We all know that person who likes to talk or is a little louder than most people are comfortable with. After a while you get used to it or avoid them, but when that ‘person’ is your dog – it can cause more problems than your chatty neighbor or loud workmate. According to the Los Angeles Times, in the city a dog’s barking would be considered excessive if it continued for 10 minutes or more, or intermittently for 30 minutes or more within a three-hour period – fines start at $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third.
If your furry family member annoys your neighbors you could be looking at some serious fines, so here is some tips to try to help your dog be a better neighbor or family member.
First you have to figure out WHY your dog barks. It’s unreasonable to expect a dog to NEVER bark, after all, it is one of the main ways they communicate. But dogs are very sensitive to human emotion and have their own emotional needs that can cause aberrant behavior.
• They could be overly territorial or protective. Being territorial and protective is natural for a dog but can become obsessive, especially if you live in a neighborhood that has a lot of other dogs or people who have to come close to your door. This could also be a fear or alarm reaction
• Boredom or loneliness is also a reason. Dogs are social animals and without their pack they may become bored or sad and will bark because they are unhappy. In extreme cases this could become separation anxiety and lead to compulsive barking. If it gets that far it could also lead to other inappropriate behaviors like destructiveness, and pooping in the house. They also may make repetitive movements like running in circles or pacing.
• Too much energy is another reason for your dog to bark when you’re not home. If this is a problem you’re having try to take your dog for a walk or play with them before you leave.
• WebMD advises there also can be some medical problems that can cause your dog to bark. Medical problems can include things like ongoing pain from a bee sting or thistle caught in their fur close to the skin. Or even something as serious as brain disease. It’s always good to have a veterinarian check to see if there is a medical reason
Controlling your dog’s behavior takes some patients, and consistency with your own behavior. Also keep in mind that the longer you allow it to go on, the more it will develop into a habit. Deal with it as a problem as soon as you see it rather than waiting till it becomes a problem for your neighbors as well as you. Here are some ideas you may want to keep in mind:
• Shouting stimulates your dog to bark more as they sometimes think you are joining in. Try to speak calmly and firmly and teach them as you would any other command. If you teach them the word “Quiet” don’t yell “Shut up” when they bark
• Don’t encourage your dog to bark at the door or when you come home by winding them up. Be consistent. Set a time limit for them to bark at the doorbell if they do that naturally but don’t encourage them to be aggressive at strangers.
• If your dog responds to the command by being quiet, then give them attention or a treat. Practice this behavior when your dog is calm as well as when they are excited.
• For barking due to territorial issues, alarm or protective instincts, it can be limited by limiting what your dog can see. Put a covering over fences or limit access to windows inside your home. Or cover the windows them with opaque film or some kind of covering on the outside of the window that can’t be easily pushed aside.
• Providing something for your dog to do during the day – or if at all possible, finding a doggie day care – is a good idea for bored or anxious dogs.
• Crating your dog during the day or putting them in a smaller room may keep them from seeing outsiders but may also cause other issues like boredom when they didn’t have them before.
• If your dog barks excessively when the doorbell rings or when you come home try to redirect their energy by training them to go to their crate or bed until called or train them to come to the door and sit down. Try to make it a game if possible.
• For the dog who barks for attention, the worst thing you can do, is give it to them. That will only teach them that they should bark whenever they want something. Some ideas to get your attention might be a bell on the door handle or to bring you something like a leash.
• Desensitize your dog if possible. Have a friend bring their dog over and walk past your house several times or ring the doorbell several times in a row.
• For extreme cases where other methods have failed, you may want to consult a veterinarian about possible medications that can be used while you try again with the other methods.
There are also some special collars that deliver a shock, an ultrasonic sound burst, or a sudden spray of air or water. Some of these will work on some dogs but there are no guarantees. Clever dogs learn the sound level they can get away with before getting a shock, learn to ignore the sound burst and learn to put up with the sprays until the collar runs out and then bark at will. Collars like this might also lead to aggressive behavior toward what they are barking at, as the pain and anger caused by the collar are transferred to what the dog is seeing or could lead to quiet but destructive behavior like chewing or clawing.
Finally – the very controversial topic of debarking – or surgically altering of a dogs vocal cords that will remove most of the sound when a dog barks and leaves them only with a raspy or whispering sound. Per WebMD this procedure can lead to complications that can be life threatening by making breathing difficult and leads to higher incidents of choking and ongoing pain. This is not only NOT recommended but has been has even been known to not work with a few instances of dogs regaining their bark after a time.
Remember that barking is the way of communicating pain, excitement, or even just boredom and loneliness for your dog. Remember to try and be patient and understand WHY your dog feels a need to bark and treat the cause not the just the annoying noise.