How to Curb Your Dog's Barking

Karelian bear dog barking
AP
Every dog owner knows how annoying it can be if your pooch barks too much or at the wrong times.

But, says Andrea Arden, a pet expert and director of Andrea Arden Dog Training, there are ways to control the tendency in your canine.

Arden discussed all aspects of barking with "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Erica Hill, including whether those collars and other devices advertised on TV as effective bark stopper really work:

You might say - the bark stops here!

WHAT ARE THE REASONS DOGS BARK?

It is important to understand why dogs bark so you will be able to deal with the root of the problem rather than just the symptom. Three of the most common reasons include to act as an alarm to potential intruders (which many pet parents encourage), due to stress and/or boredom when left alone, and to get attention and elicit play. The last is a reason that is often inadvertently trained by owners who open the door, give a treat, speak to or pet their dog when he or she barks and tend to ignore the dog when he or she is quiet. Barking is a normal part of dog behavior, so the goal is not to create a barkless dog, rather to be able to manage barking so that it does not become excessive and disturbing to us or our neighbors. In most cases, we tend to confuse our dogs by encouraging (albeit inadvertantly) barking in some cases and then punishing our dogs for it at other times. So, to avoid confusing dogs with inconsistency make a behavior modification plan that the whole family agrees to adhere to.

DOES BARKING INCREASE OR DECREASE IN FREQUENCY AS THE DOG GETS OLDER?

Alert barking is something that tends to increase as a dog matures and becomes potentially more protective of their environment and family. Stress or boredom based barking and attention seeking barking will increase or decrease based primarily on the owners ability (or lack thereof) to properly manage their dog and provide environmental enrichment that keeps the dog happily occupied and engaged in appropriate behaviors that compete with barking.

DO SOME BREEDS BARK MORE THEN OTHERS?

While each dog is an individual, there are some breeds that have a stronger tendency to vocalize than others. These include: Beagles, Dachshunds, and most breeds developed to guard (such as German Shepherd Dogs) as they are often easily stimulated to changes in the environment and use barking to alert us to them.

ARE THERE ANY TECHNIQUES OWNERS CAN USE TO HELP PUT AN END TO THEIR DOG'S BARKING?

1. Try to identify the cause so that you can deal with the underlying cause. Barking is a perfectly normal behavior and dogs bark for many reasons. First, try to determine the potential underlying cause. Then:

2. Provide your dog with plenty of mental exercise in the form of environmental enrichment. Feed them exclusively from food stuffable toys such as the Linkable, Bob-A-Lot, Busy Buddy Twist n' Treat, Activity Ball, etc. A dog who burns up mental energy 'hunting' for their food rather than just eating it from a bowl is less likely to indulge in many inappropriate behaviors, including excessive barking. This is especially useful when you aren't home.

3. Teach your dog to respond reliably to a few requests such as hand targeting (show). This way you have a way to calmly redirect your dog to an appropriate behavior and stop the barking. If you focus on reward based training it will be a fun game for your dog and you and result in a mannerly dog who you can control even when the dog is simulated to bark.

4. Make sure your dog also has adequate outlets for their physical and social needs (i.e. plenty of walks and playtime with other dogs when appropriate).

5. Until your dog has had time to learn to better respond to you, create a calm resting place for her to stay for short periods when you can't watch her and are concerned she may bark at the door or window. A crate is a good option and you should feed meals in there so your dog associates it with something good.

6. Also, practice tethering on a leash in different spots in the home with a chew toy so your dog learns to self-pacify.

THERE ARE A BUNCH OF PRODUCTS ON THE MARKET RIGHT NOW WHOSE MANUFACTURERS CLAIM HELP STOP A DOG FROM BARKING. DO YOU RECOMMEND ANY?

There are collars that emit a spray (either citronella or unscented), those which emit a high pitched tone, and collars which emit a shock. While these might work in some cases, people should be extremely cautious when using these as they may sometimes stop barking, but the underlying cause (for example, stress) is not being dealt with and may in fact worsen with the use of a tool that potentially scares the dog. I understand that people hope for a quick fix. But ultimately there is really no substitute for training, environmental enrichment, exercise, proper socialization.