People share an amazing bond with their dogs. At the heart of the human/canine bond is communication. Misunderstanding often leads to unwanted behavior and frustration.
Learning to communicate with my dogs improved our quality of life. Understanding what was normal dog behavior decreased my frustration with their (in my mind) odd or annoying behaviors. Barking is an example. When we added our last dog to the family a new and highly annoying behavior started up – nuisance barking.
Barking is a normal behavior for dogs, one that I didn’t want to completely stop. After all, I DO want my dogs to bark if someone comes to my door.
Working in a shelter I had a pretty high tolerance for barking. None of my neighbors worked in a shelter. Oh, and did I mention that the barkers in question were Great Danes (3 to be exact) and one 70 pound mutt?? Since I fostered dogs, there could be an additional 1 or 2 pups more than willing to join the BarkFest. When they barked EVERYONE in the neighborhood heard them.
Barking is a big deal – people loose their housing over it. Dogs are punished, sometimes harshly or unfairly. People become frustrated and hopeless.
But barking is also a normal, natural activity for a dog. My goal was reducing the BarkFest to acceptable levels of noise.
I needed a plan. I also had to keep reminding myself that barking was normal dog behavior – they weren’t intentionally trying to annoy the neighbors or me.
First I needed to identify the instigator. All the dogs didn’t start barking at once, although it seemed like it. No, someone started it. (Mmmm, that’s true with people, too. Where ever there’s a group, either kids or adults, isn’t there often a single individual that encourages the group behavior, either good or bad?)
Before work could begin, I needed to decide what looked “right”. What were the barking boundaries, so to speak.
Finally, I needed to be realistic. There would be times when the dogs were home alone. Because barking is self-rewarding, they would probably bark more when no humans were home. While I couldn’t stop that, I could mitigate it to some degree.
Once the plan was created, we got to work, adjusting the plan as needed. It seemed to me that there was less barking. But I wasn’t sure until the day my neighbor saw me and said, “I hardly ever hear your dogs bark. How’d you do that?!”
There are still moments when a BarkFest erupts. If ALL the dogs are barking it’s my signal that something is up and I need to attend to them. If it’s a solo performance, a simple “shush” is all that’s needed.
While barking is normal, it can create problems. For more information about managing the BarkFest in your home, contact The Learning Dog Academy.