Animal Medical Center of Southern California

24/7 General + Emergency Care (310) 575-5656

2340 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, California

Animal Medical Center

Most dogs get noisy when exposed to anything new or unusual.

Solving Barking Problems.

Most dogs get noisy when exposed to anything new or unusual. The stimuli that trigger a dog to vocalize can vary from dog to dog and from household to household. Vocalization can be in the form of barking, whining, growling, or howling.

Why All The racket?
Many situations can lead to barking:

  • Strangers or other animals entering the dog’s property
  • Slight of prey, such as a squirrel running through the yard
  • Separation from the pack, mother, or other family members
  • Unfamiliar sounds, such as a smoke detector alarm
  • Need for attention, food, or affection
  • Other anxieties or high states of arousal
  • Growling is associated with fearful or assertive displays. Whenever growling achieves the dog’s goals (for example, a person stops approaching or moves away), the behavior is reinforced because the threat has been successfully removed. Subsequently, the growling will likely become more frequent or intense. Some medical problems can contribute to vocalization, and senility in particular may b lead to barking problems in older pets. If barking becomes intense, repetitive, and difficult to interrupt, it may be deemed compulsive. Pets with medical, geriatric, or compulsive disorders should begin with a veterinary visit to determine if medical treatment might be needed to complement the behavior therapy.

    Prevention Starts Early

    Socializing a puppy with a variety of new people, animals, environments, and noises can reduce anxieties as the dog grows up. Provide regular sessions of play and exercise. After these sessions, be sure to give your puppy some times to play with her toys or rest on a bed or mat, so she gets used to spending time on her own, too.

    You can reinforce barking by giving in to you puppy’s demands. For example, if you allow a barking dog to come indoors, or if you feed, praise, play with, or even approach the pet to quiet her, it may encourage barking. Focus on rewarding your dog only when she is behaving appropriately and quietly.

    Correcting Bad Habits

    Correcting the problem requires an understanding of what causes the barking. If you can remove the cause, the barking will decrease and may ultimately stop.

    You’ll also need to review basic obedience training. Once you can achieve quiet and relaxed “sit” and “down” commands, you can begin to use these commands when barking begins. Focus on teaching your dog desirable behaviors that can be rewarded rather than trying to punish or correct undesirable barking. Commands and lure reward training can be used to quiet the dog as barking begins. Training dogs to be quiet on command allows them to bark when needed but stop at your request.

    Training with the aid of a head halter can be particularly effective, since it provides a physical aid for making eye contact and quieting the dog with a pull on the leash. It also provides reinforcement by releasing tension, which can be followed by giving a favored treat or toy for remaining quiet.

    Begin training sessions with situations that are easily controlled (a family member knocking at the door) before proceeding to more difficult situations (a stranger coming to the door). Ask the dog to be quiet on command and give her a reward for quiet behavior. At each subsequent training session the dog should remain quiet a little longer before the reward is given. Teaching a dog to stop all barking in the presence of a very strong stimulus can be difficult and may be impractical. Barking must be interrupted immediately after it begins, and the process should be repeated until the dog does not bark at the stimulus anymore (at which time she can be rewarded).

    Punishment is generally ineffective in the control and correction of barking. It may actually increase your dog’s fear and anxiety, and in turn the barking may increase or change to aggression when situation is repeated (like meeting new people). In fact, when barking is due to fear, treatment should focus on remaining calm and making the situation positive. In addition, when you punish your pet, you can cause an increase in fear or aggression toward you. Finally, even when punishment is effective, it may stop the barking when you are there, but it will do little to nothing to affect the barking when you are not present. In some cases, a diversion device, such as a whistle, can be used to interrupt barking, which would then provide an opportunity to reward your dog when she quiets down.

    Practical Products

    There are several products that may interrupt barking. Devices include ultrasonic trainers, audible alarms, water sprayers, and shake cans (an empty tin can with coins or pebbles sealed inside). If these products interrupt the barking, you can then reward your dog when she is quiet.

    When you are not present, some barking is likely to persist. If it is excessive, you might want to try to keep your dog away from the sounds and sights that stimulate barking. Alternatively, a bark-activated product might occasionally be useful. However, unless the dog is also trained to be quiet in the presence of the stimulus, devices will only temporarily disrupt—not eliminate—barking habits.

    Bark-activated products may be the most practical means of deterring inappropriate barking and may be a better choice than owner-activated devices since they ensure immediate and accurate training. Some bark-activated products are designed to be placed in an area where the dog might bark, while bark-activated collars may be more useful for dogs that do not bark in a specific location. Audible and ultrasonic collars may work for some dogs. Collars that spray compressed air may be somewhat more effective without causing any physical harm. These products work best if the owner is present o monitor the dog and to reward her with praise, play, or a treat as soon as the barking ceases. Following these guidelines, your dog’s barking problem should diminish over time.

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The Animal Medical Center of Southern California is devoted to providing the best medical, surgicalm and emergency critical care available in veterinary medicine. As important as our medical expertise is, we believe that excellent care combines state-of-the-art veterinary medicine and surgery with a focus on compassion and respect for your pet and for your family.

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