Animal Writes
28 March 1999 Issue
Noisy Canines

Solving Barking and Growling Problems

Most dogs get noisy when exposed to anything new or unusual. The stimuli that
trigger noise can vary from dog to dog and from household to household. This
vocalization can come in the form of barking, whining, growling, or howling.

Why all the racket?
Many situations can lead to barking:
* Strangers or other animals entering the dog's property
* Sight of prey, such as a squirrel running through the yard
* Separation from their pack, mother, or family members
* Novel sounds, such as a smoke detector alarm
* Need for attention, food, or affection
* Other anxieties or high states of arousal

Growling is associated with fearful or assertive displays. Whenever growling or
barking is successful at achieving the pet's goals (e.g., the threat is chased away)
the dog feels rewarded. Subsequently, the growling will likely become more
frequent or intense.

Medical problems can contribute to vocalization, and senile changes may lead to
barking problems in older pets. In some cases where barking becomes intense,
repetitive, and difficult to interrupt, it may be deemed compulsive. Pets with
medical, geriatric, and compulsive disorders may benefit from drug therapy along
with behavioral retraining techniques.

Prevention starts early
Socializing puppies to a variety of new people, animals, environments, and noises
can reduce anxieties as the dog grows up. Owner control, training, and leadership
are also essential. While young, the dog should learn to spend some of its time
playing or relaxing by itself, perhaps in its bed or crate so that it's not too
distressed when it must be left alone.

When you give in to your dog's demands, its barking is rewarded. Allowing a
barking dog to come indoors [as a method of quieting the dog], or feeding,
praising, playing with, or even just going to it to quiet it, may encourage barking.
Dogs that live inside with their families are less likely to bark when with their

Correcting bad habits
Correcting a barking problem requires an understanding of the situations and
stimuli that initiate barking. Until effective control and leadership is established,
training programs are unlikely to be successful. Increasing play and exercise,
obedience training, and head halter training may be necessary before bark control
can begin.

Once you have effective control over your dog, you can begin to train it to quiet
down when barking begins. Training the dog to stop barking on command can be
accomplished with lure-reward techniques, disruption techniques, or head halter
and leash training.

Begin training sessions with situations that are easily controlled (a family member
knocking at the door) before proceeding to more difficult situations (a stranger
coming to the door). Training a dog to be quiet on command allows it to continue
to bark at stimuli but stop at your request. Rewards are then given for quiet
behavior. At each subsequent training session the dog should remain quiet a little
longer before the reward is given. Teaching a dog to stop barking in the presence
of the stimulus is much more difficult. To be successful, barking must be
interrupted immediately as it begins, and the process repeated until the dog does
not bark at the stimulus (at which time it can be rewarded).

Punishment is generally ineffective in the control and correction of barking
problems. Excessive punishment can increase anxiety and further aggravate the
problem, while insufficient punishment merely rewards the behavior by providing
Source Unknown

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