Nuisance barking can be frustrating and cause friction with your neighbors. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, and determining the underlying cause can be challenging. Bark collars may help as long as your dog isn't fearful, but they don't fix the reason he's barking in the first place. There are several strategies that you can employ to quiet your dog.
Dogs bark for several reasons; any of these can escalate into excessive barking. Your dog may bark to show fear or anxiety, for territorial defense, to get your attention or in play. Observe your dog's behavior to determine the cause of his barking so you can choose the correct course of action.
If your dog tucks his tail, refuses to make eye contact with an object, licks his lips frequently and pants while barking, he may be fearful or anxious. If he's barking at perceived intruders (such as the mail carrier) and has an aggressive posture with tail and ears held high, he could be defending his territory. Attention-seeking dogs will bark to get food or another response from you.
The method you use to eliminate your dog's problem barking depends upon the underlying cause, but there are a few things you can do that will benefit any dog.
Provide plenty of exercise; walk your dog at least twice a day for 30 minutes each time. Taking your dog outside for just a quick "potty break" doesn't provide the exercise and mental stimulation she needs.
Teach your dog to fetch or perform other behaviors and practice them every day. This will give your dog time with you, give her some mental stimulation, and help her work off some excess energy.
Giving your dog toys can provide a much-needed distraction during the day while you're out. Toys stuffed with treats will keep your dog occupied with trying to get at the food and keep her mind off your absence. Keep several toys on hand and rotate them periodically to keep them new and interesting for your dog.
If you can identify a specific trigger for your dog's barking, you can try desensitizing her. Introduce the stimulus far away so that it doesn't cause your dog to bark. Slowly bring the stimulus closer and praise your dog when she remains quiet.
You can also set up situations that you know will cause your dog to bark; wait for her to quiet and start associating this with a "quiet" command and a reward. For a dog that's barking out of territorial aggression, you can also shake a soda can with a few pennies inside or spray a squirt gun at her mouth and use the "quiet" command. The surprise should cause her to stop barking for a moment; reward and praise her the moment she quiets.
If your dog barks during play, immediately stop the play and ignore her until she quiets so that she will learn the barking is inappropriate.
Angie Mansfield is a freelance writer living and working in Minnesota. She began freelancing in 2008. Mansfield's work has appeared in online sites and publications such as theWAHMmagazine, for parents who work at home, and eHow. She is an active member of Absolute Write and Writer's Village University.