In my previous post on barking, I outlined a few of the environmental reasons for why dogs bark. Let’s take a look now at how genetic programming and instinct play roles in barking. Having this knowledge is really important when choosing a new dog. Many people pick out their dogs because they like the looks without understanding the breed characteristics. They may be in for trouble when they find that they picked a barker!

As an example, let’s look at my personal circumstances right now. Although I’ve had Golden Retrievers for over 20 years, I come completely undone when I see a Bassett Hound. They make me laugh and feel so happy. I love their looks and personality.  Their long floppy ears and droopy eyes are comical. However… and this is a big caveat, they are HOUNDS! And hounds are bred to bark! A barking Bassett is not the best choice for my living environment. I live in a townhouse without a fenced yard (scent hounds really need a fence). My neighbors would not appreciate this type of dog. Hounds were bred to bay and howl when they see prey. They were rewarded for this behavior and it continues as a generality in the breed. Beagles, Coonhounds and Bloodhounds are also big barkers.

Other breeds are naturally barkers for in-bred reasons: Herders such as Collies, Border Collies, Corgis, Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds, hunting dogs like Spaniels, Pointers and Poodles. The point is – do your research before picking out a dog.

If you have a dog with in-bred barking traits, it will be very difficult yet not impossible to train the dog not to bark. It will require a great deal of time, knowledge and patience to work with the dog.

In my previous post on barking, I touched on what not to do to stop your dog from barking. Most people, by human nature, will scold the dog like it’s a child when the dog barks. But a dog is not a child and does not understand when we do this. Dogs interpret our scolding as “barking.” In the dog’s mind, they are thinking that when they bark and you respond, they just got their “pack” to bark with them! And so the barking continues. If you have two dogs and one is a barker, inevitably the other one will pick up on the barking as well.

Many trainers like to teach the dog the “Quiet” command to use to stop all barking, and some even advocate holding the dog’s mouth shut when you give the command. I am not in agreement with this tactic. If used incorrectly, you are simply still just barking with the pack because your dog is so adrenaline-charged that he won’t respond to the “Quiet!” command, and you are reinforcing the dog’s behavior. If you hold the dog’s mouth shut, you are creating frustration and increasing the adrenaline even more.

When I filmed my DVD, Successful Dog Makeovers, several years ago, I recommended that people use a distracter like shaking a metal soda can containing some coins to disrupt the dog from barking. I have since decided that this is not the best tactic. A barking dog is pumped with adrenaline and the noise of the can may serve to increase the dog’s agitation even more. Certainly, this practice can work for some dogs but instead, it’s better to try to bring the dog’s energy level down.

In my next post on barking, solutions and ways to manage your dog’s barking will be discussed.