(Bihar Times) A dog’s ancestor is a wolf. Adult wolves howl to communicate. Baby wolves bark but they quieten as they grow into adults. In the past when high rise flats and hostile neighbours were not the norm , people found it beneficial to have barking dogs as these would keep danger away and help them round up goats/sheep/cattle. So people chose the dog as companion, encouraged and bred it to bark. Through genetic engineering and the selective breeding process, dogs retain these juvenile characteristics of the wolf.
Now, in an overcrowded urban world, barking, which is part of the dog’s natural behaviour, is considered a nuisance. So what can you do to protect your dog from being seen an irritant.
First know the reasons why dogs bark . One is attention seeking: barking to open a door to come in for instance. Your dog might be hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, or have to eliminate. If he/she does not bark, how will you know?
Barking as part of learned behaviour – for instance , if the dog barks whenever you pick up a phone , its because you always pay attention to him then if only to try and get him to shut up. "a barking dog gets attention" and that is what most dogs want. The fact that we might be reprimanding the dog, matters little, as long as the dog gets what it wants.
Barking to warn off intruders.
Barking as a way of warding off boredom or stress – this creates a chronic barker.
Barking to tell you how unhappy he is because you tie him up the whole day.
Barking because he is hungry and cannot sleep at night on an empty stomach.
Barking to inform all the ladies during heat season that he also exists..
You need to remove your dog’s motivation to bark. If he is bored ,enhance the environment. If your dog is barking through the fence at outsiders , then cover the fence so it cannot see out. If he barks at guests, tie him up when they are expected then give him a treat as soon as they arrive and untie him. He will soon stop barking when guests come. Give him a feed at night so that he does not suffer from hunger pangs. Do not lock him outside at night, whether in the garden or in a verandah as he will bark the entire night out of irritation and boredom. Ignore him if he barks to open a door or wants a treat. Do not reprimand him, simply ignore him till you are ready to do something. When the dog is barking make sure that you do not comfort, pet, hug or feed your dog. This is often interpreted as a reward for the behavior and results in encouraging him
To relieve the stress and anxiety your dog is feeling, exercise him. Exercise is a great stress reliever and a tired dog will bark less.
This is 90% of the solution.
The other 10% is voice control. The best way to prevent the excessive barking in dogs is by not allowing it to become a habit when the dog is young. Most of us find it cute when puppies bark constantly. However, in the long run the dog will just retain the habit and bark all the time. When the puppy barks , reprimand him with “aah aah” in a higher tone. Don’t shout as he will think you are also barking along with him and will keep going. As soon as the barking stops , say “Good dog”.
Teaching him the "Quiet" command. Each time the dog barks at the ring of the doorbell, for instance, hold a treat over his head and say the word "Quiet" in a commanding tone. When the dog stops barking praise him and give a treat as the reward for good behavior. Next time increase the duration after which the dog receives the treat. This allows the dog to remain quiet for longer periods of time. This is a very effective method of dog training.
Now you need to understand his language
Continuous and fast barking, at a medium pitch: Alert. Problems. Some is entering our territory.
Continuous and slow barking, at a low pitch: The intruder or danger is close. Prepared to defend itself.
Fast barking with pauses every 3 or 4: Warning of a problem approaching. Asking you to investigate.
Long and drawn-out barks at a high pitch, with pauses between each one: I'm alone and need company.
One or two short high pitched barks: The most normal greeting.
One bark normal pitch: Curious, alert.
Short back in a high pitch: Shows surprise. If it's repeated twice it means "Look at this!" If it's longer then it calling. Many dogs use this when they want to go out.
Brief bark, at medium pitch: Happiness.
Faltering bark at medium pitch: Asking to play.
Howl or short bark at a high pitch: "Ouch!" Response to sudden pain.
Repeated howls and regular intervals: Suffering from extreme pain or something that scares them.
If you live in an apartment and your dog barks while you are away, this is separation anxiety and you cause it by unnatural behaviour while you get ready to leave – extra hugs, long goodbyes. Pets pick up on our anxiety and respond to it. You need to go through the exercise of leaving your dog for longer and longer intervals at a time while they are young – starting with half an hour and then increasing it without making it seem like a big deal. Do not greet the dog excitedly on return. This just makes the alone period a big deal for dogs and triggers off that barking spree. Often having a second dog in the house will minimize the barking and loneliness
Exercise and socialization are such an important part of a dog’s life. A dog is not supposed to sit and be quiet. They were created to be hunters and protectors living in the wild in packs, they had fun with each other, obeyed pack rules and followed a leader. We are the ones who tamed them, became their pack leaders and so we have to do our part. That does not mean beat the dog into submission, it means provide exercise, social stimulation, proper food, medical care and most of all understanding.
In fact most dog owners will say: Dogs talk. People bark.
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