Barking pain

Each dog has his/her own reason to bark and the solutions are also equally varied. Here, we are talking about incessant/continuous barking, which we want to resolve – and not the occasional bark which we should encourage.

Why do dogs bark continuously?

For the following reasons...

Anger: As a guard dog, when he sees an intruder, a dog will keep barking. This sort of barking can further be classified as suspicion, or aggression. While the former is easier to handle, the latter is often more difficult to resolve.

Excitement: Most young dogs are very excitable by nature – barking around meal times or morning or evening walks.

Anxiety: This is a state of nervous tension due to actual or imagined threat. In dogs, anxiety is manifested in many forms – like separation anxiety, noise anxiety, etc.

Rules of rearing
If prevention is the best cure, pay attention to the following rules of rearing...

Socialising: In broad terms, it means exposing the dog to various situations and reinforcing desired behaviour. Expose your pup to different people, places, objects, sounds – the works. When s/he shows undesired behaviour, just ignore it. Do not pet or cajole your pet at this time as this would reinforce the behaviour. When s/he is calm – praise him/her.

Crate training: It means getting your dog used to stay in an in-house kennel or crate when he is just a pup. I recommend it from the first day you get him. It is a very useful tool to control separation anxiety. A crate-trained dog will not whine and bark when he knows you are going out.

Win your puppy’s love and respect: Easier said than done, yes. It needs a right balance of play, praise, love, correction, firm handling and discipline for your dog to love and respect you as his/her boss. Pet parents who want to live with their dog on ‘equal’ terms usually end up with demanding and spoilt pets.

Balanced diet: Ensure that your pet is well fed and has sufficient drinking water available at all times. A good diet is an excellent stress buster.

Training: Training and its importance in the development of a dog can never be overemphasised. Training, in essence, tells your dog that you are the leader of the pack. It helps your dog to focus and be attentive. Most of all, it gives the dog and the pet parent a platform to interact on a level playing field.

Coping with the barking problem
In spite of everything, people do end up with dogs that have a barking problem. It could be triggered by shifting to a new place, change of pet parent, new people, and change in activities in the area (like construction) or something we cannot even fathom. Here is what we can do to try and alleviate the problem:

  • Try and identify the cause. It would be smart to try and remove that cause. If your dog starts barking at the sound of your scooter starting, push a distance and start it there. If he barks at other dog, put a screen in front of his kennel/your gate.
  • Give your dog sufficient exercise. Especially if you have a dog which barks away when you are not around – tiring him before you leave is a good option. Not to mention the health benefits he will derive from the rigorous exercise. Needless to say, you will have to gradually build up the exercise schedule. If running with the dog is not your cup of tea, teach him to retrieve on command, few long distance retrieves are enough to wear out a hyper dog.
  • Gradual acclimatisation to new people or situations would help. If your dog barks at strangers and you don’t desire it, let them come closer in your presence. Reassure the dog that they are harmless and as soon as your dog is quiet, treat him and praise him. Build up over time till they can actually come close and pet him. Use different people. This might not be easy especially with an aggressive dog. Basic obedience training would make a world of difference in giving you the opportunity to communicate to your dog and expect a desired response.

  • Speaking of training, it is never too late to teach your dog the ‘speak’ command. Once you identify the trigger that makes your dog bark, give him the command, for eg.,“Murphy speak” just as he is about to bark. Immediately praise him and offer a treat. If he barks incessantly, just ignore it. Again after some time, tell him to ‘speak’ and reward him for obeying. The trick is that while you’re still rewarding him for barking, he has to keep silent in between barks to get the treat. Once he has mastered the ‘speak,’ use the same technique in reverse to teach him the ‘quiet’ command. With patience you will soon have a dog who keeps quiet on command.
  • If your dog barks in your absence, you will have to use the ‘creep and peep’ technique. After you leave the premises and go out of sight from your dog, creep back from another route and look out till he stops barking. As soon as he stops barking, run up to him and praise and treat him. Another variation of the ‘creep and peep’ technique is to correct the dog by scolding him, if you find him barking on your return. Either way, it is important that the dog is surprised by your return.
  • Finally, it will be important to remember that training will help you get through this problem, but you have to be persistent. These habits get ingrained with time. The more you delay the training programme, the longer it will take. The best time to start is NOW.
So, if your dog barks continuously, you can train him to become a well-behaved pooch.

- By Philip a Butt
(Philip A Butt is trained in arms explosive search dog training and methods at Corporate Search Limited, Nottingham, UK. He has pioneered many new dog sports and training techniques in India);

Pet query
My Labrador, Jessy, is quite friendly and hyperactive. But whenever I take her for a walk, she gets distracted watching other animals and runs after them. Sometimes, I cannot control her. Can anything be done to stop it? – Kushaal Mahadev,

This kind of behavioural problems are best handled with adequate socialisation and continued positive interactions post the socialisation period. A reasonable way out is to teach her to pay attention to you while walking. The trick to overcoming distraction is to teach your pet to relax in the company of other dogs. One approach is to stroke your pet, feed her snacks and talk to her soothingly. A pleasant experience will make her behave better. Give her time to get used to things and get a good handler. It helps build self-esteem and confidence. — Dr Umesh Kallahalli

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