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Curbing the Instinct of Barking in Dogs

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Barking is a natural form of canine communication. As with many behavior problems, sometimes the natural instincts develop into unacceptable behavior.

To curb the instinct, you have to determine why your dog is barking. This chapter will provide help to determine the root of the behavioral barking.

Nuisance barking.

The primary reason for nuisance barking is to get your attention. This behavior interrupts meals, phone calls, and quiet leisure time. Seemingly, your dog is bored and desires some stimulation.

Remove the cause and effect. If your dog barks to command you, don't respond. If your dog barks at you and you pick up the ball and play fetch, your dog has now trained you. Change the pattern. If your dog barks at you, perform three to five minutes of obedience commands, and then (if your dog cooperates) play.

The harder your dog tries to make a certain point, the further away she should be from achieving the goal. Repeated barking should be met with removal from the social situation (crated).

One of the easiest ways to correct nuisance barking when your dog isn't under leash control is a bark collar. Bark collars administer an automatic correction when your dog barks. As with remote collars, bark collars come in a variety of styles and should be properly researched before purchasing.

Bark collars should only be used with nuisance-related barking. Using a bark collar for stress-related barking or threat barking may make the problem worse.

Threat barking.

All dogs have basic territorial instincts, stronger in some breeds than others. Barking usually stops after the threat is taken away. Boundary agitation can
strengthen the response intensity and is typically a contributor to uncontrolled threat barking. Remove boundaries for boundary agitation.

You probably will have an easier chance at changing the color of your dog’s fur before you can extinguish a truly territorial dog’s bark. But with proper conditioning, your dog should stop barking after the leader says enough! When your dog barks (and there is a reason to bark), praise him for the initial response. Next, tell him to “sit” to create a new thought path. If your dog continues to bark, correct with “no” and cue him with “quiet” and “sit.” Praise as soon as your dog stops barking. Timing is crucial. Catch your dog on the first bark.

Remove the visual stimulus. Prevent your dog from “patrolling” your house. If your dog insists on pacing from room to room, tether or post him with obedience commands. Reduce the intensity of the territorial response by counter-conditioning the boundary/agitation aspect of the behavior problem.

Stress-related barking.

Stress-related barking is triggered by a visual or noise stimulus that causes an anxiety response and barking. How can we tell stress barking from territorial barking? Stress-related barking will not stop once the stimulus has passed because the resulting stress remains in the dog.

Most stress-related barking starts as simple territorial barking. Not knowing how to properly address the barking, the owners introduce a negative stimulus like yelling, penny cans, bark collars, or spray bottles. The negative stimulus of the “quick fix” gradually attaches a negative emotional response with the territorial instinct, thus creating the barking.

To address stress barking properly, you will have to address both the threat-barking response along with counter-conditioning to the trigger. The counter conditioning should be done when a real territorial threat (e.g., visitor) is not present. A strong foundation as a leader will be essential for your dog to defer to your redirection.

When Barking Becomes a Nuisance

Barking is a natural way for dogs to express themselves — it's a component of their language. Nobody would ever dream of “training away” or “punishing away” a feline that meows or a horse that whinnies. However, many people think that dogs shouldn't be permitted to bark or growl.

First of all you must realize and accept that dogs also have a language, and that a part of that language is to produce sounds. It's as simple as that. But considering that, it must be admitted that vocal expressions in dogs can produce powerful dimensions, and can be an issue for their surroundings including the people in the neighborhood.

The main element to obtaining a solution to this is to learn to identify the point where barking has become exaggerated due to a need for attention, stress, or has changed into a “yelling” because no one listened when the dog tried to “talk” in a more normal way. It may happen in an isolated situation or it may be chronic. But in either case, if you have stress involved, it often comes out through the mouth.

No matter what the cause is, you can do something about it. You have to find the reason for the problem, what kind of barking you are confronted with, and understand the circumstances around it. Then you can identify ways to minimize the barking, remove whatever caused it, and in that way, get control of the problem.

The aim should not be to stop all barking for good. You should not be trying to take away from dogs the language they naturally have. The goal should be to get it down to a level and intensity that you can live with and that permits the dog to act in a way that is natural to him. And, of course, you need to look at your own reactions to a particular barking event since you may be over-reacting.

Increased Vocalization in Dogs

Troublesome Crying, Whimpering and Barking:

Substantial vocalization means unmanageable, excessive barking, whining or crying, often occurring at inappropriate times of the night or day. Such vocalization may be as a result of pain, illness, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), or could be associated with a decline in hearing in senior pets.

CDS is frequently linked to night waking, during which excessive vocalization takes place. Dogs that are bred for work and high energy activities may be susceptible to excess barking.

Excessive barking can also be related to behavioral conditions, which may be managed by behavior modification training. Additionally, there are some breeds that are more well-known for excessive and inappropriate barking. Many breeds of terrier, like the Yorkshire and Silky terriers, are inclined to barking without cause and may make the most of behavioral modification training.

Indicators and Types:

Night vocalizations in senior dogs:
Excessive barking in working-breed dogs Excessive barking in high energy, nervous dogs Vocalization brought on by pain or illness Vocalization troublesome to owners or others (neighbors)

Health-related: disease, pain, CDS Anxiety or conflict Alarm barking – as a result of novel stimuli Territorial – warning or guarding reaction to sounds from outdoors Social or attention-seeking behavior that is bolstered by verbal commands or return of owner to room Distress vocalization (like howling or whining) – usually because of separation from mother, family, social group or owner Growling may be linked to antagonistic displays Stereotypical behaviors or compulsive disorders Breed – genetic characteristics

If your dog's increased vocalization is unusual, you will need to have health problems eliminated before considering behavior modification. The vet can perform a full medical work-up, including a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, urinalysis and electrolyte panel, plus a complete physical exam.

Possible incidents that may have led to this situation is likewise considered, and a complete history of your dog's behavioral health prior to the symptoms will be considered.

It is important to rule out a non-behavioral, physical reason behind the vocalization first. Imaging can be useful for ruling out medical/neurological disorders.

A strategy must be developed which is personalized to suit your dog and your personal living situations, your household, and the sort of problem, being sure to try and resolve the underlying cause before behavioral modifications will begin.

Don't reinforce the vocalization. This consists of punishing the behavior, which is still considered to be attention. Instead, favorably reward your dog when he is calm and quiet and lead by example by remaining calm too. Also, counter-condition your dog to calm down when stimulated. Training your dog to be quiet on command will be the priority.

To stop your dog from becoming familiar with the attention received by barking or crying, a quiet response can be reinforced using head halters, bark-activated alarms, bark activated citronella collars, and disruptive devices such as alarms or water sprayers.

Another way that's been used to some success is to desensitize the dog to the outside stimuli using food treats until the response threshold is very high. Becoming more tuned in to the triggers that induce your dog to bark excessively will assist you to distract your dog before he becomes excited or anxious.

Medications may be advised if there's real anxiety, discord, excessive responsiveness to stimuli or a compulsive disorder.

The dog must be brought back to the vet or to a behavior specialist to change the program according to your dog's particular response. Obedience training, head halter training and quiet command training are often effective in dogs.

Dogs should be habituated and socialized to a variety of stimuli and environments throughout development, including to other people and pets. This desensitizes the animal to novel experiences, reducing anxiety, and over-excitation.

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