Why do dogs bark?
We all know when dogs bark. They bark when someone is at the front door, if a stranger walks past the fence or when a leaf rustles in the wind. For some barking is not an issue but for others the incessant yapping can be a real hassle. Regular or uncontrollable barking can be caused by a number of factors such as fear, anxiety and boredom. Dogs will bark to alert others to a danger or as a "defensive" tactic to get rid of an undesirable something or someone. Dogs will also use barking as a form of play and to show excitement.
To curb your dog's barking habit, you'll first need to look for the stimulus. Work in a controlled environment to begin. For example, if your dog barks from people walking past the front fence, keep them inside where they can see out or use a leash and stay far from the fence. Depending on what triggers your dog's barking behaviour, you can use positive or negative reinforcement and sometimes a mix of the two! Negative reinforcement should not include aggressive actions like yelling at or hitting your dog.
What you need:
*Why use a Gentle Leader head collar and not a regular harness or collar?
The Gentle Leader head collar attaches to the lead just under your dog's chin so that when you pull the harness, their head is turned towards you. Not only are you disrupting your dog's visual connection, you are forcing them to concentrate on you instead. A regular collar or harness is attached on the back so while they may walk backwards, they can still focus on the stimulus.
Begin by equipping your dog with the Gentle Leader head collar and lead. When they begin to bark, call them and gently pull them towards you as you wave a treat to them, do not snap the lead or drag them. Once your dog is focussed on you, reward them with the treat.
Keep repeating this process each time your dog begins to bark (or even before if you can see the signs). Try to hold their attention with the treat for longer intervals before giving them the reward. As your dog becomes more responsive to your call and you can hold their attention, you can slowly move closer to the trigger.
Tip: You can also use a clicker instead of calling your dog to get their attention, this training tool is highly recommended by pet behaviourists.
As mentioned, you can pair this training with negative reinforcement also. If your pooch is whining and barking to be let out of their crate or to get into a certain room, do not give into this behaviour. Instead, if they can see you, when they bark or whine, stop walking towards them. You can even walk further away from them to show that this behaviour makes you leave. Once they are quiet, use this opportunity to move closer as a reward. You can issue with with a treat or let them inside/outside briefly if they continue with their good behaviour.
If your dog is barking out of boredom, try providing them with some more challenging toys. Interactive toys like a durable Tasty Bone or Kong Wobbler which can be filled with treats will provide your pet with quality entertainment!
As a last resort, if you still can't curb the barking while you are away, consult with your vet or a behaviourist to see if an anti-barking collar would be appropriate. The Abs citronella collar, Petsafe ultrasonic collar and Petsafe vibration collar are anti-barking collars to deter barking while you're away. The Abs citronella collar sprays a puff of diluted citronella while the Petsafe ultrasonic collar emits a loud noise and the Petsafe vibration collar will vibrate when triggered.
Owner of a small Chihuahua army and lover of all things pets; when Jess isn't managing her pup Nacho's instagram you can find her writing about all the awesome new products on the Pet Circle website!
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