Dr. Doris Calloway, of Craig Road Animal Hospital in North West Las Vegas, in the first of two articles discusses what to do when your dog barks more that you think they should.
By Doris Calloway, DVM
I have a Chihuahua, I know all about living with a dog that barks.
For the most part, I don’t mind it. In my opinion, a dog that barks when a stranger approaches the front door, or if there is a stray animal in the yard, is doing their job. But what about when they are just standing outside barking at nothing? Or if they won’t stop barking at a friend who’s come over for dinner?
The first thing to sort out is whether or not your dog’s barking is excessive “normal” barking or if it’s due to something else, such as physical discomfort or separation anxiety. Are the dog’s physical needs being met? Do they have enough food and water? Are they trying to tell you that they need to go outside to go the bathroom? If they are outside, is it too hot or cold for them to be out there? Some dogs who spend the day outside simply want to be in the house when you’re not home. If you’re concerned about your dog soiling or being destructive in the house, then consider keeping him crated when you’re not home. I highly recommend crate training, as it provides a safe place for your dog inside your house. I will touch more on the benefits of crate training in part two.
If your dog’s barking is a fairly regular occurrence, happens whether or not you are home, and seems to be triggered by the door bell ringing or company at your house, your dog is doing their job. They just don’t know when they have gone too far. I call this type of dog an “excessive normal barker”. Try blocking your dog’s visual barking triggers. Keep the blinds closed to the street, move the couch away from the front window, and place a board across your fence so that they can’t watch the street. If this doesn’t work, it’s time for behavioral training!
I keep a loaded squirt gun in most of the rooms of my house. If George (the aforementioned Chihuahua) starts into one of his barking fits, he gets squirted with water.
However, this method does require you to be home. Another tool I keep in my anti-barking arsenal is a citronella spray bark collar. This is an electronic collar that senses when your dogs barks and sprays a burst of citronella in their face. Dogs hate the smell of citronella and it is an excellent deterrent without using harsher methods, such as electronic shocks. I use a citronella spray bark collar on occasions, like Halloween, when the doorbell rings constantly and there are a lot of people out on the street. I also use the collar when I have company over and he won’t calm down after a few minutes. George is so familiar with this collar that at this point all I have to do is get it out and show it to him and he scurries off to his crate.
If these methods don’t work, it may be helpful to have a trainer come to your house to help you. Your veterinarian will be able to give you recommendations for trainers.
Have you successfully trained your dog not to bark? Tell us how in the comments below!