Dog barking not as straight forward as you think!
When you own a dog who barks more than normal then this can seriously challenge the relationship you have with your dog. It is a common issue, but a difficult one to turn around.
A bark to a dog is as normal as a voice to a person. Dog barking is normal and is how it communicates with us and other dogs. However, it ranks up there as one of the key reasons why dogs and their owners fall foul of the local council when neighbours complain. The problem arises when what is normal becomes abnormal. This of course is determined by the purpose of the dog, what has it been bred to do? No point having a silent guard dog who needs to notify its owner of an intruder. However that same dog living in a block of flats will be frowned upon and action maybe taken by the council.
Dogs are easily rewarded for barking so reinforcing the behaviour. The reason why dogs bark when the postman delivers the letter is a classic example. Postman comes to door and posts the letter. The dog barks and the postman walks away. Happens every single time and the dogs is rewarded every time…why? The dog does not understand the postman will walk away and thinks he has scared the postman away. Each time the dog barks at the postman he walks away and so the dog has won. The dog quickly learns if he barks at something it will leave his space and if it doesn’t he will bark louder. Another example I often see is people walking past the house the dog can see out the window. The dog barks and the people walk away so the dog has won. Sadly we have no way of informing the dog the barking didn’t do anything and we cant rationalise with them to stop. Therefore we have to employ distraction techniques and behaviour modification.
When your dog barks at other dogs there can be variety of reasons and I would need to review. A common reason I see is that the dog has learnt that if it barks at other dogs then it can make them go away. It doesn’t realise that we that we react to the dog barking at other dogs and we remove it from the situation. The other owner will do likewise. This rewards the dog’s barking because it soon learns that situations it is not comfortable with it will be removed if it barks. In effect we are making the situation worse. However, we cannot force the dog into uncomfortable situations to try and teach it not to bark!!!
Dogs can bark for a variety of reasons and when looked at most are the result of being rewarded. That can be the dogs own interpretation or people unwittingly rewarding the behaviour. A dog who is barking for attention is rewarded when the owner shouts at the dog to shut up. The louder the dog barks the louder the owner shouts and the dog get attention. It could be the simple case of the dog barks and the owner responds with a treat or fuss, again rewarding the unwanted behaviour.
Stopping a Dog Barking
Sadly there is no quick fix for this one and any trainer who says they can fix it quickly, you should not be using as they will most likely employ punishment equipment. With time, patience, using some behaviour modification and dog training techniques an improvement can be made. It is good a dog barks and we don’t want to totally suppress it. What we need to do is to modify the behaviour so the barking is not a problem to the owner or neighbours. Sometimes we have to address the cause, such as the postman, as that is a quicker fix than the dog. Put a post box away from the house and the dog is no longer rewarded by the sound of post being delivered. The good news is behaviours which are not reinforced and rewarded tend to get less.
Muttley Solutions will do an assessment in the environments the dog barks in to determine the triggers and is the dog being rewarded by this behaviour? Then a plan can be drawn up to look at how we remove the triggers and modify the behaviour so that non-barking becomes rewarding. The reality is this involves the owner being persistent, consistent and we may need to address other training issues and consider leadership changes. All this can be achieved with no harsh correction methods, kindness and working on the premise that barking is unrewarding and silence is rewarded. If you have a dog who is barking beyond what is acceptable then contact us