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Many people feel that barking is probably the most upsetting problem to deal with, especially when the neighbours start to complain.  

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons.  

Some bark because they are genuinely distressed at being left alone, others will bark because they are bored, have spotted the fifteenth Hadeda for the morning or because they have heard someone walking past your gate.  Some will bark purely for the fun of it. 

So before you do anything about your dog’s barking, it’s important to find out why she’s doing it, since not all reasons are addressed the same way!  

If your dog is barking because she’s bored, you need to provide her with some mental stimulation in the form of chew toys and brain games. Scatter her food, hide it in the garden or use toys such as Kongs to keep her occupied.  Of course, if you have more than one dog and they fight over food and toys, you will need the help of a behaviourist before you attempt any of those time-killing ideas. 

For dogs who suffer from separation distress and who howl or bark non-stop when they are left at home, try leaving the dog inside in a safe, dog proof area where no additional damage can be done. Include a heap of chew toys, leave the radio or television on and make sure your dog has water, food and a comfortable bed in this area too.  If these basic pointers do not help, you will need to speak to a behaviourist to help you further. 

If you have a dog that vocalises simply for the joy of it, you’ll need to teach him how to stop barking.

I know that sounds odd, but you’d be surprised how many dogs don’t know how or when to stop barking once they’ve started. So, the most effective way to deal with this is to teach him to bark on cue, and be silent on cue.  That way, she will learn that every bark also has to stop eventually. Usually this is a pretty simple exercise to teach.  

The “bark on Cue” exercise applies to general barkers.  The aim here is for you to teach her when it is appropriate to bark, and when not to.  Remember, barking is a perfectly normal behaviour for dogs, and they can often get a buzz out of being able to do it.  You will never teach a dog to not bark AT ALL.  What you are aiming for is a dog who understands to stop barking once she’s started barking. 

Initially, you would do this training with your dog when at home. When she is barking allow her the opportunity to bark for three or four times.  Interrupt by making an unfamiliar sound, like clicking your tongue.  As soon as your dog stops barking to look at you, say “good quiet!” in a happy voice and reward her with a yummie treat, for example a Eukanuba Healthy Biscuit.  Repeat this until your dog starts making the association between “Stopping barking = cue + treat”.  

You will notice that she will bark for less and will stop sooner.  Remember to reinforce the “quiet” consistently the first few weeks.  Keep a close eye on your dog.  As soon as you see her about to start barking say “speak”.  Your dog will learn that “speak” means bark, and “quiet” means be silent.  The more you reward this procedure, the more successful your dog will be with this particular exercise. 

If you practice this often enough, she will learn to also stop barking of her own volition, without you being there to tell her to stop every time. 

If your dog barks at people passing by the gate, try walking him more often. Dogs will habituate to their environments only if they are constantly exposed to them, and if your dog never goes off your property, every noise he hears and every person he sees going past will be considered something to bark at. Take along some Healthy Biscuits and reward him every time he sees a person or if he doesn’t respond to something obviously startling, like a truck going by or a bird suddenly making a noise. (Those Hadedas again..) 

If you keep your dog exposed to the outside world by taking him for frequent walks and letting him see what’s outside the gate, he should settle down and see people as less of a threat. It won’t affect his ability to be a good watchdog of course.  If anything, he will be better at telling the difference between ‘threat’ and ‘normal’ and he won’t bark unnecessarily!

Karin Pienaar
Animal behaviour guru, Karin Pienaar, has been working in the field of animal behaviour and behaviour therapy in South Africa since 1997. She completed her Diploma in Animal Behaviour in the UK, through the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE) and is a qualified Practitioner member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists & Trainers (CAPBT) in the UK and South Africa.
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1 comments
Charmaine Stevens
Charmaine Stevens
Wednesday 13th June 2018

Hi the artical is great but I adopted a pup in november last year and he is stil very ill and if we try to do anything at home or outdoors he will not stop barking and we did consult a behaviourist and the methods don't work at all. He is on bland food for almost 10 months and no dog food seems to agree with his tummy. We took him to two diffrent vets and the food they put him on doesnt agree with his tummy. He is most of the time he is on antibiotics because of his tummy,

Karin
Karin
Thursday 14th June 2018

Hi Charmaine. Shame I am so sorry to hear that your pup is still very ill. I would honestly suggest first getting your pup sorted health-wise before doing training as it all may be too overwhelming for him, and he may not feel like learning if he's not feeling well. I would also suggest revisiting your vets and trying other options if he's still not well. Good luck!

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