The Star-Herald

Behind the barking

Dogs bark to communicate with each other and with their owners, but sometimes all that barking can get out of hand. Constant barking can fray a family’s nerves and create turmoil in a neighborhood.

But keep in mind that your dog is trying to tell you something by barking. Before you quiet him down, you will first need to figure out what he’s trying to say. The following and more tips can be found at everydayhealth.com. 

Dogs bark, among other reasons, to:

To protect their territory. Dogs guard their territory from people, other dogs, and animals. That territory includes your property, but it can also include other places where the dog has spent a lot of time.

Because they sense danger. The dog could be reacting to an alarming situation.

To communicate. Sometimes dogs bark to get attention from people.

Out of frustration. Barking can result from becoming frustrated by a situation, such as being in a confined space or being unable to locate an owner or playmate.

Because they’re anxious. A dog’s anxiety can be caused by separation from the dog’s owner.

Because they’re in pain. Barking can communicate pain caused by injury or illness.

To say hello. A friendly bark could be how a dog greets people or other dogs.

Try these solutions to address barking behavior.

Offer distractions. Bored dogs will be less inclined to bark if they are given plenty of toys to play with. If your dog is barking due to outside noises, playing the TV or radio while you’re away can drown out those sounds. A TV or radio also can help soothe separation anxiety.

Keep your dog active. A pooped pooch is less likely to overreact with a barking fit. Take your dog on regular walks or play fitness games like fetch or Frisbee.

Work your dog’s brain. Obedience training, either in a class or at home, can improve your dog’s ability to discern threats. It also can lay the groundwork for other anti-barking solutions that require more intensive training.

Teach the “quiet” command. Train your dog to respond to the word “quiet” by allowing three or four barks, then saying “quiet” in a calm, clear voice. When you say “quiet,” break the barking jag by holding his muzzle gently, dropping a loud object that distracts him or squirting him in the face with a spray bottle of water. In this instance, you could use a manually-controlled bark collar as a distraction method. Eventually your dog will learn that “quiet” means he should stop barking.

Change up his routine. A dog barking compulsively or out of boredom might stop if you make some changes. If he is being kept in a backyard and barking there, bring the dog indoors and place him in a crate. If the dog is barking because he’s confined in a crate, try leaving him free in one room of your house.

Teach them how to meet and greet. A dog that barks when greeting can be trained to meet people and other dogs more gently. Be sure to keep greetings at your front door very low-key and calm. Keep a toy near the door and encourage your dog to pick it up and hold it in his mouth before opening the door. On walks, distract your dog when passing other people or dogs by offering a tasty treat.

Don’t reward barking. Above everything else, don’t inadvertently encourage barking through your own behavior. Don’t reward barking by giving the dog a treat after he has barked. Only treat when the dog has been quiet. Also, don’t encourage barking at outside noises by asking, “Who’s there?”

Training can be a lengthy process, but in the end you will improve your relationship with your dog and be better able to make sure his needs are met.  Please be responsible, spay and neuter your pets.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board of directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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