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August 10, 2011 at 8:00 AMComments: 3 Faves: 0

Barking - What It Means and How to Control It

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

If you are my neighbor, you know very well, that our Izzy is a barker. My neighbors that don't own a dog get upset when she barks (And yes, we stop her from "out of control" barking. We are not the type of neighbors that just lets our dogs bark and bark!). While my neighbors that do own a dog are more understanding, they get it. It amazes me that when you own a dog, you quickly learn how your dog is communicating through their different barks.

Izzy the Barker

Izzy was 2 years old when we adopted her. While she was in her crate at PetSmart, she fooled me....yes, my Izzy fooled me! I thought "What a perfect little dog!". There she was with those big brown eyes, paws up on the crate door and wagging her tail ferociously. Not a peep out of her. No whining or barking. I even took her out of the crate and walked her around the store. Not even the commotion at the store, seeing other dogs and strange people showed signs that she was a barker. I even asked the rescue group "Why was Izzy given up?"

I asked the rescue organization "Where do I sign?!". They never mentioned that she was a barker. All said and done, Izzy was in the car driving to her new forever home with me.

We brought Izzy in the house and she was so happy! Still no barking and she was even potty trained. I felt like I landed the 2nd most perfectly behaved dog (Romeo being the 1st).

Didn't take long to dispel that notion. Later that evening I found out Izzy was a runner when my husband Larry came home (our backyard was not completely fenced in). So then I knew it was best to tie her out, went inside to make dinner and then we heard it.....Izzy's non-stop barking. She barked at the neighbor's dogs, she barked at us in the window, she even seemed to be barking at the wind. Izzy barked and barked and barked! AND - if you've never heard a Dachshund bark, it is one of the most piercing, annoying, loudest barks you will ever hear. Larry and I just looked at each other and all I could say was "Oh-No!"

Well, as a trainer, we couldn't have a barker. This was just horrible! I could tell Izzy wasn't trained when she was little (8 weeks old is the ideal time to start) to NOT bark, so I knew I had my job cut out for me. This was going to be a very long road that was ahead of us.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Dogs have many different barks that mean many different things, just like babies cry.

They are barking to communicate with other dogs, to tell us something, or just simply share an emotion with us. If you watch carefully when dogs bark, you will learn what their different barks are saying.

  • Rapid Fire Barking. Izzy's rapid fire bark means she has cornered a squirrel in a tree (even though the squirrel can simply run off).
  • Short, Quick, Quieter Barking. Izzy's one to three short, quick quieter bark is telling us she is ready to come in doors.
  • Deep Throat Barking. Izzy's deep-throat bark that repeats is telling us that she has spotted a dog or person too close to her territory.
  • Excited Whining Barking. Izzy's excited whining bark is telling us she just can't control herself when we are pouring her food into her dish for breakfast or dinner time.

Izzy will even try to get the last "word" in with her bark! I could list many more that Izzy has, but I think you understand my barking points.

In the picture (see below) you're seeing Izzy on "Squirrel Patrol" - faithfully standing in this same exact spot every day, guarding "her" tree as the squirrels run and climb up to get to the roof of the garage. You can see her guard is up by the position of her tail - held erect, waiting for the opportunity to get one of those teasing, chatty, annoying squirrels.


And those squirrels are smart. They tease Izzy every chance they get. Even our landscape guy pointed out that there were 5 squirrels just teasing and chatting away at Izzy and boy, she was not going to back down from those varmints! Izzy thinks she is a hunter and has proof as she has caught and killed one.

Squirrels watch out! ;)

When Izzy sees the squirrels, she simply just can't help herself from barking. I imagine she is saying, "Come down here squirrel! I triple dog dare you! Come on, do it!".

Keeping it Under Control

Understanding why your dog barks is a good start to helping curb the behavior. Just like a babies cry, one reason dogs will bark is that they need something from you. Simply providing some of your dogs necessities food, potty break and even just paying attention to your dog should help. That said, certain breeds of dogs are bred to bark more than other breeds and my little dachshund lives up to the breeds standard in the barking department. Dachshunds were bred to go underground after badgers - to corner the badger and alert the hunter, "I got em', I got em', I got em'!" - with their non-stop bark. However, barking can create problems and can certainly be out "out of control" (as we had learned the day we brought Izzy home with us).

In order to curb her natural tendency to bark, Izzy is disciplined with a "time-out" method. If consistent, this training method works wonders. However, an older dog that has a barking behavioral issue will never be 100% corrected, so you have to be realistic about the training which helps to manage it, not to do away with it.

The best way to prevent barking from becoming an issue is to start training with your puppy at 8 weeks old. If it's too late for that, "time-outs" quickly gets the message to Izzy to get it under control. If we got Izzy when she was a puppy, I guarantee this story would be totally different.

Even though it seemed like Izzy was barking at the "wind" sometimes, dogs never bark at nothing. There is always a reason (we just don't always appreciate those reasons!) However, if you feel your dog's barking is out of control, it's a good idea to visit a vet and rule out any medical reasons.

As for Izzy, we LOVE her despite her flaws! We will work with Izzy to help remind her when enough is enough. You have to understand when adopting a dog, while you are doing a wonderful thing, some adopted dogs come with "quirks". Izzy's barking, well that is her only "quirk" and I think we can work with that.

If you have a dog that barks and you want help on how to manage and get the barking under control, a professional trainer can make an amazing difference with this behavioral issue.

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ASPCA - Barking

Dog Bible, Edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, 2005

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  • Victoria - could you please explain how the "time out" method works?

  • Thanks Erin for inquiring...I first and foremost NEVER use a crate for a time out...I use a leash on the dog and when the dog is doing a behavior I don't want, I gently grab the leash and remove the dog to a different area from where the behavior happened, I then step on the leash and wait for the dog to go into a calm state of mind (meaning they just relax)...I then make the dog hold that state of mind for about 10 - 20 seconds and then walk away, while in the timeout, I never talk or look (acknowledge) the dog in any way....I ignore, but you have to serve the timeout with your dog because you have to make sure they go into that relax mind set....let me know if you have any other questions..... :)

  • Victoria, what if a dog well my dog that I have had since she was 6 weeks old suddenly now is a reactive barker since moved in with my fiance? We now live in town and she will bark at everything she see's out the window. Vet has checked her out and she is more stressed than she used to be living with children now which we are working on but it is the popping off barking at everything she see's out the window that is driving me bonkers to the point i am ready to move back out for her and my sanity

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