Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quieting The Chronic Barker

My dear friend Melissa has asked that I explain more on quieting the chronic barker. I love that you never ask anything easy.
Some breeds tend to be more verbal than others. Dogs living in high energy households seem bark more. Barking becomes a choice behavior for bored pooches.Sometimes I see barking as the way a dog handles stress. Chronic barking is really multifaceted. Sometimes these dogs remind me of people who repeat what they are saying in a louder voice when they want to get their point across.
The first chronic barker whose behavior I modified was a beautiful sable male GSD. This dog had just been shipped here from Germany. He was stressed out of his mind and would not stop barking. The dog came to stay with me. It took a week to rehabilitate him. He went with me every where.
This dog was in my car for twenty minutes before he stopped barking for a few seconds; he was caught in a behavior loop. Each time he would stop to get his breath I praised him. The first day my words seemed to have no effect.
By the second day we could go a couple of minutes without barking, if I continued to talk to him.
By the third day, he was engaging me by looking at me when I talked to him. I added replacement behaviors by doing some obedience. I didn't start rewarding him with games of fetch until the next day; overstimulating him was a big fear. 
It took a week to build a relationship with this dog. When he trusted me to pay attention to him, he gave up the incessant barking. This became my model for quieting the chronic barker. 
All too often people come in with dogs that chronic barking is just one of several problems. We end up finding an effective way of correcting the dog, not the problem. 
Most day care dogs quiet when they receive enough exercise. Releasing those endorphins is huge. We have a very bright Giant Schnauzer requiring mental challenge to stop barking exercise alone will not do it. The first time we got him to stop barking was the day I taught him to put balls in a box. 
My experience watching and listening to the Satos, the free raninging island dogs of Puerto Rico, has taught me that dogs do indeed speak or express themselves verbally.

Can you imagine the frustration of trying to be heard and understood? It's all about the relationship, which does include our rules of behavior.
Hope this helps; any other questions?



  1. I've only had experience with one barker, and it was seperation anxiety/and generalized anxiety related. I was able to work through that quickly by resolving the anxiety. When a dog at play is insistantly barking at the other dogs, and you are not the one the dog is "speaking" to... do you redirect behavior? Praise the quiet? Seems to be a herding dog theme... Ask Shaker about his noisy border collie friend here in Michigan. :)

  2. As a general rule I always praise what I like. Some under socialized dogs just stand there and bark until they settle into the group. It's like they don't know what to do. Herding and hound breeds seem to have a lot to say, but there's nothing like an excited Beagle bark.

  3. Yes, Shaker's border collie friend from MI is quite noisy. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that it's the only child in her trying to get the dogs to play with her the way that she wants, when she wants. Is praising the quiet the best way to quiet her?

  4. Praising the quiet is a great place to start. Without meeting the dog can't tell you much else. Does she bark only when playing? She a border so she's smart. Do you think she needs more of a mental challenge? Tell more about her. Is she well socialized? How old is she?
    Sounds like you think she is bossy?

  5. She mostly only barks when playing. She is fairly well socialized. (Melissa might have another opinion!) She doesn't like to be without me. She will bark at the door if I leave her outside without me. She is very smart. I am trying to do more trick training with her and shaping games. While doing the shaping she does have a tendency to bark when she gets frustrated. We're in our second round of agility classes. She is about 2 years old. I think she is somewhat bossy. I'm afraid that I gave into her a lot when she was younger. I wish we could meet you. We've heard a lot about you. And she really misses Shaker!

  6. Hi Jen, You have to watch out for these BC's they are great human trainers. You are working in the right direction. It takes a while to undo a little early spoiling.
    As you gain experience, you'll find your balance point with her. With each dog we train we get better. Sounds like you're really enjoying her. If you get out this way, stop by. Shaker would love to run with a friend. It would be nice to meet you.

  7. Thank you. I do enjoy her alot! If we ever come out that way, we'll stop in!