Monthly Archives: July 2015

At Wit’s End With Your Dogs Barking?

We all know that babies cry. Buy why? Sometimes they are crying because they are tired or hungry. Other times it’s a signal that they are colicky. It’s one of their only ways to communicate with us and it’s the parents’ job to figure out what the cry means.

Greg Knows Dogs Stops Dog BarkingThe same holds true for dogs  – they bark, howl and whine to convey something to us. There are a lot of reasons dogs bark as a normal signal. These may include:

  • They are hungry.
  • They feel unsafe.
  • They are frustrated or afraid (thunderstorms or lightning).
  • To warn intruders to go away.
  • To say hello when you arrive home.
  • To signal a visitor has come to the house.
  • To tell you they need to go outside to pee.

Normal barking is one thing; excessive barking is a behavioral problem. There are many instances of nuisance barking as well, when it’s not appropriate for dogs to bark uncontrollably. These situations may include:

  • When your dog is outside during the day and barks non-stop because you are not home. This is a sign he is bored. This does not endear you to your neighbors!
  • When your dog barks at a passersby that is no threat to you. Or when the UPS man shows up at your door and your dog begins to bark and jump erratically.
  • A puppy that barks at his owner when he is being corrected vocally is a nuisance in the making. In this case, the dog is trying to challenge your authority, a behavior you want to nip in the bud as soon as possible.
  • If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, he may bark compulsively to let you know he is anxious. He may also exhibit pacing, depression or other destructive behaviors.

You can’t expect your dog to never bark – that’s like asking a human to never talk. I often work with dog owners to discover WHY their dog barks by carefully analyzing the situation. Barking is a symptom, but to eliminate nuisance barking we need to get to the root of the problem.

If your dog barks inappropriately, get him in training as soon as possible or the problem will only escalate and the behavior will become more ingrained. If your dog barks at the UPS man, this could escalate into further aggression such as biting or nipping.

Also, it’s important to rule out any medical problems. For instance, older dogs can get a form of canine senility that causes excessive vocalizations. Additionally, your dog may have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or deafness, causing him to bark because he’s unable to hear himself bark.

The good news? With the correct training in behavior modification and some follow-up on your part, we can train your dog to bark appropriately versus inappropriately.

Working at Home With Your Dog

dreamstime_m_54363748_2Last month we celebrated National Take Your Dog to Work Day.  Unfortunately, there’s not a similar day for those of us who work at home with our trusty companion at our side, but I still have some helpful tips for you.

One of the most frequent complaints I get from clients who work at home is that dogs seem to know when we’re busy and chose that time to bark or annoy us.  Guess what?  Our dogs DO know when we’re busy and that’s why they misbehave at that time, just like children. They will definitely get a reaction out of us – sometimes yelling and sometimes a treat to occupy them as they are whining or demanding our attention.

The simplest solution is to not allow your dog in your work space – ever.  But that’s no fun, so here are some other suggestions:

Exercise, exercise and more exercise.  Even you need a break during the day. Take a walk at lunchtime with your dog or stop for a few minutes to play a rousing game of fetch in early morning or mid-afternoon. A dog that’s tired is a dog too tired to get into mischief.

Keep him busy. Give your dog a food puzzle to occupy his mind and attention.  Busy Buddy, stuffed Kongs, and Nina Ottoson’s puzzles are some good choices.  Select puzzles that are challenging.  And rotate them like many parents do with their children’s toys so your dog doesn’t get bored.

You set the pace. If your dog brings you a toy, don’t necessarily start playing with him. Don’t let your dog set the schedule by responding to his requests.

Do you have a correction word?  Many clients’ dogs respond to “no”.   Although you don’t want to interrupt your phone call with “no”, quickly muting your call and correcting the barking may be all you need.

Also, if you spend every minute with your dog and take him everywhere you go, he may have trouble with separation anxiety when you do have to leave.

One final tip – practice your strategy when you don’t need it.  Pretend you’re on a call or working at your desk and try one of the above strategies.  It’s important to know if your solution works before you’re talking with your boss!