Recently we received a note from our neighbours advising us that our dogs were barking all day, everyday and they were just about to tell our local council about it. Well this was certainly news to us! Even though we knew they did bark on occasion, like most dogs do (plus we have a German Shepherd), we didn’t realise the amount of barking they were doing as they didn’t do it when we were home.
Obviously we needed to address this ASAP as aside from the threat of the Council being notified we didn’t want issues with our neighbours and most concerning of all was why our dogs were barking so much. Excessive barking can be the result of a number of different causes including separation related behaviours and as our household schedule had changed quite significantly in a short time we wanted to address this before it got even worse. We reassessed and put in place a number of measures to help our dogs and our neighbours co-exist.
What we did:
First we took a big deep breath as it had been quite a shock to get the unexpected letter in the mailbox and I felt that we had somehow let our dogs down since they were barking when we weren’t around. Secondly we took stock of our living situation, day to day schedule and thought back on any signs we had missed that something was up with our dogs. As a household we discussed our options and selected strategies that we thought would be in the best interests of our dogs.
- Changed the walking schedule to the morning instead of the evening. This may seem like a minor change (exercise is exercise right?) but it was better to burn off a bit of energy and tire them out in the morning in the hopes that they would rest during the day and not bark.
- Give the dogs a food toy before we leave the house as if they are eating and occupied they aren’t barking.
- Started soundproofing the inside of our house (we have wooden floors and lots of window which equals echo’s!). This included a rug and curtains to help absorb some of the sound.
- We have reinforced a quiet cue (“shhhhh”) when we are home to help them learn an alternative to barking.
- Worked out that our youngest dog Jett was jumping the baby gate into our front room and Ruby was barking at him when he was over there. We have since cordoned off the area and will be installing a door very soon to prevent this behaviour from occurring.
- Jett is an anxious dog and we have been working with him on this since we first started fostering him. This is an ongoing program and he has come a long way but there is still work to be done.
- We decided NOT to get bark collars for the dogs as we didn’t want them to be physically OR inadvertently punished (this is how these collars work by buzzing, shocking or spraying them with citronella) when one of the other dogs barked or if another sound triggered the collar response. This was important to us as we didn’t want to “solve” one problem but end up with a host more from punishing our dogs incorrectly or for something they weren’t doing. Plus it is NEVER a good idea to punish a dog with anxiety.
- We are trialling a bark control device that emits a high pitched sound that is a bit unpleasant to dogs when the devices microphone picks up a barking sound but it does not hurt them in anyway.
- And finally we wrote a letter back to our neighbours acknowledging their letter and letting them know the steps we were taking to address the issue and to let them know that they could contact us at any time. This last step was a very important one as we wanted the neighbours to know that their concerns were heard and that we were proactive in addressing the issues.
Having a barking dog or dogs is not something that can be fixed overnight or is as simple as just “get a bark collar” as is often the advice given in situations like this. My best advice is to try to find out why your dog is barking. Here are some things you may need to consider:
- Has your schedule changed?
- Is your dog now home alone for longer?
- What other environmental changes could be impacting your dog? i.e. is there construction in the area? Sometimes the new sounds of construction can frighten your dog.
- Is there a new dog in the neighbourhood?
- Is the barking being triggered by something specific? i.e. local school bells or children walking past the house.
- Does your dog get enough physical AND mental stimulation?
- Is your dog just bored or is this a symptom of separation anxiety?
As is often the case with barking, your dog may mainly do it when you are not at home so it can be difficult to work out the cause of this behaviour or if there are any specific triggers. If you are unsure whether or not your dog is in fact barking (complaint letter or not) you can always install a sound activated security camera to see what is going on when you are not at home.