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Tails from a Dog Trainer – Barking!

15 Sep, 2018

People often talk to me about barking dogs. Most people acknowledge that dogs don’t bark without good reason, but what are those reasons?

Simply put, when a dog is barking he is trying to communicate. Dogs have different pitches, the same as we have, which convey differing emotions. An excited “I want to play” bark is very different to “help, I’m locked out”.

Boredom (attention seeking) barking is most common in dogs that are under exercised or under stimulated on a daily basis. Pets in “working” breeds (Collies, Spaniels, Huskies) need to satisfy those breed inherent drives to herd, chase, retrieve etc. Adapting their exercise regime to ensure these needs are met is key to a happy and quiet dog. Canine Enrichment pages and blogs on social media are full of great ideas for keeping those brains busy.

Some dogs display territorial barking when people pass by their homes or gardens. Before dogs became pets many were used as “protection” for property and people, whether that be the Tibetan Terrier (bred to alert Temple guards) or the Doberman Pinscher (bred to protect a Tax Collector!). This type of barking normally subsides once the “threat” has passed. Barking works well (or so the dog believes) as that squirrel always runs away every time – which of course simply reinforces the behaviour and makes it more likely to occur!

Barking at unknown objects or people is frequently seen in puppies. Trying to invite a stuffed toy to play can be very frustrating when it doesn’t respond to your best play bow! Similarly, mops and vacuums need to be warned away. Nobody wants to be chased by something twice of the size of him or her making a loud buzzing noise!

And lastly, of course there is what I like to call “social media” barking. The “keeping up with the Joneses” evening bark to Trevor three doors down who also likes to share his thoughts about Wednesday night’s Coronation Street. Perhaps we need to develop an app for dogs to log in to – Facebark anyone?

Louise Burton IMDT
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