Problem Barking

The sound of a dog’s bark is a common and not all together unexpected sound in neighborhoods, apartment complexes and anywhere people live among each other.  Barking is a means of communication, but when it reaches an excess in both pitch and frequency, the potential for conflict between neighbors grows. 

Barking is a symptom of something deeper and in order to find a solution, the reason behind the barking needs to be determined.

Lack of Exercise

If a dog is not exercised sufficiently on a daily basis, the extra energy may be released through barking.  For example, the dog learns that he gets a quick walk in the morning, and then is left inside, full of pent up energy with nothing to do and no one to do it with. The act of continuous barking releases the energy, eventually he gets tired and is able to sleep or remain in a calm state for a few hours.

  • Before leaving your dog for any period of time in which he will bark, take him on a walk, play a game of fetch or any activity that will burn off all excess energy.  A tired dog has stands a much better chance of being a quiet dog.  The key in knowing that your dog has received enough exercise is to be able to physically see your dog is tired.
  • Sometimes physical exercise is not enough to keep a dog quiet.  Many dogs, sporting and herding breeds, were bred for a specific purpose and need a “job” to keep them busy.  Mental exercise is just as important and can be found in the form of items which are safe to chew on in your absence. For example, a Kong Toy may be “stuffed” with the dog’s food, hard dog biscuits and then topped off with peanut butter, low sodium is best.

             Your veterinarian is a good source for safe chewing alternatives.

Boredom

  • Enroll in an obedience or agility class.
  • Play on a regular basis.
  • Plan daily activities-Include the dog on runs to the bank, go to the park, rotate his toys every week so they stay “new”.
  • Make time for your dog every day.

Barking for Attention

Barking becomes a way to receive attention and negative attention is better than none. 

  • Do not give your dog attention if he is being pushy-barking, whining or pawing at you; wait until he is calm so that he understands calm behavior gets attention.
  • When he is calm, give a command such as “sit”, and give him a couple of pets and move away.
  • If the dog does not calm down within a few seconds or the barking becomes more intense, give a one word command, such as Hush! in a firm tone and command a “sit”.
  • If the barking has become habit or the dog does not take you seriously, the use of a startle tactic may be necessary to stop the behavior.  The most commonly used and effective means of this type of correction would be a small spray bottle of water, a sealed metal can full of pennies or a loud whistle.  The object used must be small enough to avoid being seen by the dog for the startle element to be effective.
  • When the dog begins to bark, give your one word command and then follow immediately with a stream of water, a loud shake of the can or a loud blow of the whistle.  This should capture the dog’s attention and stop the barking.  When the barking stops, call the dog, command a sit, praise lightly and walk away.
  • Continue practicing until the dog stops barking for attention and respects your one word command without the use of a startle tactic.

Being Territorial or Protective

If a dog has been encouraged to react to strangers, animals and noises outside, he is being taught to respond to those sounds regardless if anyone is home.  The barking becomes problematic when there isn’t anyone around to tell him to stop and in many cases, the dog is more “on guard” when left alone.  A dog’s perception of a “trespasser” can be anyone who is not supposed to be there.

  • When you are home, allow the dog to bark several times, then tell him “Quiet” and call him over to you and ask him to sit and then reward.  If the barking continues, remove the dog from the room and stay with him until he is quiet.  Repeat this procedure until the dog learns not to bark past the initial “free barks”.
  • Do not allow him to decide who gets to come in the house, rush the front door or jump on anyone entering or be pushy for attention.
  • Have a door strategy when guests or repair people arrive, place the dog in a sit stay or put him in an area away from the door and keep him on a leash if the dog’s obedience is still a work in progress.
  • The dog is greeted last and is not acknowledged at all until he is calm and under control.
  • When he is calm, have the guest give the dog a treat, so the dog will eventually learn that people in his house are a good experience.
  • Repeat this procedure until the dog is well behaved and confident around guests and anyone in your home.
  • Do not encourage barking at outside noises, for example, saying “who is that?” or “get’em!”
  • If your dog’s body posture is stiff, tail and ears are erect and he will not settle down or relax his body, and ignores any attempt of control, consult a professional.  This is an example of a dog with more serious issues.

Fearful Barking

A dog that barks at thunderstorms, firecrackers, loud noises or construction equipment is a fear barker.  A fearful dog will have his tail tucked under; ears back, and may be crouched low to the ground, freeze in one spot or have frantic movements, like he is trying to escape.

  • Move the dog away from outside stimulus-in inner room or basement, draw the blinds, and block doors and windows from view.
  • Leave a radio or television on to help drown out any frightening noises.
  • Do not soothe or comfort your dog when he is frightened by petting or saying, “it’s ok, sh”, the tone of voice being used sounds like praise and you are inadvertently teaching him to act fearful.
  • Seek professional help to help desensitize your dog and build confidence.

