It is interesting that wolves rarely bark, while dogs often do. Of course, wolves do not have cats walking outside a fence just beyond their reach, nor do they have mailmen trespassing onto their territory on a daily basis. Barking seems to be a behavior born of the many frustrations experienced by dogs living in a domestic setting. Excessive barking is often a prelude to biting, so it is a problem to be taken seriously.
Many people are initially reluctant to correct their dog for barking because they appreciate the protection that barking affords. The security of having a dog that barks to warn you of intruders is desirable, but this barking should not be allowed to get out of control. What you want is for your dog only to bark at appropriate things, and then to stop barking on your command.
First of all, decide what you want your dog to bark at and correct him for barking at anything else. For instance, a small child going by your house on a bicycle hardly poses a threat and should not be barked at. However, barking at a deliveryman driving up your driveway is okay. Dogs who live in apartments should only bark when someone knocks on the door.
Then teach your dog to stop barking on your command. The command I use is "that's enough." Stopping the barking can be difficult. Start by calmly going to your dog and taking hold of his collar. If the barking was appropriate, praise him with a quiet "good boy." Then say, "That's enough." If he doesn't stop, give him a firm shake with the collar, repeating, "That's enough." You can also try grabbing his muzzle with your right hand and pushing it down while you pull up on his collar with the left hand. The second he stops barking, praise. You could even give him a food reward. He may resume barking immediately. Repeat the command and correction until he stops.
If your dog's barking has reached the point of hysteria, you might want to try the spray bottle technique described above in the section on jumping up. As before, fill it with a 50-50 mixture of distilled white vinegar and water. Give the command to stop barking, then spray him in the face. He is bound to stop, if only for a millisecond, but be sure to praise him when he does.
By teaching your dog to stop barking on command, you are preventing the barking from escalating to biting. Many people do not see the relationship between barking and biting and are surprised when their out-of-control barkers bite someone. The purpose of barking is to warn off intruders; if that doesn't work, biting is sometimes the next step the dog will take.
To keep barking under control, every time your dog barks you must go check it out, praise him for barking if it was appropriate, and then tell him to stop. Recently, I was too lazy to check to see what my Irish Setter, Kyra, was barking at. I told her to stop. When she didn't, I went to her and gave her a shake with the collar. The now hysterical barking continued. Finally, I looked out the window, expecting to see a stray cat. Much to my shock, there was a bear outside my door! I learned my lesson.
If your dog is barking when he is outside, either in a fenced yard or on a chain, he is doing so because he is frustrated. The best way to solve the problem is to reduce your dog's frustration. The easiest way may be to simply keep your dog inside and only allow him out when you are with him or for short periods, not long enough to become bored and frustrated. You can also change the environment somehow, with plants, privacy fencing, or vinyl strips woven into the fencing to reduce the visibility of whatever causes your dog's frustration and barking. If he barks when he is outside with you, correct the same way you would if he were inside. Do not allow the frustration to build, especially if the barking is at people or children, because the dog may eventually bite in frustration.
Another tool for stopping unwanted barking is a citronella spray bark collar. These collars emit a puff of citronella spray from a box on the collar. The puff hits under a dog's chin and startles him rather than hurting him. It may take several puffs before your dog figures it out. Be careful that a sensitive dog may be very frightened by the puff spray.
If the reason your dog is frustrated and barking is that he is isolated in the backyard, solve the problem that caused you to isolate him in the first place so that he can have some much-needed companionship.
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