ANIMALS 101 – DECODING YOUR DOG’S BARK.

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Animals

ANIMALS 101 – WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!

One of the 5 FREEDOMS OF ANIMAL WELFARE includes the FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NATURAL BEHAVIOUR and barking is natural behaviour! Barking is a way to communicate, so it will never be the goal to stop barking entirely. Obviously, we don’t want constant or excessive barking, but then we need to find out what is being constantly communicated through the barking. Barking is a way your dog is telling you something is not right, which might include that their needs are not met, so listen up!

REASONS WHY DOGS BARK

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Dogs bark for different reasons and understanding what triggers the behaviour can provide insights into what, if anything, you should do about it. Barking can simply be a form of greeting, but two of the top reasons probably are that IT FEELS GOOD & IT WORKS! When you pat them after a bark, it worked! When a person or pet backs off after a bark, it worked!  When you give them a treat (maybe to silence them), it worked!

Photo by Canineology

OTHER REASONS

  • Genetics – some breeds are more prone to barking (e.g., Terriers), even though any breed can bark excessively.
  • Physical needs – The dog is hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, want to go potty or is in pain.  This is the dog’s way of requesting that you help them with one of their needs.  Insufficient exercise, means build-up energy, which is easily released through barking.  
  • Emotional needs – This may include boredom, excitement, surprise, fear, being anxious or it can be compulsive behaviour due to a frustration and need for social and/or mental stimulation and attention.
  • Environment – Improper confinement (locked up, restrictive tethering, alone for long periods of time etc.).  It can also be a territorial bark or in response to other dogs barking.  It can also be triggered by cars or people passing by, sirens, storms or other changes in their environment.

Just like a mom might know what her baby needs by the way they cry, so can this apply to your dog’s bark.  Listen carefully and learn the type of bark and what they are telling you specifically through that bark.

Two key indicators might be what they are looking at when they bark and what happens after the bark.

Photo by Canineology

READ MORE on what the specific type of bark might mean.

ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM OF EXCESSIVE BARKING

Some reasons for excessive barking resolve with appropriate environmental or lifestyle adjustments, while others may benefit from positive reinforcement behaviour training.

First, attempt to understand what he’s trying to tell you, rather than trying to prevent your dog’s barking. You can also focus instead, on rewarding his silence. As you interact with your dog, you can encourage barking by rewarding the behaviour (more playtime or treats, for instance, when she barks) or encourage silence using the same principle.

Also read: ANIMALS 101 – GIVE A DOG A BONE – OR NOT?

CONTEXT IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT!

TIPS TO ADDRESS BARKING

  • Find out WHY they bark.
  • Manage the ENVIRONMENT and distractions.
  • Do some MENTAL STIMULATION.
  • Let them bark briefly if someone passes by.
  • Let them bark while they play.
  • Let them bark if there is something to bark at.
  • You can train them to bark and to be quite too.
  • New behaviour? Consider a vet visit or PROFESSIONAL HELP from a qualified behaviourist.
animals
Photo by Canineology

IMPORTANT NOTES!

  • Never punish communication! It’s important not to punish your dog for barking; if you do, you’ll both miss out on this rewarding form of communication. However, for times when you need your dog to be quiet, encourage silence by offering praise and a treat or attention reward when she stops barking on command.

As barking is a way of communication, so is a growl.  NEVER PUNISH A GROWL!  It is the way the dog is telling you that they are not comfortable.  When you punish the growl, the next time, they might skip the growl and go straight to bite.

  • Devocalization, or DEBARKING, which involves cutting or removing an animal’s vocal cords, is a CRUEL PROCEDURE that should not be considered to stop a dog from barking, as it removes a natural method of communication, can cause permanent health problems and it never addresses the root cause of the behaviour.  It involves lots of postoperative pain and it is unnecessary.  Most Vets will condemn it, but never support a vet that supports it, unless there was a critical medical reason for it. The same goes for anti-bark collars which is fear-based training and cruel.
  • If a dog barks excessively it can be very frustrating to neighbours, but it is important to always remember that those animals were and are being failed by humans, it is not their fault! Don’t blame them!

DON’T IGNORE A CHANGE IN A BARK (OR MEOW)!

Your pet’s vocalizations are important, as they can clue you in to how they feel physically and emotionally. Dr. Karen Becker explains that if you notice any changes with their voice, that you shouldn’t ignore it. Unlike most transient voice changes or laryngitis in people, a change in or loss of voice in dogs and cats should trigger a visit to the veterinarian.

She further explains that there are mainly two types of voice changes in pets: mechanical interference with vocal cord vibration, or loss of nerve signals to the vocal cords.

  • Mechanical interference with vocal cord vibration is often caused by trauma, an abscess, tumours or cancer.
  • Loss of nerve signals to the vocal cords can have many causes, including an autoimmune condition, infection, hypothyroidism, and laryngeal paralysis.

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Are you correctly interpreting what your dog is trying to tell you? