Melissa had carefully prepared for her conference call. She had worked for weeks to put together this deal. She knew this opportunity could be a game changer for her business and she didn’t want to leave anything to chance. She even put her Boxer-Mix, Charlie, in another room and shut the door to her office. Everything was ready when the phone rang at 4:30pm. She quickly built rapport with the client and started walking them through her proposal. Melissa was happy it was going so well. She heard Charlie barking to be let in, but since the door was closed it wasn’t a huge distraction . . .until her husband opened it! Charlie bounded into the room. Melissa pet him with her foot trying to keep him calm. She glanced out the window and to her horror she saw the postman walking through the yard. Silently she willed Charlie to look away from the window. She turned her attention back to the call and realized she has missed the client’s question. She apologized and asked the client to repeat themselves. The client sounded annoyed. Charlie looked out the window and momentarily froze. She prayed to herself that he would stay quiet just this once. . .
If moments like these sound familiar you are not alone. Overcoming problem barking is a common hurdle many dog owners face. In fact, barking is one of the top reasons people seek help from a dog trainer. Barking is a natural behavior for dogs and a primary method of communication, but it is not always appropriate in domestic situations. Odds are Charlie thought he was doing a good thing by letting Melissa know about the postman in the yard. While barking may be great as a deterrent if needed, 99% of the time things are fine and it is too much. It is understandably frustrating when your dog is barking about anything and everything, from a jogger on the street to a plastic bag to a leaf.. We often advise clients to try a 3-point approach (for a quick, temporary solution) to address barking: Keep Calm, Distract and Exercise.
Constant barking can get on a person’s nerves. Many people become overwhelmed and find themselves yelling at the dog. But instead of interpreting this as a signal to stop, many dogs think “Great! My people are joining in!” Remember, you are the leader and it helps to maintain self-control if you want your dog to follow you. As hard as it is, the best thing you can do is remain calm and avoid yelling.
A tactic that often works is to distract your dog when they start barking. Ask them to sit. Clap your hands once. Even consider blocking their view with your body. The idea is to break their concentration on the object or situation that is causing them to bark and focus that energy toward something else. (this is a very short-term, temporary solution until professional training can be obtained)
Excessive barking can also be a sign of boredom or pent up energy in your dog. Make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise each day. Also, look for ways you can challenge them mentally as well as physically. Activities such as walking and learning new commands will provide your dog with the mental and physical stimulation they need. A tired dog is a happy, healthy dog!
If you find that your dog seems to be barking excessively no matter what you do, consider engaging the services of a professional trainer. In home training can be a great way to address barking behavior right in your dog’s normal environment.
Foundational Manners: The Jacksons found that teaching Rosie manners in the home was an important tool to prepare for more distracting situations publicly. Before, Mrs. Jackson used to think, “why does my dog jump?” After fostering the expectation to sit and stay with calm, quiet, and focused energy, Rosie can now contain her excitement when the Jacksons introduce her to strangers.
Neutral Territory: When introducing your dog to a new puppy or older dog, it is important to meet on neutral territory. Smart Dogs recommends introducing one dog at a time with one person for each dog to ensure you always have control of the situation. Keep a leash on them until both dogs are calm and are familiar with one another without displaying signs of aggression. The Jacksons practiced greeting other dogs calmly one at a time before spending a day at the dog park!
Always Supervise: For Rosie, like many dogs who have not had much recent socialization, meeting new dogs was a dramatic event. Before practicing self-control, Rosie had a mouthing behavior along with jumping on her new furry friends! The Jacksons felt most comfortable using a muzzle the first couple of times they introduced Rosie to the dog park. If you have any hesitations about socializing your dog, please feel free to use a muzzle. It is always better to be safe if you have any concerns. Both sling and basket-style muzzles offer secure protection from nipping.
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