Dogs bark for many reasons and in all sorts of flavors. There is the constant drone of boredom barking, the edgy tones of the aggressive barker and the excited yip-bark of the happy barker. How you treat each bark is important – it tells your dog what is acceptable and what is not, teaches them when barking is appropriate and may even save your house or valuables from would be thieves.
The 3 Types of Barking
Boredom barking is the worst kind of nuisance barking – it serves no purpose other then annoying everyone within earshot. It is also the hardest to stop in some ways because normally you are not present when your dog is bored so there is no way to correct the problem behavior except by relieving the boredom. This in itself is not hard – give him more exercise, take him for longer walks, spend more time with him when you are home and leave him with something to do when you are away such as a chew or a kibble ball. Bored dogs can also be destructive so keeping him both mentally and physically exhausted will help keep him content and quiet.
Happy barking is usually short-lived, caused by a sudden exciting occurrence such as you coming home from work, mealtime or a play session. Few people mind this type of barking as long as it is kept to a minimum and does not happen when people are sleeping. If, however, you do find you have a grumpy neighbor who can not stand the happy, excited bark, there are a few quick ways to fix the problem. First off, do not encourage the behavior so, for example, when feeding your dog, keep your actions calm and reserved and only give him the food once he is quiet. Ask him to sit versus allowing him to jump around or get excited and keep your voice quiet and calm. If he barks with excitement when you come home from work, again, discourage this behavior by ignoring him until he calms down. Ask him to sit and only greet him when he is under control. Once he is sitting nicely, calmly pet him and tell him he is a good boy, rewarding the appropriate non-barking behavior.
Aggressive barking is a difficult one to approach since often one of the reasons we get a dog is for protection so discouraging barking at strangers seems counterproductive. However, a few short barks is all that is necessary in most cases so encourage him to continue his warning barks but once he has done his job in warning you, thank him and tell him he is a good dog but he can be quiet now. By keeping your voice calm and calling him over to you for a pat or two, you are rewarding him for being vigilant while teaching him how much barking is appropriate. Once the dog learns that all that is required of him is a few quick barks and then there is a reward, he will become more controlled in his aggressive barking, making it easier to control these sessions.
Barking is part of the day to day life of almost all dogs so it is a tough one to control entirely. Dogs that are instinctual barkers – a breed that has been bred to use barking as part of their ‘job’ – may never be fully controlled but you can definitely work to limit the amount and severity of their barking. You also may to employ all of the suggestions to make them stop – more exercise, more mental stimulation, control the level of excitement you contribute to their barking and the ability to maintain verbal control over the amount they bark will all contribute to making a dog quiet. Once he learns the new limits you have put him under, he will become a happier, more content dog as well as most dogs prefer living with a routine and specific rules. Keep yourself calm during these training sessions and the both of you will find a new level of peace and tranquility in your lives!