Get to know Michelle:
Michelle Pellum is a certified dog trainer through the Animal Behavior College where she was awarded certification after extensive examination, months of hands-on training with a professional and several hours of volunteer work at a local shelter. Michelle has a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Arizona State University where she studied animal and canine behavior. She has a lifelong commitment to her study and can often be found reading both new theories and classic methods to help carve her niche in the training field. Michelle finds much joy in this study and believes the best dog trainers never stop learning!
Here's a question from our friend Lydia, Gilbert, AZ.
Q: How do I stop my dogs from constant barking?
I would ask a few questions about the dog’s behavior to get to the bottom of the problem. Where is the barking taking place? What kind of barking is the dog engaging in? And how often does the barking occur? Who, if anyone, is around, and what are they doing in response to the barking? And what are the owners doing in response to their dog’s behavior? There are several different reasons why dogs bark. Barking is usually a symptom of another problem behavior. Eliminating the underlying behavior should correct the barking symptom. This is why it is very important to determine why a dog is barking in order to correct the problem behavior.
There are six common types of barking that your dog could be engaging in: Excited Play Alert Barking, Fearful Alarm Barking, Dominance Barking, Territorial Barking, Boredom Barking and Learned Barking. If the bark is constant, then it is most likely not fear based. From my interpretation of the question, I presume your dog’s barking is excited, bored, or learned so I will home in on these three types.
Excited Alert Barking is common in puppies and is usually directed at something the dog sees but cannot get to. This includes playful and excited behavior such as play bowing and bouncing. Boredom and Learned Barking are repetitive barks generally with no vocal fluctuation. All three forms of barking are attention-seeking. Solution? Remove the attention even if it is negative attention. Ignore the barking altogether. Most “problems” we label are self-rewarding behaviors for dogs. Your dog will learn that she gets what she wants when she is calm.
Encourage calm behavior when it is easy for your dog. If your dog constantly barks when guests are over, reward her calm behavior when guests aren’t around. She will start to catch on no matter the situation. Make sure the rewards for her quiet behavior are rewarding – well-fed dogs will not be motivated by treats and a dog that gets lots of attention on a normal basis will not be motivated by praise and petting. Most importantly, be consistent! The more consistent you are with your dog the more consistent she will be in following your direction. Lastly, physical and mental stimulation should always be used to correct any unwanted barking or behavior. A daily 30-minute walk plus 30-minute playtime at home should help filter your dog’s energy away from unwanted behaviors. Dog toys are also great tools to help preoccupy your dog. Simple logic affirms that if your dog is consumed by one thing, another can’t coexist. Give your dog something to do in place of the unwanted barking. Your experience with your dog is one of learned behavior. The more you prevent problematic barking, reinforce calm behavior, and focus your dog’s energy on healthy outlets, the calmer your household will be.