Separation Anxiety

The anxious dog will begin barking when you leave or briefly afterwards, the dog displays a deep attachment to you by following you from room to room, greets you in a frenzied fashion and seems anxious when your are about to leave.  A dog suffering from separation anxiety will always bark, regardless of how long you are gone.  The problem can become worse if there has been a change in the dog’s life, a move, a new roommate or pet, being left alone for a longer period, the loss of a family member or if the dog pet has recently been adopted from an animal shelter.

  • Provide the dog with structure and consistency in his daily routine.  This will allow the dog to become familiar with what to expect and give him less things to worry about.
  • Teach him simple obedience commands, for example, sit and down stay to build his confidence and allow him to receive rewards when he is “away” from you.
  • Do not make a big deal out of leaving or coming home.  When it is time to leave, walk out of the door in a matter of fact manner and ignore the dog for a few minutes when arriving home.  This will allow the dog time to calm down and then receive attention when he has settled.
  • When you are not leaving, practice the triggers that cause the dog to become anxious and anticipate leaving, for example, putting on a coat or shoes or picking up a purse, briefcase or keys.  Pick up the keys and hold them until the dog is calm, do not say anything to the dog, when he is calm, put the keys down and move on to a common activity, reading a book or watching television.  Repeat this exercise daily until the dog can remain calm and watch the procedure.
  • Many cases of separation anxiety are severe will take the help of a professional trainer or veterinarian to resolve.

Positive Alternative

  • Dog daycare-an excellent resource for teaching the dog that he can have a great time in your absence and you will return to pick him up.  The dog will return home exercised and will be able to remain calm for a longer period of time.

Remember:

  • Regardless of the reason your dog barks, all dogs need regular exercise.
  • Don’t punish after the fact-if you don’t catch the dog in the act of barking, the effectiveness of any correction is lost.
  • Enlist the help of a friend or neighbor to assess the length of time the dog barks, when and if the reason can be found.

Teddy and the Cats

I don’t really remember my first owners now, however, I do remember the day they took me for a car ride and left me in this strange place.  The room was filled with new people and these creatures that hissed and swatted at me whenever I approached. My leash got passed from person to person, and I had no choice but to trail after them as they walked through the corridors of the hissing creatures.  

Thankfully, after a few hours of dodging claws and teeth, I got to go home with a nice lady.  She had a gentle basset hound that I got to play with. Now, being a shih tzu mix puppy, a dog that was my height made me feel good.

I looked up at the lady,  When are my owners coming back?

The lady ignored my question, “You are such a cutie, we will find you a good home.  I promise.”

New home?  What is she talking about? I have a home.  

“Come lay on the bed next to Buddy.” The lady patted the extra doggie bed at the foot of her bed.  She then patted the basset hounds’ head, “Take care of our guest, tonight.”

I collapsed on the bed next to Buddy, too exhausted from confusion to figure anything else out.

It will look better in the morning.  Maybe this is all a bad dream.

The next morning, I woke up to Buddy howling.  I glanced around with a start, before remembering my new surroundings, and realizing I had to find Buddy and his mom.

I scampered down the hall, following the sound of Buddy’s howl.  I found the back door just in time to follow Buddy into the yard.  

I relaxed a little and enjoyed marking my territory in Buddy’s backyard.

As Buddy’s mom let us back into the house, she continued to talk on the phone.

I followed her.  Maybe she is talking to my owners, and they are coming to pick me up.

She talked for a long time, and was definitely talking about me, from her side of the conversation.

“Yes, he is about 4 months old.  His wavy black hair gives him such personality.”

Yep, that’s me.  

“Yes, he played with my basset hound, and slept through the night.”

I peed all over Buddy’s backyard too.

“No, he seemed kind of scared of the cats yesterday, but it was a completely new environment for him.”

She paused momentarily before continuing, “Yes, he will be with me at the rescue event tonight.  Great, we will see you then.”

I wagged my tail, as Buddy’s mom made eye contact with me.   I hope she has good news!

“You are coming with me to the cat rescue today.  Then, we will go to the adoption event tonight, and a nice woman is going to come meet you.  She sounds very interested in adopting you.”

My tail slowly stopped wagging.  My owners aren’t coming back?  

I laid on the tile floor.  My good mood was gone. I didn’t want to go back to the ‘cat rescue’.  

Cats are the hissing creatures that hated me yesterday.

I want to go home.

“Come get in the car,” Buddy’s mom called to me.  “See you tonight, Buddy,” she continued.

Bye, Buddy.  I want to live in one place again, all this moving around is confusing.

I rode in the car, stretching my neck to see out the window.  I am not sure why I wanted to see where we were going, after all, the streets looked identical to me.

When we got to the cat rescue, I made sure to stay extra close to Buddy’s mom’s heels.  I was greeted with the same hissing and spitting faces from the cats this morning. I dodged a few swatting claws, before I was stopped in front of a cage with a cat hunched in the back.

Maybe, I can make friends. This cat looks as scared as I feel.

