MakeThe Barking Stop!!!

We live in a neighborhood full of barking dogs. Almost every backyard has at least one (or in one case half a dozen) outdoor dog. That means there is a constant chorus of barking, yapping, howling and general disorder most of the day and a good portion of the night.

Our girls play outside off and on all day, but we don't allow them to bark incessantly or be alone for very long. We consider it respect for both the dogs and our neighbors.

Most dogs bark because they're bored, they have pent up energy to release or they've learned that barking gets them something. All of these are adjustable situations that can result in a quiet, peaceful home and neighborhood.

1. The bored dog.
Some dogs who live in backyards 24/7 get very little attention. What time they do get is usually confined to the yard itself. This can get very old very quickly - how long can you stay in the house before you have to run an errand just for a change of scenery?

These are the dogs that bark at the mail carrier, the meter reader, the squirrels, a passing car and you when you pull up in the driveway - just for something to do!

The first and best solution to this kind of barker is to simply walk them once a day. They are craving attention and exercise, so give them both on a good long walk. They'll get a new perspective on the neighborhood and you can show them that there's really nothing to bark at.

If this isn't an option for some reason, set aside time every day to interact with them inside their fence. Play fetch with a ball or Frisbee, let them play in the sprinkler or just give lots of belly rubs. Dogs are social creatures and can have a complete change in attitude just by paying them some serious attention.

And when you go inside, leave something in the yard for them to play with by themselves. If they're distracted, they won't notice everything else around them.

2. The energetic dog.
This is the dog that jumps up to the window barking when it hears something outside. It may also be an outdoor dog that has no fence so it's chained up all day.

These dogs need tons of exercise - walks first, and then fetch and other active games. Tire them out so they're ready for a good long nap. It's hard to carry on at the front window when you're too pooped to party.

Because all dogs bark, whine and growl when they hear things or see things, we'll allow the girls a little bit of noise, but when we stay stop, they are to stop and pay attention to us. (More about that in a minute.) The energetic dog will be anxious and jump at every little sound, so desensitizing them is super important. If they can hear the television or a radio while you're gone, it will not only give them soothing sounds, it will block out a lot of the outside noise that causes them to bark. And if they're like Sadie, just leave it on the animal channel and they'll be set for the day!

3. The untrained dog.
This is possibly the easiest one to fix. All dogs want a leader, someone telling them what's OK and what's not. This is totally different than cooing over them when they're barking anxiously. Setting rules about when and how to bark is new to a dog, but something they'll probably pick up easily.

We've taught the girls that if we give them a sharp "Shh" and point at them, then they are to stop whatever they're doing, sit down and look at us. The human has to be in control of the situation if you want to see any changes in your dog.

You may decide you want your dog to bark when someone comes to the door, but stop when you get there. Let them bark until you reach the door, then give a sharp sound ("shh," "stop" or some other sound that gets your dog's attention. Give the sit command and turn to open the door. If they get out of the sit, put them back and try again. Do not open the door until they are under control and quiet. Remember, they're used to getting what they want just because they're barking.

All of these barking situations call for the human to step up and spend time with them, training them and teaching them what's acceptable and what's not in your house. We still work with the girls every day and we see improvements all the time. Have patience and have fun! Your neighbors will thank you.

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