Stopping a Barking Dog
Stopping a Barking Dog
How to Stop Your Dog Barking:
Let’s start from the bottom line that makes all the difference – one law for a guard dog and another law for a pet. When you adopted your dog did you want him to be a guard dog or a friend and companion for the family? Somebody for the children to run and play with, a house companion or somebody to ferociously defend the fortress? These two purposes are completely different and each one needs a different approach.
We set out on the assumption that we are not referring to a guard dog, but to a domestic animal with healthy instincts. In this case it is not recommended to stop the dog barking when someone knocks on the door as it is a natural trait for a territorial animal. The fear of an ‘in the face’ threat causes the dog to try and drive away the enemy by barking. What we need to achieve is that after the door is opened, the dog will stop barking and receive the visitor in a friendly way. We are also not keen for him to bark every time someone climbs the stairs, or at every dog in the street.
- The positive approach: if we are next to the dog when he barks try and distract his attention from the source of the barking with a treat or game he likes. Generally this is not a very effective method if the dog is genuinely frightened.
- The negative approach: hold the dog on a short leash close to his throat and bark back at him in human language –“Quiet”! As we pointed out before the dog is afraid, so why should we suppose that if he feels threatened by us that he would not become even more frightened? Even though he may stop barking, we will have broken his trust in us and damaged our relationship with him.
- The operative conditioning approach: When we are at home with the dog and he barks to warn off strangers, it is best to use a ‘slip’ chain (Link) with a light line several metres long attached to it. The line should be long enough to hold even when the dog is not near us. When the dog runs towards the source of noise, such as the window or the door, the line should be held at the maximum possible distance from us so that the dog can’t see us, jerk the line sharply and say ‘no’!! The dog will be surprised and turn towards us; at this point the dog should be called in an encouraging and friendly way. This way the dog does not associate us with the negative reaction, but will understand that when he barks in the house, something unpleasant happens. What to do when the dog is not with us? Apart from a good morning run that will tire him out for not more than a couple of hours, there is another more effective possibility: special collars. (Link) Despite the stigma attached to them, these devices don’t hurt the dog. They are, without question, more humane than shouting at the dog. Electric collars emit a short and not painful current when the dog barks, indicating to him that barking is a negative action. There are also collars that emit a high pitched whistle and others that spray lemon juice on the dog’s nose. In any case, and this point must be specially emphasised: check that the dog is not barking out of fear of abandonment or because of especially loud noises such as ambulances or fireworks. In such cases the methods explained will not only be ineffective but may also worsen the situation and should be referred to a dog behaviour specialist.
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