by Paul Johnston
Barking is normal behaviour for dogs but habitual barking is the bane of dog owners everywhere. Barking dogs are the most common sources of environmental pollution in urban society and no other dog-related problem causes local authorities so much time and frustration. So, what can we do?
Perhaps one of the reasons that early man first encouraged wild dogs to remain around the camp was their ability to alert people to danger and this is still one of the reasons for many families adding a dog to the household today. However, dogs that constantly bark are a nuisance to those who must live around them. And they are not good watchdogs. A dog that barks at every little disturbance in the neighbourhood will not bring the neighbours running when thieves are carrying the family silver out the door!
Habitual barking can start from a number of causes such as lack of training, boredom and anxiousness. Bored dogs are often diggers and chewers as well as barkers and this should tell the owner that the dog is simply looking for a way to fill in its day. Active dogs are likely to be the ones that continually run up and down the fence barking at the dog next door or passers-by in the street.
Although a dog may be required to fulfil the role of a 'watch' dog it needs to be taught that unnecessary barking is not allowed. When the new puppy is brought home it must be educated that barking at the neighbours cat, the birds in the trees, children playing, or passers-by in the street is inappropriate.
Very young puppies do not have any sense of territory so barking at intruders is unlikely behaviour in dogs under nine months old. Once a puppy does start to give the alarm that someone is at the door or coming down the front path, it must be taught to cease barking when you respond to the disturbance.
When puppies bark they should be disciplined verbally. A good method is to say 'Aaaah - quiet'. When the puppy quietens it should be praised. The 'aaah' should be given as a harsh, guttural sound which will distract the puppy from barking and gain it's attention. The command 'quiet' should be given in a firm, clear and definite tone. It will quickly learn to stop barking on the command 'quiet'.