Problem Dog Behaviors: Barking

Uncover the causes of problem barking to find a cure.

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A number of products on the market promise a quick fix for excessive barking. The most popular of these are electronic sensor collars that deliver an aversive consequence when the dog barks. There are also bark-activated noisemakers you can place near where the dog habitually barks to discourage him. The sudden sound startles the dog, interrupting his focus on what he's barking at. When the dog stops barking after hearing the sound from the collar, give him praise for being quiet.

Though these collars and other devices may temporarily reduce barking, they often become less effective as the dog gets accustomed to the punishment.

Antibark collars that release a burst of harmless but strong-smelling citronella when triggered by barking are useful for some dogs. The sudden release of scent startles and distracts the dog, similar to the way the sound-type antibark collars work. Some dogs, however, figure out that if they bark nonstop for a while they can empty the citronella reservoir on the collar. Then they can bark all they want the rest of the day without triggering any more bursts of citronella.

It's possible to debark a dog surgically, but this is a drastic measure that should not be considered unless other possibilities have been exhausted. On each side of a dogs larynx is a fold of tissue that tightens and vibrates when the dog barks. Debarking surgery removes this tissue so the bark doesn't resonate normally.

Dogs who have been debarked do not actually stop barking; their voice is just muted to a raspy whisper. In many cases, the dogs voice gradually returns, necessitating successive surgeries to retain the effect. A debarked dog is at greater risk for choking on food.

Next Step: Guarding Food and People

Reprinted from The Original Dog Bible © 2005. Permission granted by BowTie Press.

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