Dogs can bark for a number of different reasons and it's important to figure why so that you effectively stop problem barking and can have a better relationship with your dog - and your neighbours...
Firstly, you need to figure out WHY they are barking. Is it boredom? Do they have pent up energy? Are they calling out to other dogs? Do they smell danger (like smoke?) Are they lonely? Are they scared? Are they being territorial? Depending on the breed of dog you own will determine different levels of activity each day and types of stimulation to stay mentally occupied, so let’s explore things you can try to stop a dog barking.
Barking Dog Solutions
Desensitization is a technique of exposing a dog to a stimulus (also known as a 'trigger') that would normally cause a reaction (barking) at an extremely low level. As the pet becomes less reactive, it is desensitized through exposure to gradually more intense levels of the stimulus, until eventually they no longer react with barking anymore.
For example, if your dog reacts to the sound of car keys being picked up from the bench just before you leave and this would normally cause a reaction (barking).
- Try picking up the keys and then going no where.
- Then try picking up the keys very quietly so that they just hear it.
- Reward them with a high value treat and some praise if there is no reaction.
- Gradually increase the sound and reward them with a treat and some praise if there is no reaction.
- Gradually increase the sound again and reward them with a treat and some praise if there is no reaction.
If you get a reaction, don't reward them, but just start again with a lower level of noise.
2. Create a Visual Barrier
Dogs who are acting territorial about their yard may see or hear other dogs, which may be triggering them to bark. Blocking out gaps between fence palings is worth trying using a roll of Bamboo screening from Bunnings you can secure to the fence using a thin roll of fencing wire and wire cutters. If you dont have that, or can't afford it, try cardboard secured to the fence temporarily using plastic cable ties. You want a fence with no gaps like the image on the left below. Not one they can poke their nose through, like the image on the right below.
Signs your Dog might be bored
Two of the most common signs of boredom in a dog are Destruction (they are tearing the place apart) or? Barking (the dog is not engaging with their environment).
If a dog is in good health and is sleeping more than usual they may be bored, but if they are tearing apart the couch, excessively barking or even humping objects, they are definitely bored. The RSPCA advises both inside and outside dogs can be prone to boredom, even if they have a big yard.
“For many confident dogs, time outside the yard provides much needed mental stimulation (a variety of sights, smells and sounds); even dogs in the biggest yards can become bored if not taken out regularly,” RSPCA said. Whichever behaviour your dog displays to express their boredom it is important to redirect their negative behaviours rather than punishing them.
3. Book them into a Regular Program of Dog Walks
One of the ways to combat a bored dog involves their favourite four letter word, W-A-L-K. Taking a dog for a walk is one of the easiest ways to combat their bored. Jordan says a dog should be taken for a walk at least once a day. Breeds such as Airedale Terriers need to be taken for a walk for 2 hours every day.
“Dogs, like all of us, need exercise to stimulate their minds and it also takes away the boredom of hanging around in the yard all day,” he said. If you don't have the time to exercise your dog, then book a dog walker. Dog's brains operate like ours when it comes to exercise and happiness. The endorphines and serotonin produced from exercise will make them happier and their muscles, relaxed.
4. Try out a regular program of Doggy Day Care
Doggy day care is a fantastic way to give you pet social interaction with other peoples and pets while you are at work and can help reduce separation anxiety and loneliness. As well as keeping your dog entertained, it can improve their social skills and adaptability. Your dog's need for regular socialisation just as important as humans.
5. Start Reward based Training
Positive reinforcement training is a great way to physically and mentally stimulate a dog. Jordan recommends giving your dog some basic training each and every day for about 10 minutes because dogs, like children, need education.
“Every interaction with your dog is an opportunity to train you dog,” he said. “Some helpful and easy commands to consider ae name recognition, sit, drop, come, shake, leave and mat training.”
6. Provide Toys they have to work for
Dogs at home alone need to be kept mentally active. Enrichment toys and activities are involve a dog having to manipulate or move an object and can be done without interact with a person. The RSPCA recommends kong’s are enjoyed by most dogs and provide a challenge and good chewing experience. “It is important to rotate the toys on a regular basis so that your dog does not become bored,” the RSPCA said. Why not have a toy box and switch up which toys your dog as access to each day.
7. Throw away their food bowl
Dogs are natural scavengers so rather than serving food in a bowl keep a dog entertained with a foraging activity will teach them to work for their food. Whether food is hidden in kibble treat balls or rubber kongs, frozen in an ice block or hidden around the yard/house this will stimulate your dog to get to their food and give them a tasty snack. You can purchase toys that will release the food on a timer or they have to push are to release food, or make your own toys with plastic bottles or boxes. Try scattering your dog’s chews across the lawn. It’s going to take a bit of time to find breakfast, and they will most likely keep looking and not begin barking.
Try a rubber kong stuffed with 100% nuts peanut butter.
RSPCA School for Dogs recommends using food to entertain an easy way to make at home enrichment toys with food. “Take some old rags or towels (that you don’t mind being ripped or dirtied), tie together into large knots and place dry treats inside the knots”.
8. Try Snuffle Mats
You can make these at home with a bath mat and polar fleece from a material store such as Spotlight. Cut the polar fleece into strips. Then thread them throught the holes in the bathmat and tie to secure, making a messy mat. Sprinkle treats throughout that they have to snuffle with their nose for.
9. Try a Kong Wobbler
Treats are inside and they have to paw at the wobbler to try and tip it over so they fall out of the hole.
10 . Try a Kibble Ball
Kibble is placed inside a ball with a hole. Your dog has to nose the ball to get the kibble to come out.
11. Try Puzzle Toys
You can make your own DIY puzzle toy using treats hidden under balls in a muffin tin.
12. Try Nose work & scent games
A dog’s sense of smell is more than 10,000 times more powerful than our own. Nose work games can help your dog hone in on their natural talents, and it’s a easy way to keep them entertained.
13 . Try Raw Meaty Bones
Meaty raw beef bones are great for keeping dogs teeth clean, but also great for keeping them occupied.
9. Seek Vet Advice
If you have tried all these options, we recommend being proactive and seeking Vet Advice as they might recommend some alternate options.
Zylkene (made by Vetoquinol) is a capsule taken orally by pets and is an all-natural, non-sedating, drug-free nutritional supplement that can help to decrease anxiety in both dogs and cats. The active ingredient in Zylkene is alpha-casozepine which is derived from a protein in milk called casein. You are able to pick up Zylkene from any Vet.
Complete Calm (made by Blackmores) are kangaroo based chews that contains Tryptophan, B group vitamins and a blend of multivitamins and nutrients to support the general health and nervous function in dogs. You are able to pick up Complete Calm from most Vet.
Anxiety Aid make by Rufus & Coco is a dietary supplement for dogs and cats that aids in relieving anxiety which you can add to your pet's food. Anxiety Aid is a professionally formulated palatable powder to help relieve anxiety in cats and dogs. It contains Tryptophan, an essential amino acid which converts to serotonin once consumed; along with other B group vitamins and minerals.
Medication under Vet Advice
In extreme cases when other non-medicinal methods have been exhausted, you may find that drug therapy may be your only solution. As this solution comes from your vets expert guidance, you should try not to feel guilty about using them, knowing that your vet always has your pet’s best interests at heart.
Vets may prescribe drugs, which tend to calm a dog’s senses a little, but they are not a cure. Drugs only provide a support mechanism to assist the owner in rehabilitating the dog, it is only a temporary fix for the underlying problem. You have to treat the root cause.
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