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How To Deal With Out-Of-Control Barking

I get asked this question a lot….  

My dog’s barking is driving me crazy. She’s a healthy Pomeranian, and I’ve been told that it’s impossible to train her not to bark. Please tell me there’s a way to teach my dog to control herself.

I usually tell them this….

Dogs who bark excessively can cause big problems for owners, but even though it may seem completely out of control, this behavior can be modified to a manageable level.  I recommend that you take your dog to the veterinarian for a thorough medical check up, since any extreme behavior can be exacerbated by a medical condition. 

Pomeranians and other toy breeds are known to be vocal.  Increased exercise and mental stimulation will refocus your dog’s mind onto something more positive and help tire her out.

Dogs bark for many reasons—to get attention, as a warning, in response to other barking dogs, out of anxiety or when excited—and it is important to identify the triggers before training.

If your dog barks to get attention, don’t reward her demands. Telling your dog off is inadvertently rewarding her for barking even if the communication is negative. In this case, it is best to ignore the barking, wait for five seconds of quiet and then reward her with attention. This way, the dog learns that she gets nothing from you when she barks but gets everything when she’s quiet.

A dog who barks when excited, like before going for a walk or being fed, is harder to work with because the owner’s pre-departure or pre-food cues are usually highly ritualized. Again, do not reward your dog with the things she wants until she is calm. For example, if the barking happens as soon as you go for the leash, drop it and sit down. Keep repeating this until your dog is quiet. If you successfully attach the leash but she barks as soon as she gets outside, immediately go back inside. This technique requires lots of patience, but if you’re diligent, your dog will quickly learn that quiet equals a walk.  Dogs who suffer anxiety when left alone will often bark a lot during the first 30 minutes after departure, while others continue until their person comes home. If this is the case, you must get a professional trainer in to help, as separation anxiety can be a very difficult behavior to modify.

Dogs tend to be particularly sound-sensitive, responding to noises that the human ear cannot hear. If your dog barks excitedly in the back yard, for example, immediately take her back in the house and only allow her out again when she is quiet. Keep repeating and never leave her in the back yard unattended. If she reacts and barks at other dogs or people in or outside of the home, it might be because she hasn’t received adequate socialization and feels uncomfortable. In this case, she needs to go on a desensitization program so she can gain the confidence she needs to cope in a social situation.

As you can see, there are many reasons why dogs bark, but please don’t listen to those who say that extreme barking can’t be modified, because there are lots of ways to reduce what is a very normal but sometimes annoying behavior.

 

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