Posted on July 23rd, 2012
Wonder why your dog barks for certain reasons?
Clear the Air would like to share some helpful tips on learning about the behavior of your dog and why he barks. Enjoy part 2 of our blog – taken from The San Diego Humane Society.
When they want something, dogs will experiment with various behaviors to see if any of them work. They quickly figure out that barking works with their owners. If you don’t like barking, stop rewarding it with attention, door-opening services, releasing from crates etc. Period. No buts.
Rather than the dog telling you when to take him out, take him out at regular intervals, making sure none of them are preceded by barking. Don’t let a barking dog out of a crate until he’s quiet. Ignore dogs who bark at you. Keep in mind that if you have been rewarding it for a while, the barking will get worse before it goes into extinction. You’re changing the rules and the dog will be frustrated at first. Whatever you do, don’t crack and reward the WORSE version of the barking!
Above all, start noticing the dog when he’s quiet. Teach him that there are payoffs for lying quietly, chewing on a chew-toy and refraining from barking.
Barking When Alone
This is a common form of request barking: the dog is requesting that you come back. There is also often some anxiety involved. When you get a new dog or puppy, set a good precedent right away. Don’t smother him with your constant presence and attention. Come and go a lot and never go to him when he’s vocalizing. Wait until he’s quiet for at least 30 seconds so you don’t risk rewarding the noise making. If your dog already has a habit, you must start a multi-pronged assault:
1) When you’re at home, don’t let him shadow you around: lock him in various rooms away from you to practice “semi-absences.” Reprimand or ignore any barking (ignoring is actually a more powerful tool). If you choose to reprimand it, burst through the door, scold the dog and then immediately disappear again, closing the door behind you. Remember that he’s barking to get you back: with some dogs, a reprimand is better than nothing so you may be rewarding him…
2) Practice loads of brief absences every day. Go out and come back in after 2 or 3 seconds over and over to get the dog desensitized to your departures. Do it in a matter of fact way, more or less ignoring the dog whatever he does. Then do outings of 10 seconds, 30, a minute, 10 minutes etc. Mix it up. Dogs who are anxious need to learn that your departure doesn’t usually mean a traumatically long period of isolation. Keep all your departures and arrival greetings low key. Never enter when the dog is barking. Wait for a lull of at least 30 seconds.
3) Dogs are a highly social species. They don’t cope well with prolonged isolation. Consider a second dog, daycare or dog-walker at lunchtime if you work all day.
4) Increase physical and mental stimulation. In a natural environment, a lot of your dog’s energy would be spent acquiring his food. He would have to find prey, run it down, hang onto and kill it and then rip it apart to eat it. He’d have to attempt several finds and run-downs before he successfully made a kill. That’s work! Tire him out more before long absences. Walks don’t cut it as exercise for dogs. Most dogs like getting out and checking out the environment but it’s not exercise. Exercise means exertion. Start working your dog out with high-intensity games like ball-fetch, Frisbee, tug-of-war, hide & seek, free-play with other dogs etc.
Make him work to acquire his food. Hide it around the house, scatter it in the grass in the backyard, make him extract it from the hollow inside of a bone or Kong toy (which you also hide), make him earn it piece by piece for obedience exercises or tricks, make him solve problems. Your imagination is the limit. Make your absences predict that his meal is hidden around the house so that he has to get busy when you leave if he wants to eat. Dogs are programmed to work for their food. It’s no wonder there are so many problems related to under stimulation.
5) Get him more focused on toys. When you play with him, incorporate toys. Hold chewies for him. Teach him to find a toy that you’ve hidden in the room and then celebrate his find with tug of war or fetch. Teach him his toys by name. Ask him to bring you one when you come home. Don’t greet him until he’s brought it.
Then have a vigorous game of fetch. Leave him stuffed chew toys during absences: fill hollow bones or Kongs with cheese, peanut butter, cookies or combos.
If your dog is anxious to the point of panic attacks, he has separation anxiety and need formal desensitization and/or medication. Contact a competent trainer.
In this case, it is important to get at the underlying under socialization. Socialize puppies extensively to as wide a variety of people and dogs as possible. You cannot overdo it. Expose them to plenty of places, experiences, sights & sounds and make it all fun with praise, games & treats. Find and attend a good puppy class.
If you missed the boat socializing your puppy, you’ll have to do remedial work with your adolescent or adult.
Whatever it is that your dog is spooky about must now become associated with lunch. This is how under socialized dogs work for their food. If he doesn’t like strangers, meals need to fed bit by bit around strangers until he improves. It takes a while to re-socialize adults so stick with it.
If you don’t have time for a dog, don’t get a dog. Dogs are not space-intensive, they are time-intensive. If you have an outside dog, train him to be an inside dog. There is no quick fix here: you must meet your dog’s basic needs for stimulation, exercise and companionship.