#NewsYouCanUse – How to deal with barking dogs

To many, the barking of a dog is a high pitched annoyance which eventually leads to hair-pulling frustration.

Edenvale SPCA inspector Jade Nel said although barking is a natural form of communication for dogs, it should be done in moderation.

“When community members have to deal with an excessive barker even the most patient of us begin to feel powerless.”

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Nel said when a dog barks the cause of the problem needs to be discovered.

“There is always a trigger.”

Possible reasons why a dog might bark:

• Separation anxiety – when dogs are separated from their owners they become anxious.

• Reaction to stimuli – dogs reacting to people in the street, other animals or unfamiliar noises.

• Attention seeking – dogs may bark if they were previously rewarded for barking in the past and praised with attention.

• Play – some dogs bark excessively when playing with other dogs, children, owners or toys.

• Medical conditions – older dogs suffer from deafness or cognitive problems, if a dog is in pain they will bark.

“Training your dog when to bark is as important as training them to sit or stay,” said Nel.

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“Positive reinforcement corrects negative behaviour most effectively.”

She said when trying to curtail barking, the key is to be consistent and clear about what you expect from your dog.

“If you tell him to be quiet, you must enforce what you’ve instructed.”

Nel said owners should start by working with a leash when their dogs start to bark excessively.

“When you see they are about to bark, pick up the leash and instruct your dog to sit,” explained Nel.

“If they comply shower them with praise or a treat and keep repeating this until they realise that sitting quietly is acceptable.”

Other ways to help reduce excessive barking include:

• Avoidance of stimuli – try to reduce or keep your dog away from people or places which it would react to.

• Extinction – ignore your dog when they bark, the barking will lessen as they do not receive attention.

• Punishment – spray bottles, loud noises (coin-filled cans or a rattle) could be used to distract him, use this in moderation as this could become a stimulus for more barking.

Nel said if these methods do not work make use of professionals like animal behaviourist.

“Behaviourists can assess your dog, the reason for their barking and provide you with tools to counteract it.”

If you are the neighbour on the receiving end of the barking discuss the matter with the owners in a rational manner and offer your assistance with the training process.

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Nel said if your neighbours are non-responsive then calls should be directed to the local municipality.

Local municipalities, such as the City of Ekurhuleni, enforce by-laws pertaining to the keeping of pets and pets causing a disturbance or nuisance.

Contact Edenvale’s Customer Care Centre on 011 999 2900.

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