This is the latest from guest columnist, Melissa, who is a Pet-ology Expert and In-home Dog Trainer at Le Chic Pet in Issaquah. To get more training tips visit the LeChic website.
Birds sing, cows moo and dogs bark. Good when there is a burglar, but bad when your neighbor is trying to sleep. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at two of the most common: request barking and barking when alone.
Dogs do what works. If in the past your dog has barked at the door and was let in, that worked, so he will do it again. He will quickly figure out what works with you and repeat that behavior. If you do not like barking, do not reward it with attention, door-opening services, releasing from confinement, etc. Never. Period. Rather than the dog telling you when it’s time to go out, take him out regularly, making sure none of your outings are preceded by barking. Ignore a dog that is barking at you. If you have rewarded this behavior in the past, it may get worse before it gets better. The rules have been changed and the dog may be frustrated at first, but don’t crack and reward this worse version. Most importantly be sure and notice the dog when he’s quiet. Reward the times he is quiet.
BARKING WHEN ALONE
This is very similar to request barking. Your dog is simply asking that you come back. If you have a new puppy set the standard right away. Do not smother him with too much attention. Do not let him shadow you around the house. Practice small absences. Put him in a room and go away for a short period of time. Do not come back when he is vocalizing, only when he is quiet. This will desensitize him to your departures. Do it frequently throughout the day. Start with short absences and move to longer ones. Keep your arrival and departure low-key. Never enter when he is barking.
Increase his physical and mental stimulation. If your dog were in his natural environment, he would spend lots of time acquiring his food. He would spend his day stalking his prey, running it down, hanging on to it before killing and eating it, that’s work! Make him work to get his food. Hide it in his space, scatter it in the grass outside. Buy him a “tricky treat” ball. Soon your dog will know that your absence means he’d better start looking for his dinner. Have you heard the term “will work for food?” It’s true; dogs are programmed to work for their food.
Tire him out before long absences. A short leash walk may do it for some dogs, but most need serious exertion to wear them out. Try Frisbee, ball-fetch or a run to the point of panting.
Finally, get your dog something truly yummy to chew while you are gone. Bully sticks, bones filled with Peanut Butter, stuffed Kong’s are all wonderful ways to keep your dog happy.
Remember dogs are a highly social species and don’t cope well with prolonged isolation. Consider doggie day-care or a dog walker for those times when he is left alone.