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Dog Barking: Learn How to Control It

Article written by Nancy Settecasi - 3/10/06

Barking is a dog's form of communication. Dog barking can be quite annoying but on the other hand, your dog's bark can also save your life. Your dog's bark should not always be acknowledged as a problem. If a dog barks incessantly, then this would require the help of a professional trainer. The average dog will bark for a specific reason. Some of these reasons could be:

"I need to relieve myself please."
If this is the case, do not allow your dog's barking to be his way of alerting you. You can try using a clicker to teach him a "Hush" command and then teach him an alternate alert signal such as pawing at the door. Every time he barks to go out, hush him, ask him if he has to "Go Potty" and then paw at the door with your hand. Repeat this process every time he barks to go out. Praise and treat every time he follows your lead.

"There's a stranger near the house."
This is a situation where dog barking can be a good thing. First off, teach him a "Heal" command then reward him for being alert. Show the stranger that you are investigating the situation by turning on a porch light if it is dark out. If someone hears your dog barking, it can keep a stranger from coming back.

"Can I go out and play."
Do not allow dog barking to be a signal to you that he wants to go out and play. You can try using a clicker to teach him a "Hush" command and then teach him an alternate alert signal such as pawing at the door or bringing the ball to you. Every time your dog barks to go out to play, hush him, then once he's quiet, paw at the door with your hand or grab the ball and ask if he wants to go out and play. Repeat this process every time your dog barks to go out. Praise and treat every time he follows procedure.

"I think I hear my friend, Fido, calling me."
Sometimes you'll find dogs barking to each other. This doesn't happen very often unless you have a dog next door that won't shut up. You can try to distract him by playing with him or starting a game of fetch but this won't solve the problem. Teaching him the "hush" command is the best way to eliminate this behavior.

"I heard a loud noise and I don't know what it is."
If you know that the noise does not pose a threat, stop the dog barking by playing with him or starting a game of fetch.

"I'm afraid."
Distract him by playing with him or starting a game of fetch.

"Who is this person that just entered my home."
Teach him the "Heal" command and slowly have him get used to the visitor by first smelling the visitor's jacket. If your visitor is not afraid, have him call the dog over while he is bent down at his level. Be careful if it is a large dog. This will reduce your dog's anxiety. There are some people that your dog will warm up to quickly and others that will take some time. Of course, there will also be one or two visitors that your dog will never warm up to.

"Don't leave me (again)."
If your dog barks from the minute you leave the house to the minute you come home, he may be letting the whole world know that he is lonely and he misses you. If this is the case, take an old shirt and put it in the hamper for an hour or two. This will make the shirt absorb the scents of everyone in the house. Then place the shirt next to your dog or have him lie down on it and this will keep him happy all day long. This will work 99% of the time. You can also try putting the radio on low and tune it in to easy listening. Music soothes the savage beast (so to speak).

"I'm thristy."
Try teaching him the "Hush" command by using a clicker, then when he has quieted down, fill his bowl with water. You can teach him to paw at his bowl by tapping on his bowl when he's alerting you to fill his bowl. He will pick up on this after a while.

"Don't you dare come near my food while I'm eating."
Do not allow him to respond this way whenever someone walks by him while he's eating. Next time its time to feed, place the bowl on your lap and feed him one morsel at a time. Do not allow him to reach the bowl. Show him that you are in control of his food. Do this until he get accustomed to having someone touch his food. Have different members of the household try it as well. This will help desensitize him and show him he can trust you. If you have an overly-aggressive dog, then I would not recommend this.

Dog barking can occur for any number of reasons. Don't be quick to assume that your dog's bark is a problem because many people have had their dogs to thank for warding off intruders. If your dog barks, rule out any potential threat to your family, then investigate the reason for his bark. Most of the time it is something trivial but if you don't find the problem and eliminate it, you will have a difficult time getting him to stop. If it is something that cannot be eliminated, then it would be best to desensitize your dog to the contributing factor by having him learn to deal with it. For example, if he barks every time the phone rings, have someone call the house all day long and teach him a "hush" command. When you are able to get him to obey the command, praise and treat. Repeat this procedure for as often as it takes to get him fully trained.

Make sure you spend enough time with your dog when you are at home in order to avoid having him feel neglected when you're gone.

Once again, it's important to always try to find out why your dog's barking so you can address the problem and establish tranquility in the household.

About the Author: Nancy Settecasi, Owner of Happy K-9 Dog Care
Proud owner of Cookie and Skippy, Cocker Spaniels, Dog lover

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