According to several readers, nuisance barking is a big concern for a lot of dog owners. Susan Jenkins of Papp’s Dog Services explains the psychology behind why they bark and how to curb the behavior:
Barking is a very common nuisance behavior. The causes are as diverse as the solutions.
Barking can be a very self-rewarding behavior for a dog. Someone comes to the door, the dog barks, they go away. The UPS driver drops a package off, the dog barks and he goes away.
Some of this type of behavior can be a challenge to deal with. Personally, if my dogs begin to bark while outside, they must come in the house. In dog agility classes, if the dog begins to bark in a harassing way, it is taken off the course and not allowed to play. They learn that if they bark inappropriately, they are not allowed to continue in that situation. If they want to stay out, they need to be quiet. I teach the command “quiet” at a young age and reward when they are no longer barking. I want a dog that will bark in warning but to stop when I tell them quiet.
An unattended outside dog will entertain itself and not always in an acceptable way. Most of us have breeds of dogs that were developed to work. We have taken them out of the work force and expect them to live sedentary lives in our homes. I give all my dogs a job to do for mental stimulation, not just physical exercise.
When the dog begins to bark at strangers and passers-by, change the behavior by teaching the dog to pick up its toys or giving them the mental stimulation of a puzzle toy. My Labs not only compete in obedience but they pick up their leashes, toys, bags of treats, or anything I drop on the floor or ground that is safe for them to pick up and hand to me. One lady I know has her dogs pick up their food bowls and give them to her when they are done eating. Little things to us, but all mental stimulation to the dog.
Another form of barking that is common is puppy harassing. They bark because they want attention, are bored or want to play. If the dog is harassing, then I recommend that you make the dog lie down and settle. If necessary, I will have their flat collar and leash on to teach them the settle-down command. Again, teaching a “hush” or “quiet” command as well as having the dog under control is highly important. If they bark at visitors, tell them you are working on training your young dog; they can be very understanding and willing to work with you while you teach them.
Another thing I will do when teaching the settle command is to give the dog a Kong or cow bone with almond or peanut butter in it. The dog learns that the settle time is good because they get something that is self-entertaining.
Because most families have only one dog, when a puppy wants to play, we are its only playmates. Puppies will often view young children as their littermates and harass them as well. Puppy play is natural and teaches the dog the foundation of many survival skills that are necessary when fending for themselves, or in the jobs they were selectively bred to do (even mixed breeds will exhibit behavior of the breeds they are composed of).
Remember, training a dog takes the active participation of its humans. Training foundation/good manners takes a lot of time when the dog is a puppy, but then you will have a wonderful, well-behaved adult dog. I tell my classes: it takes a minimum of six weeks to begin to develop a new behavior. To perfect it can take longer, depending on the complexity of the behavior.
— Susan Jenkins, owner of Papp’s Dog Services and a member of the National Association of Obedience Instructors and the International Association of Canine Professionals. 330-867-9188; www.pappsdogservices.com.
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send me an email to email@example.com. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.