author Honey Gross-Richardson
There can be many reasons for your dog barking at the neighbours. Dogs will not repeat any activity for long, that is not rewarding for them, and as the barking has been going on for quite some time, all we know at this point in time, is that the behaviour is very rewarding for the dog, otherwise, he would not be doing it!
Some of the most common rewards for a dog barking are:
1: Gaining attention and getting a response for their efforts.
This could be friendly talk, it could be unfriendly shouts – it matters not, what DOES Matter, is that IT IS A CONSEQUENCE of their BARKING, and because HE HAS CAUSED this interaction or response, it pleases him, and rewards him for barking!
To a bored, lonely dog, ANY response is better than no response!
This is often the case where dogs bark at people they are familiar with. It may not even be an aggressive bark, it might be an attention seeking, excited, joyful bark because there is some action behind the fence, and he MIGHT get someone to talk to him! If this is the case, the only cure is NEVER under any circumstances, to respond to the barking at all. To the dog, ANY attention is better than NO ATTENTION, so even if he only gains attention for barking ONCE in a week, he will try to gain attention again, and again! He will always live in hope, because HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL, and he knows from experience, that he may be rewarded with ATTENTION next time, MAYBE NEXT TIME!
2: Driving the “intruder” away from their boundary.
This is a ferocious bark, “get out of my territory or else!” It is the reason most folks get a watch dog for! Someone approaches THEIR fence, and the alarm bark goes off!
What is the CONSEQUENCE of this barking? The intruder GOES AWAY! SUCCESS! Nothing is as pleasing as SUCCESS!
This behaviour is VERY REWARDING! That is why so many dogs bark when people walk past the fence! As for the postman – well! What can be more reinforcing than the almost daily experience of SUCCESS in driving the post man away? As far as the dog is concerned, the hasty retreat of the post man and the milk man too, are a direct CONSEQUENCE of the barking! School children often get the same response, a volley of ferocious barking and the kids go away! This behaviour will keep going for ever, because it is so very rewarding!
Some pet owners tell us that when they are at home, the dog growls, but rarely barks.
Why would that be so? It is normal and natural for a dog to bark when someone comes to the property or walks past the boundary. It is also normal and natural for a dog to growl at the door, if he is afraid, or if he is trying to drive someone away from his territory because he has learned that this is an effective strategy. Dogs will repeat what works for them!
Some of the most common causes of growling at the door:
1: The dog believes he is in charge.
This is often the case where dogs spend a lot of time alone in the garden, especially if the owners are away most of the day. It can be overcome by daily training sessions and more intense interactions in the home, so that the dog learns he is a follower, not a leader. He may believe it is up to HIM to send people packing!
2: The dog has learned, that barking is punished.
Now the dog believes that if an intruder comes to the door or near the fence, or onto the property, he, the dog, is going to get in strife! He is now afraid to bark and he growls instead, to drive them away. Dogs that have been punished for barking, are only a whisker away from biting! The growl tells the intruder to go away or he is going to get bitten. This dog needs to be handled carefully so that he does not have the need to bite. He is made dangerous, because he has been taught that to warn people is forbidden, therefore, he must learn to bite without warning!
The use of PUNISHMENT This is unfortunately still taught by many professionals, however we advise strongly against it because it often leads to dog abuse. Changing the dog’s motivation will solve the barking problem, punishment will not.
If the dog believes that GOOD things happen when he barks a warning, and then listens to the boss, he will lose the need to bark unnecessarily and become a better guard dog, as he will bark to warn, and not become a habitual barker that is ignored, for always crying “wolf”!!
Teach your dog that a warning bark is REWARDED, and silence when told to SHUSH leads to more rewards, and the days of ceaseless nuisance barking are over!
The disadvantages of the use of PUNISHMENT are many! Dogs believe that the PERSON CAUSING THE BARKING, is the REASON FOR THE PUNISHMENT! This may stop the barking. It may also cause such great and frustrated aggression in the animal, that ANY stimulus may cause a bite.
The memory of the punishment that is the consequence of the barking, may stop the barking. If the person who would normally have triggered the barking gets close enough to the dog, he or she is likely to get bitten, because he is being blamed, in the dog’s mind, for the stress of the punishment. It has been found that many dogs trained with aversive methods have become mistrusting and some dogs will be quicker to bite if any movement or event brings back the memory of the moment preceding the punishing move.. The people trying to sell methods advocating punishment, don’t tell you this! On the contrary, they will tell you that your punishment was not meaningful enough or hard enough or not timed correctly. It appears that even dog abuse must be carefully taught. NOT BY US, and not for your dog!
Most dog owners require years of intensive training before they can EFFECTIVELY and correctly train a dog. People who have gained this experience, do not need to use physical punishment or shouting or any methods of intimidation. .
In order to sell their methods and training Programmes, the trainers advocating the use of punishment , will sell their “expert advice” to inexperienced dog owners with little training skills and experience. This is in fact causing dog abuse. Most owners love their dogs and would not dream of mistreating their pets. Instead, we can learn to use positive reinforcement to teach a dog anything that a dog would need to know and learn!
An option for difficult cases, is CITRONELLA SPRAY. This is not painful, it is not nasty, it is only a smelly, slightly aversive spray that breaks into the dog’s train of thought, and stops the barking. There is no shock or pain connection in the dog’s mind. Your VET can tell you about the anti-barking collar, (Aboi-stop) and many vets hire them out to their clients.
Behaviourists will charge $300.00 upwards, for a counselling session, so you see advice does not come cheap! Problems are best addressed where the counsellor can inspect the property and OBSERVE the dog’s behaviour
A special thank you goes to Honey for submitting this article, you can contact Honey via email