Excessive barking ... can easily be cured.

Because of the new laws for barking dogs I get called in to see on average 2 clients a day whose barking dogs are driving the neighbours barking mad. Unfortunately people who do not particularly like dogs are jumping on this bandwagon and making it all very unpleasant for people whose dogs are barking. Dogs can be surprisingly persistent and those who have learnt that barking is productive will bark and bark and bark until they’ve achieved their end goal. They are even prepared to lose their voice if they think it’ll help in the end!


The good news is that it normally only requires a once off consultation and that I have a high success rate. Barking is only a problem if it isn’t treated properly and with kind guidance, coaching and coaxing, it can be quickly resolved – we just have to understand the underlying cause.


For obvious reasons, excessive barking alienates the owner from their pet. Not only that, but it also corrodes the relationship between dog owners and their neighbours. Under South African law, owners may not keep any dog that barks for more than six minutes in any hour or more than three minutes in any half hour. An official may order the owner to take necessary steps to stop the disturbance and owners are required to keep the dog under proper control.


Some breeds are bigger barkers than others so if you’re after a quiet kind of companion, don’t pick a guarding breed.


Some dog owners - out of desperation - have taken drastic measures to stop their dog barking by having their dogs’ voice box or vocal cords surgically removed. I really don’t recommend this and neither would I recommend using anti-bark collars of the electric collar variety... You could compare it to disabling the hooter in your car - although endless hooting is enough to drive anyone crazy, a hooter is still required to communicate an important message under relevant circumstances.


If you consider that dogs have a fairly limited range of communication, it is unfair to undermine their efforts. Barking, howling, growling, whimpering, and whining are just normal things that dogs do to in order to get their message across. I will help you to provide a supportive environment, so that your dog makes the right noises under the right circumstances.


Here are some other reasons for excessive barking:


Lack of exercise. I have already mentioned the importance of providing sufficient exercise for your dog. Insufficient activity is a very common reason for excessive barking. Again, regardless of the size of your property, your dog still needs to be walked for a minimum of an hour every day. It’s about providing a variety of ongoing stimulation so that your dog doesn’t get bored.


Lack of stimulation. When owners are away at work for extended periods of time and the dog is left without company, it just gets plain old bored. When they’re bored they bark, and when they bark, your neighbours will complain or even worse, may hurt your dog.


Excitability. Dogs love to bark when they play and often owners (in their own excitement) love to make their dogs bark. Out of respect for your neighbours, it’s prudent to limit this as much as possible. You need to be consistent. Your dog won’t understand if you encourage barking one day and then berate them the next. Also, some dogs are more excitable than others – a falling leaf may be enough to set them off.


Attention. Dogs can be like children; if they feel you haven’t paid them enough attention (perhaps you have but they just like a lot of it) they will become noisy until you attend to them. Regular interaction is what they need - otherwise they’ll demand it from you by barking.


Separation anxiety. This is more common than owners would imagine and this condition is normally stress related. We look at the separation anxiety first and then tackle establishing new habits around how to deal with stress. Unfortunately if your dog is barking because of this problem it takes much longer to sort out and a lot of patience from you and your neighbours.


Protecting territory. Dogs that are left outside may feel it’s their responsibility to protect their (and by extension, your) property.


Positive reinforcement. This relates to dogs that bark at passers by – postmen, joggers, cyclists etc. In this instance, the dog inevitably has their barking reinforced. See jogger, bark, jogger runs away. And all the while the dog is thinking, “Yeah, I showed him! Bark, look a little scary and the jogger will go away”.


One thing that is totally counter productive, is shouting. Even just saying NO is enough to make the dog believe that you’re actually joining in. Using sound to combat sound works by far better. This is a well established approached that is highly effective.


Another counter productive approach (which I also find rather inhumane) is punishing your dog for barking. It’s just trying to communicate; it feels it needs to communicate. Excessive barking is the owner’s problem, not the dog’s problem. Punishing a dog, whether it is physical punishment or isolation, will only make your poor dog fear you. In the end it will destroy the loving bond that you are trying to create with your dog.


Lastly, please consider this: do you think that excessive barking is the issue, or is it that your dog won’t stop when commanded? I’ll help you figure it out and devise a solution.


Please call me on 0798837566.


A dog is the only thing on this earth that loves you more than he loves himself. - Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw)


         BERNICE JAFFE © 2010

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