Nuisance barking can be quite a problem and we are often asked what to do about it.
Barking is perfectly natural for dogs, be it for warning, protection or expressing excitement it is still one of their most important forms of communication. Usually it is not very long lasting and is hardly a problem for most dog owners, they are after all just talking to you, just letting you know what’s on their mind.
But excessive barking on the other hand could be an inconvenience and is mostly caused by plain boredom or lack of stimulation.
Undoubtedly, this is a strong indication that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Our initial reaction is to ask ourselves what problems the dog has but what we really need to focus on is us, the humans! Ask yourself these questions: Do you give your dog enough stimulation and exercise? Could you unintentionally be encouraging the barking? Or could the problem simply be that your dog suffers from anxiety?
It mostly comes down to how you treat your dog when they are excited. How many of you pat your dog when they bark, telling them “there, there, it’s ok…” or if the dog is smaller, pick them up when they get excited over something.
Think about that for a second.
You are actually rewarding a behavior that your are trying to get rid of. This is called unintended positive reinforcement and it can do more harm than good.
Touching and patting your dog is rewarding for them, if you give them that reward when they are displaying a behavior we do not want to encourage you are in fact doing the opposite of what you want to achieve.
When clients ask us this question, the first thing that comes to our mind is to teach the dog how to bark. This might seem a bit confusing, but let us break it down for you.
If your dog learns what barking is and knows how to bark on cue, they will also learn what not-barking (i.e being quiet) is and you can just as easily have a command for that too.
Secondly, we want to point out the importance of exercise and stimulation. A dog that gets to have an outlet for all that energy is often a dog that dosen’t feel the need to bark excessively.
Contact our trainer if you want to know more about how to deal with this.