One of the more common behaviour problems dog owner's face is excessive barking.
The good news is there are many things you and your behaviour can do to facilitate the elimination, or at least curtailment, of this behaviour.
First, it is important to understand that barking is a normal behaviour for our canine friends. This is one of the ways in which they communicate with each other and with humans as well. Some breeds are more predisposed to bark, although there are loud and quiet members of every breed.
Many dogs bark because they are bored or frustrated, or because they hear other dogs in the neighbourhood vocalizing and simply want to join in. Still others bark excessively at front doors or as an inappropriate form of greeting. Some barking is learned, some is fear-based, and some is territorial.
You should first look at the dog owner’s own behaviour toward their pets. Every dog owner needs to avoid sending mixed messages that encourage inappropriate dog barking. Let’s start at the front door or point of entry when a visitor enters. How does a dog act when its owner comes home from work? Does she bark and run all over the place? If yes, does the owner reward this behaviour by petting or picking up the dog?
If the answer is yes, suggest they greet the dog more calmly and not praise or pet her at all when she barks. Owners should literally freeze or simply walk away from their dog when barking occurs. This will cause the dog to follow, which can also be ignored until the barking stops. The instant it does, owners can praise the non-barking behaviour.
Treats are also a fabulous way of reinforcing what owners want. To use them properly, they should simply wait until the dog stops barking, give a small treat and then praise. Owners following this kind of program will typically find that after about two to three weeks, their dogs will greet them in a far calmer and quieter fashion.
Another behaviour to ask about is how the dog greets others when at home. Does the dog bark at the front door? There is nothing wrong if the answer is yes, but dog owners need a quiet command to establish when enough is enough.
To teach this, have owners ask a friend to come to the front door and knock or ring the bell. When the dog runs to the door barking, instruct them to calmly walk over to the door, and when they want the dog to be quiet, they should give it a sharp “eh eh” cue. This sound will distract some dogs from barking. If the barking stops, they should immediately praise the dog.
Dog owners can also use a clicker for this. They simply click after the dog is quiet and then give a treat and praise.
Some dogs will take a while to stop barking. If after your customers give the “eh eh” cue and the dog continues, let them know that the best approach is to simply wait until it stops. Then, they should click, treat and praise, or just treat and praise. This can take a bit of patience on your customers’ part, which is why it is more realistic to ask a friend to help with the door knocking.
Owners that work on this a few times a week will be rewarded with two things. First, the dog will learn to be quiet when they say “eh eh.” Second, over time, the dog will bark less. Both are desirable, but this takes time.
Owners of dogs that bark excessively need to consider taking the dog to obedience classes. Obedience teaches the dog to respond to cues and also teaches the dog how to learn and be more responsive to its owner. Although not all dogs that do well in obedience are not excessive barkers, but dogs who excel in obedience training are easier to teach to stop barking.
There are other things for dog owners to consider. Many dogs bark because they are bored. Make sure these dogs get proper and consistent exercise. Also, pet shops can offer customers adequate amounts of interactive play toys and a good diet.