark for hours non-stop while their owners are away at work. It can get very annoying in summer when windows are open. I'm glad you were able to find something that worked for your dogs, and that you cared enough to do so.

Ragtimelil on 07/17/2012

That would certainly cure me of barking. ha. Have you tried a water pistol? Or a spritzer set on stream?

BrendaReeves on 07/17/2012

I have four dogs that go crazy every time they see someone go down the street. Two of them will even start howling. I've also heard that a fog horn will cure barking, and I'm going to try it.

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