tips to help you resolve problem barking
• Barking can cause conflict between neighbours. Some owners aren’t even aware that their dog barks until they are alerted by others. Thank your neighbours for alerting you and let them know you are working on a solution. If a complaint has resulted in action by your local council, liaise with council and keep them advised that you are working to resolve the problem. Problem barking is rarely resolved overnight and it may take weeks to months to effect a change in behaviour – but it can be done.
• Work out when and why your dog barks. Is it when the doorbell rings? Is it when people walk past in the street? Is it when you’re gone for longer than an hour or is it only when you are gone all day? Common reasons for barking include boredom, separation anxiety, territorial behaviour, reactivity to noises and fear.
• Remove the stimulus for territorial behaviour: if your dog is a natural guarder, prevent access to the boundaries of your property (gates, fence lines and windows). Consider keeping your dog indoors. Dogs can sometimes be desensitised to certain stimuli (for example, people walking past your property on the way to work each day).
• Mental exercise for your dog will help prevent boredom: provide engaging toys that your dog can use in your absence, and have someone check on and even walk your dog during the day.
• Last-resort solutions such as citronella collars don’t address the underlying cause – they simply provide a disincentive to bark.
• Dogs that bark due to fear or separation anxiety may require intensive desensitisation and medication.
• Don’t shout at your dog when he’s barking – if you raise the decibel level, so will your dog. If your arousal level goes up, so will your dog’s.
• Aim to prevent barking from the outset. From the moment you bring your puppy home, reward calm and relaxed behaviour.