I hope that my last four posts about barking have been beneficial. Here’s the last one which talks about play barking and fear barking. As I said in the previous posts, these recommendations are meant to be tips and not all-encompassing advice. Barking is a complicated behavior and may require the attention of a professional dog trainer or behavior specialist.

Play or Excitement Barking

Some dogs are naturally more excitable than others. My neighbor has an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who barks in delight as soon as he leaves the house for his walk and does not stop until he gets to the edge of the woods across the street. He simply cannot contain his enthusiasm. Walk time is like playtime for him as he explores for rabbits, squirrels, deer and other critters. It would be sad to attempt to stop him from barking because he’s just too cute and it’s not a problem for anyone. Thankfully, my neighbor is considerate and does not walk the dog late at night or early in the morning. So, there’s no problem because she’s managing the issue.

But what if you have a dog whose barking during play is really annoying or is causing complaints from others?  You have a couple of choices:

–          Limit play to certain times of day when barking is not a problem for others;

–          Train the dog that when he begins to bark, he gets a time out. For instance, if your dog barks when he’s playing with another dog, separate the dogs and allow them to settle down. Most play barking is a result of over-stimulation.  If you can catch your dog at the point before he is getting over-stimulated, you may be able to stop the barking from starting in the first place;

–          Train your dog to stop barking with a command that was discussed in my post on June 21.  Of course, this will take a good deal of training, as are all worthwhile long-term solutions.

Some dogs bark excitedly when they have toys, tennis balls, retriever rolls, etc. They are barking for you to play with them or throw the toy. This type of barking falls under the category of attention seeking. Refer to the post on May 2 about this type of barking.

Fear Barking

Many dogs who bark at people, other animals or objects frequently are barking because they are afraid of them.  Some people may mistake their dogs’ barks as protective or challenging or simply being “mean” when it is really fear. If a dog is barking from fear, the very last thing you will want to do is yell or scold your dog to stop, which is exactly what human nature dictates, as if correcting a child. But what happens when we scold is we reinforce in the dog’s mind that there is something to fear. Dog thinks, “I see that dog across the street and I’m scared. I bark and get yelled at which makes me even more scared. It’s that dog’s fault!”

Dog across the street = getting scolded = fear

That only makes barking worse.

Instead, the better solution is two-fold:

1) Ensure that your dog and you stay calm in the presence of the fear-inducing person, dog, etc. and 2) train your dog to not fear but instead believe that the presence of the person, dog, etc. brings good things.  That’s counter-conditioning, a technique hopefully you’ve read about here in my blog. You can find more in details about counter-conditioning in my post from February 16.

The key to heading off just about all barking is to keep your dog from getting excited. Once the dog crosses that threshold, then it’s very difficult to stop.  Pay close attention to your dog and you’re bound to learn what sets him off.

Has this series of posts on barking been helpful to you? Do you have any questions?