The modern dog tends to lead a relatively unstimulating life in the domestic home, with nothing more to do than eat two meals, sleep on the couch and go for the occasional walk. Dogs that were specifically bred to work can find domestic life boring, and in most cases barking relieves that boredom. Even though dogs bark for many reasons including excitement, anxiety, for attention or to sound an alarm, the best prescription for any barking issue whatever the cause is increased exercise and mental stimulation, which helps to refocus a dog’s mind and tire them out.
First of all it is important to find out why your dog is barking. As with all training, you cannot successfully address the issue until you understand why the behavior is happening.
If your dog is barking at you for attention or because she wants something, ignore her until she stops. This might be hard to begin with as she might bark longer and harder in an attempt to get your attention, but be patient. Wait for 5 seconds of quiet and then reward that quiet with attention. Repeat this as necessary. Your dog will learn that barking gets her nothing but quiet gets her the attention she desires.
Dogs bark with excitement just as we humans like to vocalize when we are in exciting situations. This barking normally occurs before going for a walk or being fed, which can be hard to work with because humans usually have a fixed pattern of pre-departure and pre-feeding cues which are highly ritualized. Dogs pick up on these cues and bark in excitement for what is about to come. The first thing to do is to change your cues as much as you can and stop what you are doing when the barking starts. If your dog barks when you go to get her lead, for example, put the lead back where it was and go and sit down. If you manage to successfully attach the lead when she is quiet and then the barking starts again as she goes outside, immediately came back in and wait for quiet before going out again. This technique requires patience, but your diligence will pay off as your dog learns that being quiet is the only way she gets to go on a walk or be fed. All of these training techniques require no verbal communication with your dog whatsoever. In situations like these, body language speaks volumes and as dogs are so good at watching our every movement, it is a language they quickly understand.
Each dog needs an outlet that is specifically designed to motivate them and serve their particular needs. Find an activity or sport that your dog really enjoys doing, taking into account what your dog’s breed or mix of breeds is. Enrich your dog’s life inside the home by hiding her toys or food around the house and encouraging her to seek them out using her canine senses to find them. Instead of feeding your dog from a bowl for every meal, try feeding her through activity toys at meal times instead so that she has to work to get her food. Working for her meals will stimulate her brain and tire her out.
Some dogs do not do well by themselves and suffer anxiety upon separation. Vocalizing this distress is a way of easing that anxiety as well as a way of trying to re-establish contact. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you need to enlist the help of a qualified positive reinforcement trainer to help you with a modification plan. Separation anxiety can be a hard behavior to modify and time is needed for success.
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