Behavioral problems are the first cause of abandonment of pets. Furthermore, a dog that barks too much, that scratches the furniture or that relieves itself inside the house is a dog that generates a lot of dislike... and the worst of all is that he will not understand why everyone responds to him with so much hostility. In short, training a dog is a great responsibility and solving its behavioral problems is an obligation.
One of the most common behavioral problems in dogs is excessive barking. If you want to know how you can solve it, we will tell you in this article:
Why does the dog bark so much?
When there is a behavioral problem, it is best to always work with a dog trainer who will guide us through the process and help us address the problem effectively. However, there are some things we can do to move forward on our own: the bottom line is to understand why the dog does what he does...what the underlying cause is. This way we can find the right solution.
No one in their right mind can demand that a dog never bark. It is part of the codes that the animal uses to interact with the world and to relate to members of its species. So it is completely cruel that we demand absolute silence. Now, there are certain cases in which it is not a healthy bark, typical of a balanced and psychologically stable dog. There are situations in which the animal is revealing some latent psychological problems.
Among the barks that we could classify as “normal barks” we can highlight the territorial or protective bark, which is what the dog uses to defend what he considers his territory; the bark of alarm or fear, which is how the dog responds to a startle; the play or greeting bark, which is a happy and occasional bark that is usually accompanied by tail movements, etc.
In these cases, and as long as the barking falls within what common sense dictates, it is something we should not worry about, especially in some breeds that are more barkers than others. Now, there are situations in which we must pay attention to the problem. This is the case of separation anxiety barking or compulsive barking.
The dog is a gregarious animal that finds its identity within a pack. Therefore, when the animal is left alone at home, it is normal for it to have a pretty bad time. In this situation, there are many dogs that start barking repetitively and loudly... and they can stay like that for hours.
It is also common for dogs that have anxiety to end up developing compulsive behaviors, such as making circles trying to bite their tail, running frantically from one side of the fence to the other, or compulsive barking. These compulsive behaviors are also the result of anxiety. So, solving the barking problem necessarily requires addressing the anxiety problem.
How to avoid anxiety?
In many cases, anxiety... and not so much poor education or socialization, is what lies behind unpleasant behaviors such as constant and repetitive barking. In these cases, the first thing we must do is increase the amount of daily exercise that the animal receives. Walking, playing and sniffing is usually the solution to most canine psychological problems. In addition, a tired dog is more docile, more receptive to training and less nervous. For all this, you should establish a daily routine for your dog that includes long walks.
After having included these changes in your routine is when we can get to work to solve the problem of repetitive barking. Barking can give dogs an adrenaline rush. This makes barking pleasant for them and they get used to it. And we can solve this once anxiety has disappeared from the equation... not before.
In either case, it will take time and patience… a lot of patience. When your dog is barking, say “quiet” in a calm, firm voice. Wait until he stops barking, even if it's just to take a breather, praise him then and give him a treat. Eventually, he will realize that if he stops barking at the word “quiet,” he will get a treat.
Most dogs don't know what we want to tell them when we yell at them to shut up... and they won't understand it any better when we say it by yelling. In fact, yelling encourages the dog to bark more because he thinks we are joining the “bark party.” So the first rule is to speak calmly and firmly, but without shouting. Likewise, you can teach your dog to stay quiet with a simple gesture.
Once you understand the word “quiet,” bring your finger to your lips as you give the command (dogs often pick up on body signals faster than voice commands). Practice these commands when they are calm and over time they should learn to stop barking on our command.
What you should never do to correct it
Last August, the Consell Valencià de Col.legis Veterinaris (CVCV) and the Valencian Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FVMP) urged owners facing this problem to avoid using electric collars to correct excessive barking. These devices have a mechanism that emits an electric shock on the dog's neck, either through a remote control or automatically when it detects vibration, as in the case of a bark.
According to the brochure distributed by both organizations, in addition to carrying a real risk of physical injury, they are counterproductive in solving the problem: the collar acts on the barking, which is the symptom, but does not consider the cause, which is usually anxiety. "(…)"In the best of cases, the problem would be masked; In others, unresolved anxiety will express itself in other ways: compulsive disorders, destructive behaviors, somatic symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, etc."