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barking dog

A common problem but an annoying one: Your dog is well-behaved when you’re home, but as soon as you leave, he can’t seem to keep his mouth shut. It’s driving your neighbors nuts. Instead of being ousted from the neighborhood, try these tricks, courtesy of Mary Burch, Ph.D., AKC’s Canine Good Citizen and S.T.A.R. Puppy Director, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.

Exercise. Make sure your dogs have an adequate amount of exercise before you leave in the morning. Tired dogs are more likely to want a quiet rest time. If possible, have a dog walker come mid-day.

Toys, canine puzzles. There are a number of products that give the dog something to do. Treats can be placed inside a Kong toy, and the dog will work to get the treats out. This is a behavior that is incompatible to barking.

Familiar sounds. A common suggestion by trainers for dogs who bark when owners are gone is to leave the dog with some familiar sounds such as a radio or television. The idea is that these approximate the household sounds when the owner is present.

Citronella collars. Citronella collars spray a burst of citronella when the dog barks. Citronella is made from the oils of lemongrass, and it is often used in perfumes, candles, and incense. This collar is seen as a humane alternative to shock bark collars. There can be a problem when more than one dog is barking and the collar is sometimes hard to fit on very small dogs. Online reviewers report that some dogs learn to bark in tones and frequencies the collar does not detect.

Anti-barking devices (non-collar). There are several anti-barking devices that do not involve collars. For example, the Dog Silencer Pro detects barks and sends a high-pitched sound that only dogs can hear. This device works with multiple dogs or a neighbor’s outside barking dogs.

When finding a solution, keep in mind that as the dog’s trainer (or animal behaviorist), finding the function of the behavior is important. If the dog is barking because he is bored, providing something for the dog to do (e.g., a Kong filled with treats) may solve the problem. However, if the dog is barking because he has separation issues, that may require a completely different solution. Sometimes, the easiest solutions work, but for dogs who have established barking as a leisure time activity, a simple solution does not always work.
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