IT has been generally accepted that one of the main reasons that prehistoric man first began to interact with and start a relationship with wolves was the fact they were always prepared to give them a warning if strangers, whether they be human or animal, were approaching the settlement.
This continues to the present day with dogs of all shapes and sizes offering us an early warning system if things are not as they should be.
Now, this is perfectly acceptable to most dog owners and most of the public in general. However the problem comes with the incessant barker, the dog that appears to bark at anything and everything, which very quickly becomes a nuisance to its owner and neighbours alike.
The first thing you have to understand is that there is absolutely nothing you can do if you are not there, and generally this is when the problems with nuisance barking occurs.
To begin to solve the problem you have to establish three things, how, why, and when the dog barks.
What sort of bark is it?
Is it a continuous bark, deep and resonant? Is it an occasional yip or a combination of both? This will give you an indication of what triggers the bark. Continuous, deep and resonant normally indicates territorial issues i.e. guarding the home etc. An occasional yip will indicate boredom and frustration.
You cannot solve the problem if you don’t know what triggers it. We come back to the fact if you are not there you cannot establish what the trigger is.
Does the dog bark all day, or only at specific times? Again if you’re not there you cannot elicit the required information.
Without this information there is absolutely nothing you can do about the problem.
Another more serious problem could be a condition known as separation anxiety, whereby the dog cannot function appropriately without constant human contact and as such barks incessantly for that companionship.
Incessant barking and separation anxiety are complex problems to solve and as such I would suggest professional help.
However there are certain things you can do to try and reduce the effects of the problem on your neighbours.
Make sure your dog is exercised before you leave for work. My experience with problem dogs has shown me that many behavioural issues can be addressed with a structured twice a day exercise programme, however this must be one walk in the morning and one in the evening, and not two walks after you have returned from work.
Do not make a fuss of the dog before you leave for work. Whilst at home teach the dog that there will be periods of time when he will be alone, for example in another room, this will help with separation issues.
Leave the dog a “Kong”, a hard rubber hollow toy filled with her food to keep it occupied while you are out. If you combine wet food and biscuits in the “Kong “and leave it in the freezer it will take the dog longer to consume the contents.
Buy a hollow plastic ball with holes in which the dog can roll about the floor and which will periodically release treats.
If the dog is only left for a couple of hours at a time it is not unreasonable to secure it in an indoor crate. Placing a blanket over the crate will make her feel more secure and will incline her to sleep whilst you’re out. If she is free to roam about the room whilst you are out she will be more inclined to bark.
Joe Astre MGoDT
Member of the Guild of Dog Trainers