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Why is my dog barking?

Dogs bark for a number of reasons, leaving many owners to wonder how best to solve the problem.  Paula Zukoff, Manager of Behavior and Training, addresses three primary causes of barking and how to work with each one:  


Fear

“For a fearful dog, it’s best to broaden their horizons so they’re not frightened by everything they come across.  Give them good experiences with different people, places and things and get them into a Gentle Leader.  It builds their confidence and helps control their barking.  It’s also helpful to give them a job.  They don’t need to worry because when they sit, great things happen and you can take care of the thing that has them scared.”

Boredom

“Dogs that are bored need more exercise and something to do.  When it comes to dogs, a few words to live by are ‘a tired dog is a good dog.’  Get them out to play, take them to the dog park or go for a walk.  You can also teach them tricks with positive reinforcement and give them a job.  Have them put the socks away, put dirty towels next to the laundry basket.  These things will stimulate their mind and leave them with less time to hang out and bark.”  

Territorial Behavior

“When your dog barks when anyone approaches your home or anytime he’s outside, territorial aggression may be the cause.  The best way to handle this is to fit him with a Gentle Leader, which is useful for both indoor and outdoor situations.  The first time he barks at someone outside, immediately take him back into the house.  Don’t let him practice barking at people, because he’ll get really good at it!  If it happens while inside the house, lift up on the Gentle Leader to close his mouth.  Stay consistent and repeat this until he stops.

“Territorial barking can be hard to eliminate because it is frequently – and unintentionally – reinforced.  When the mailman approaches, the dog thinks he’s putting on the greatest performance of his life.  “Watch me get this guy out of here with just a few barks!”  The mailman approaches, the dog barks.  The mailman deposits the mail and walks away.  The dog’s barking worked!” (from Animal Tracks, Spring/Summer 2009)

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