Training & Behaviour

Please note that these articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of As with all matters relating to your dog, please use your own judgement where appropriate.

When a Bark is Worse than a Bite

All dogs have a voice that they will use when they feel the need to. In its basic form this can can be a whimper, a whine or a bark. Unfortunately some dogs can be prone to barking excessively, which can prove very stressful not only for owners but also for their neighbours. When a dog's bark is worse than its bite, the key to solving this problem is to be found in understanding the cause.

Excessive Barking

The main reason behind excessive barking is fear, and this is usually down to inadequate socialisation on the dog's part. A dog that is overly nervous of every sound it hears will bark in response. This is the dog's attempt to see off a perceived threat. Although mostly futile, it can become a major nuisance. The solution here is to properly socialise your dog through obedience classes and home management.

Night barking

Barking at night can often be the most stressful of the barking problems. A lack of sleep combined with frustration at the dog can cause an owner to snap. The simplest solution is to just ignore your dog. It is only barking in an attempt to get you to respond. In other words, it is trying to train you! Suffer a few noisy nights by ignoring it and eventually it will learn that barking is not a productive exercise. But by ignore I mean ignore. Try not to respond in any way, even by shouting or scolding. If you do, your dog will only know that its barking has been worthwhile by making you bark as well.

Barking when Left

Some dogs can bark excessively when their owners are out, and this problem is usually caused by the owners themselves. They tend to forget that dogs are packanimals and must know their place within that pack. If they are treated like children instead and are allowed the full freedom of the house, to sit on furniture and beds etc, then they are bound to suffer some form of stress when the rest of the pack leaves. The solution is to treat the dog like a dog. Of course be kind but have strict boundaries where they are required. When leaving the house don't make a big fuss of your dog. Try not to look, pet or talk to your dog for several minutes beforehand. And the same applies to when you return and is even more important. This may sound harsh but in this way your dog will learn that it is not its barking that has brought about your return. If it has been barking in your absence and you immediately reward it upon your return, then the dog will think its barking has been productive.

Barking at Strangers

In itself this is not actually a bad thing. After all, one of the reasaons many people own a dog is for protection. However, what you don't want is for your dog to bark excessively and frighten away someone like the postman. Of course so long as the dog is secured most postmen will be relatively unphased as it goes with the job, but the cycle of the dog barking and the postman leaving can leave the dog thinking its barking has been productive. One way to break this is to get the postman to help. Tell him you will leave a treat outside your door, and ask him to push it through the letterbox with any letters. This should reduce your dog's need to bark at him.

Barking at Passers-by

When a dog barks at someone passing by your property, it is simply asserting its dominance either over the person or over its territory. Again this is not entirely a bad thing but some dogs can overdo this. The solution is to keep the dog inside.

Barking at Familiar Noises

A common complaint from owners is that their dog will bark whenever the telephone rings. But then their response is often to bark back by shouting, which only encourages the dog more because it wrongly senses a danger by that reaction. A simple solution here is to ask a friend to phone you at some agreed times. But when the phone rings don't react: don't move or speak, just remain as you were. After your friend has done this a few times your dog should no longer bark when the telephone rings.

With some gentle persistence your best friend doesn't have to become a nuisance!

Submitted by Tim Holdings Oct 2010.