Before I had even taken a full step towards the cat, pointy claws and teeth lunged for me.

Yikes!  I jumped backwards, before shaking myself off.

Forget it.  I just have to avoid the claws until tonight.  Then, maybe the new woman will adopt me.

The day seemed longer than any day I had every experienced.  My paws hurt from all the walking.

That evening, I was driven to a pet store, where there were crowds of people and dogs passing me.

At least, the dogs were friendly.

I ducked behind Buddy’s mom’s legs as curious hands reached out to pet me.  

When is the woman you told me about coming?  If she was my ticket out of here, I couldn’t wait to meet her.  

I had just curled up for a nap under the one table, when Buddy’s mom started talking to a woman.

The woman had a nice smile and welcoming eyes.  She kept glancing down at me, as she talked.

That’s her, this is the one I am supposed to meet, I just know it.

I got up and tiptoed over to the woman’s shoes.  I sniffed the strange scent, and then jumped as the woman bend over to pet me.

“Can I pick him up?” I heard her ask.

“Yes, of course.  He is very friendly, just a little scared from all the changes.”

The woman squatted down and talked to me, “Come here, little guy, it’s all right.”

She held her hand out for me to sniff.  I hesitated momentarily, but soon felt safe by the calm presence of this new woman and walked over to sniff her hand.

She smiled and cooed, “Look at your long curly hair.   You are so cute.”

I felt my tail wag just a little in response to the sweet tone.

I was then scooped into her arms.  I started to struggle, but her gentle hold and soft stroking made me relax.

I heard her ask several questions to Buddy’s mom.

I stretched my head up and sniffed her chin and cheek.  She giggled and cuddled me to her.

I found myself licking her cheek and my tail wagging.  Yes, I want to go home with you.

To my delight, I heard the woman ask about adopting me.

After a few more minutes of conversation, I left the store with the new woman.  I should have been scared, but I wasn’t. She had me tucked securely under her arm and spoke softly to me.  I already trusted my new mom.

As we got in her car, she told me, “I am going to name you Teddy Bear.  After all your soft coat feels like a teddy bear’s. You are going to come home and live with me, ok?”

I stared into her eyes and wagged my tail.

Alright!  I have a mom now, just like Buddy.

Then my new mom continued, “You will love your new home, Teddy.  It is a two story house, with lots of cats for you to play with.”

Cats!  Oh, no.  I don’t want to be hissed and swatted at again.  I’ll take my chances with Buddy’s mom. Take me back.

I tried to squirm away, but even while driving she managed to keep me confined to her lap.

I sighed and rested my head on her leg, suddenly not wanting to get to ‘my new home’ at all.

It wasn’t too long before my new mom, parked the car and carried me into the house.

I gazed around and saw several cats coming out to greet us.

I cringed as I was set down in the middle of the floor, hearing my mom say, “This is Teddy.  Everyone be nice to him.”

As I sat on Mom’s feet waiting for the hissing and spitting to start.  I couldn’t take the tension, so I shut my eyes. Maybe, if I don’t look around, this will all go away.  Suddenly, I felt a furry body rub against mine. As I peeked out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a light grey tabby cat rubbing against me.

I stood up and sniffed at her.  There was no hissing and no signs of claws.  In fact, soon I had all five cats rubbing against me purring.

I glanced up at Mom who was watching protectively, I wagged my tail.  I returned to sniffing each cat as they rubbed against me.

These cats like me!  This is great!

I followed Mom across the room to the couch.  As I jumped up to sit next to her, the light grey tabby, put her paw around me.  She then frisked across the room. I studied her movements. She came back up to me, and then as I went to sniff her, she frisked away again.

She wants to play!

I chased after her and soon the other cats joined in our game.  When Mom called bed time that night, I was relaxed and happy with my new home.

I drifted off to sleep in the bed surrounded by my new family, a doggie smile on my face.   I had a new Mom and five cat friends to play with.  I am so happy to be home.

The end.

Sonny the Wonder Dog

I’m proud to have shared my life with Sonny the Shih-Tzu for nine years.  He was an incredible dog, who acted more like a person than a dog.  He got bored of standard dog tricks and was very in tune to my feelings and thoughts.  It was at the request of the pet resort’s training director that I learned about teaching Sonny to read.   This was the only trick that he really loved performing.  Over several years, I was able to teach him words, numbers, shapes, colors, and even physics equations.

Sonny and I showed off his reading ability at many training events and classes. Our biggest claim to fame, though was being on Good Morning Texas. Not only did Sonny perform his reading trick perfectly in the busy TV studio, but he also picked the 2011 Super Bowl Winner!!

Since Sonny passed away, I have developed the Sonny the Wonder Dog picture book series.  The series explains why Sonny was so smart – he just had to be an alien from another planet.  The first book in the series, Sonny from Outer Space introduces the readers to how Sonny came into Pamela’s life.

Check out all of Sonny’s amazing reading videos at:

www.sonnythewonderdog.com