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Training and Exercise

<Back to training and exercise

Socialising

How to get your dog to stop barking

Barking dogs are a nuisance, especially if you live in a built-up area and your dog won’t stop. A quick-fix solution is tempting, but think again before rushing out to buy an anti-bark collar, especially one that issues an electric shock (and you won’t be able to buy one here at PetPlanet.co.uk!).

Punishment-based training methods are on the decline and with good reason. If a dog does not respond to the punishment, then the punishment has to escalate, creating potential for abuse and cruelty. In addition, punishment-based methods can have unexpected effects, and an electric dog collar is no exception.

For example, a sudden shock in the neck can confuse a dog: what was the reason for it? There is no visual or scent-related cue to help the dog understand it, raising the danger that the dog will associate the shock with something other than barking, such as another dog, or even you. If your dog is aggressive, it may attack you out of fear or a feeling that it must defend itself against this shock. For shy dogs, such a device may make them withdraw even further, convinced that the world truly is a hostile place.

A further point to consider is that stopping a dog barking through such a device may treat only the symptoms, leaving the cause of the barking unaddressed. Barking is one of the ways dogs communicate, and when a dog barks it is because it has something urgent to say. Pet behaviour counsellor Gwen Bailey explains: “Dogs bark for a variety of reasons – when the postman delivers or when intruders are about, when excited at the thought of a walk, when needing attention, when in the car, or left alone at home, when bored or anxious or just afraid.” Persistent barking means something is making the dog unhappy: it could be distressed, afraid or bored.

Therefore, merely stopping the barking will not automatically solve the problem that was causing the barking in the first place. If a dog can no longer communicate its problem by barking, it might very well find a different way of making its unhappiness felt, like trashing the house while you’re out.

Boredom is a frequent cause of excessive barking. If you think your dog is understimulated, think about making it a bigger part of your ordinary life. Include some games and play in your walks. If the dog has to be left alone, supply it with some constructive toys, such as a Kong toy or a Wobble Bone, or hide treats around the room, to occupy him.

Other causes of persistent barking may be more deep-seated, and enlisting the services of a Pet Behaviour Counsellor may help. Gwen Bailey, chairperson of the Association of Pet Behaviuor Counsellors offers some case studies as an example.

Bored, lonely and miserable

Sam was being left on his own for up to nine hours a day. Barking was a way of coping with boredom and loneliness. Once he knew what was needed, his owner was more than happy to give Sam more activity. He gave Sam a Buster Cube, a stuffed Kong, chews and a Boomer ball with which to play. He moved a table under the front window so Sam could watch the street life. A neighbour volunteered to take Sam for a walk and give him some fuss and a game. All this wore Sam out and he was soon content to sleep until his owner came home. An anti-bark collar might have silenced Sam, but it would not have solved his problem. He could just have resorted to chewing furniture, or have learned to put up with a dull, miserable life.

Thrill of the chase

Mandy barked constantly in the car. She was spinning, jumping and tearing bits of upholstery with her teeth. A closer look revealed Mandy was barking in frustration at not being able to chase objects moving toward her outside the car. Plenty of chase games with a toy were played just before getting into the car so Mandy was tired and ready to lie down. Making her a bed behind the front passenger seat and fastening her so she could not see out the window solved the problem. Had an anti-bark collar been used, this sensitive dog might have associated the shock with the car; she could have become phobic about being in it. The fear could have caused reluctance to being in the car alone, with further damage to the interior. The fear could have caused travel sickness, defecation and urination.

Don't leave me this way

Duke was so attached to his owner he tried to follow him everywhere. Shut in the home alone, he barked, scratched up the carpet, damaged the door frame and eventually chewed through two front doors. Changing the way his owner interacted with him while he was there gave Duke more confidence about being on his own. Duke had lots of good-quality attention ú when his owner chose to give it to him ú but none when he was seeking reassurance. Having to cope without his owner's attention when he was still in the house enabled Duke to learn to cope when he was absent. Shocking this dog could easily have worsened matters. It would not have solved the over-attachment problem, and would have brought fear and insecurity about being left, resulting in further damage and distress.

The less shocking collar

There are more humane anti-barking devices on the market, which should be used in conjunction with behaviour counselling and supervised training. Aboistop has developed an anti-bark collar which emits a jet of citrus spray towards to dog’s nose when it barks. This has been endorsed by an animal behaviourist and comes with a string of recommendations, including:

  • For supervised use only
  • Don’t use for more than 2-3 hours at a time
  • Don’t use for separation problems
  • Not recommended for dogs smaller than a Westie

And finally:

Investigate the underlying causes for your dog’s barking.

The team at PetPlanet.co.uk are committed to humane animal treatment and training, and the goods sold in our shop reflect that commitment. We work closely with animal welfare organisations to make sure that the collars, harnesses and other restraints sold here at PetPlanet are cruelty-free.

Visit the Petplanet.co.uk online shop to see our full range of dog training products to stop problems with barking dogs. Including training collars, dummies, virtual fence, anti bark collars, aboistop, Master Plus, and other devices for barking dogs.

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