You already know about the dog laws that require all dogs in a public place to wear a pet ID tag with their owner’s details engraved on it, or face a fine of up to £2,000, but now new laws mean that dog owners who let their animals growl at strangers or bark in gardens could face fines of up to £2,500. In fact, one pet owner says she is appealing a court decision costing her £5,870 over complaints about her dogs barking.
Barking is a dog’s means of communication and sometimes dogs bark for very good reasons, for example to give a warning. However, problems arise in a neighbourhood where a dog is barking incessantly or the constant barking is causing a nuisance at inappropriate times of the day. This will usually be at night when the dog may be kept outside while his owner is out, and neighbours are trying to sleep.
If your dog tends to bark for no reason when you are around, you can be sure he will bark when you are not around, particularly if you leave your dog outside when you go out. Everyone is entitled to enjoy their home life in peace so neighbours have every right to complain if a dog is disturbing the peace, especially at night.
Remember that dog barking is one way the dog communicates to us, so we don’t wish to prevent dog barking but we do need to be able to control barking.
If your dog barks for no reason the easiest reaction is to shout at her, but she may believe you are joining in which will only encourage her. On the other hand, if you talk to her gently she may think you are giving praise. It takes a lot more effort and time to train your dog to be able to control barking. Here are some tips we’ve found to prevent unnecessary dog barking:
Get to know your dog. Start to get to know the reasons why your dog barks. With this understanding, you can demonstrate calm, confident leadership and take control in the right way. Your dog responds because he can trust you have taken charge. Learning to read your dog’s signals and means of communicating is incredibly important to your overall relationship and will really help when you need to train him.Gently closing your dog’s mouth. If you have a dog that will bark at people or other animals when out and about, a head halter that enables you to close his mouth and guide him into an acceptable behaviour is a big advantage. Introduce the halter so your dog accepts it willingly and, when an unwanted bark happens, lift the leash so the dog’s mouth closes and he is guided into a sit. Now move again and change your direction, creating attention to you as you move elsewhere. In doing so you are stopping the unnecessary barking and redirecting your dog to acceptable behaviour.
Encourage your dog to pick up a toy when excited. Many dogs bark when someone arrives at the door. Encourage your dog to pick up a toy when someone arrives. Once dogs know that barking at these times is wrong, they will pick up the toy. Having something in their mouth helps them to control the barking.
Bark/stop barking on command. Teach your dog to bark on command, or ‘speak’, and then command him to be ‘quiet’. If you use treats or verbal praise wait a few seconds after dog has finished barking before rewarding him. To get him to bark initially you can have someone ring your doorbell or knock on the door. Have him on a leash during the exercise so that you can distract and stop the barking with a light pop of the leash. To make the response even better teach your dog that he can bark at the doorbell but then must be quiet and go to a place near the door where he can watch who is at the door and allow them to come in. He should learn that if you say ‘quiet’, he stops barking. When the door is opened he is watching and waiting for anything that could be a threat. ‘Speak’ has him barking again. So by teaching the commands ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’, you have a dog that is both under control, yet ready to give a warning or even threaten if required.
Create distractions. With some dogs it does require something to take their mind off the stimulus causing the barking. Something that makes a loud sound when dropped, like a piece of chain or a can with pebbles or coins in it, can provide this interruption. When the dog barks this loud object lands on the floor in front of him and soon he will learn that if he barks for no reason, or if he continues unnecessarily, this will happen.
When going out. When you are out with your dog, don’t allow her to run out of control, chase cars, growl or bark for no reason. Show your control and confidence in handling these situations and be the leader. Have her on a leash or a long line so that you can reinforce your commands and maintain control without shouting or becoming agitated. Do this from when your dog first goes out with you in public if possible, before she learns bad habits.
Training a puppy not to bark. A puppy barking in his crate may stop if the crate is covered with a cloth sheet so he is not stimulated to bark by what he sees. With a cover over it, the crate also feels more like a den and hence more secure. When your puppy is in the crate get to know the sounds he makes and, unless it is an emergency for the bathroom, don’t open the crate or let the puppy out when he barks.
Try a bark collar. Bark collars automatically set off an ‘interruptor’ when the dog wearing the collar barks. Some bark collars emit a noise, some a blast of air or citronella and some use an electric stimulation between two points on the collar that limit the feeling to that area. They can all work. The electronic one seems to be the most successful. The citronella spray bark collar and the noise bark collar can be triggered if other dogs close by are barking. Speak to your vet or vet nurse before using a bark collar.
Barking can be controlled, but only by being persistent and consistent. It is important to build a close relationship with your dog so she feels secure. Make sure she gets enough exercise and has enough attention and company. Loneliness, boredom and having too much energy all trigger barking habits. Organise controlled walks, games such as retrieving, and teach your dog to be quiet and patient by simply sitting or lying down by your side. Learn to recognise the signs of your dog’s behaviour and what triggers barking. Set strong boundaries and be consistent in your reactions, and your dog will learn that you are in charge and this in turn will give her confidence and make her feel more secure, reducing the need for barking for no reason.