Whole Dog Journal Tips November 24, 2014

(The Culture Clash Tip #3) Barking

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons.

1) Watchdog Barking serves the dual purpose of alerting other pack members that there is an intruder or change in the environment and warning the intruder that they have been noticed. Dogs bark much more than their ancestors, wolves, who hardly ever bark. In domesticating them, we have selected for more barking. The predisposition to watch-dog bark varies among breeds and individuals. The modifying principles are the same, though, whether you're trying to coax a little more barking out of a couch potato Newfoundland or tone down barking in a hair - trigger German Shepard or miniature schnauzer.

2) Request Barking starts off as a behavioral experiment by the dog, kind of a "let's see what this produces." Typical requests include opening doors, handouts from your plate, invitations to play attention, and being let out of a crate or confinement area. This behavior is a problem not because the dog tries out the experiment but because the experiment usually succeeds: the owner reinforces the barking by granting the request and a habit is born. Dogs zero in on whatever strategy works.

3) Spooky Barking occurs when the dog is fearful or uncomfortable about something in the environment. It's the dog's way of saying: "Back off don't come any closer." This is much more serious than garden variety watchdog barking because the dog in question is advertising that he is afraid and therefore potentially dangerous if approached.

4) Boredom Barking can result when the dog's daily needs for exercise and social and mental stimulation aren't met. The dog barks compulsively. This is very much like pacing back and forth, tail-chasing or self-mutilation. Chained dogs and dogs left outdoors in yards are at high risk.

From Jean Donaldson's thought-provoking book, The Culture Clash, dog owners will learn and get a better understanding of the relationship between dogs and humans, including ways to control excessive barking. Purchase The Culture Clash from Whole Dog Journal today.