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City of St.Albert

Excessive Barking

Dogs generally become excessive barkers because they are not properly taught as puppies what is acceptable barking and what is not. The problem can begin when an unwary owner tries to teach a puppy to be a watchdog by saying, "What's that?" in an alarmed voice, thus encouraging the puppy to bark and rewarding it when it does. By the time the dog is two years old, chances are it will be a nuisance barker. Don't teach any puppy to be a watchdog; nature will handle that in good time.

Types of Barking Problems

  1. Neighbourhood Nuisance
    Sometimes a dog left outside, either fenced in or on a tie-out can bark and annoy neighbours. His barking can last long after the supposed danger has gone. Too often, the reason is because the dog has no alternative activities.
  2. Night Barking
    Not all dogs feel comfortable when left outside at night. Night barking may begin legitimately at a passerby or a wandering nocturnal animal, but then escalate to barking at every shadow that falls. A dog engaging in excessive barking at night can be brought indoors, at least while being retrained.
  3. Car Barking
    Excessive barking in the car is a sign of either aggressive or phobic activity. Do not use force to correct this behaviour because aggression feeds on aggression. Your dog's hysteria could be caused by any number of fears or even by motion sickness.

Possible Solutions

1. For Outside Barking
There is no reliable way to modify excessive barking if no one is home to train your dog. You need to first determine and eliminate the underlying cause - often the stress of being alone.

Choose one solution to end your dog's barking and stick with it. People often try one thing that doesn't work, and then switch to others, exhausting all options without obtaining a solution.

When attempting to retrain your problem barker:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to retrain your pooch. Try making these changes while you're on holidays and at home consistently.
  • Understand what is driving his behaviour. Observe your dog when he's not looking. Pretend to go to work as usual and then sneak back into the house to see what is going on when you're not around.
  • Don't yell, hit (or even pretend to hit) or throw anything at your dog. These actions are counter-productive and will only increase the barking.
  • Start by giving your dog a good physical workout: a brisk walk, a jog or a vigorous game of fetch. Dividing one meal into two feedings also helps.
  • When your dog is barking distract him by giving him a command he knows (sit, down or come). When the dog obeys the command, praise him or offer a food reward. Be consistent - do this EVERY time the dog barks.

2. For Inside Barking
The dog that barks when someone comes to the door and then doesn't stop after the person has been admitted to the house can be retrained just as he was trained to "speak" or bark on command. To train your dog to "not speak" try the following:

  • Give your dog something to hold in his mouth (preferably something large and soft, such as a knotted towel) after he has barked to give notice that someone is at the door. By offering something for him to hold in his mouth, you have acknowledged that you heard him and provided a fun distraction that puts his mouth to work at something other than barking.
  • Thank him for letting you know someone is at the door by praising him. A smile, a pat on the head and anything said in an approving voice are all praise.

You may wish to discuss the following options with your veterinarian or professional dog trainer:

3. Head Collar
A head collar/halter or muzzle works especially well if the dog barks as it runs fences. It requires time and at least two people - one to walk outside the fence to provoke the barking and another to enforce a "no bark" command by utilizing the halter, which actually closes the dog's mouth.

4. Electronics  
There are various electronic devices on the market to curb excessive barking. Their success depends entirely on the training capabilities of the person using them and the type and temperament of the dog.

5. De-Barking
One option, only to be used as a last resort, for the owner who has tried and been unsuccessful at all retraining procedures is surgery. Talk it over at length with your veterinarian, then go home and think about it.

There are a number of professional dog trainers available. Look in the Yellow Pages and choose one that can provide good references.

For Further Information:

Animal Control Bylaw - 780-418-6643
Animal Control Bylaw Complaint Line - 780-458-7700

Last edited: September 17, 2018

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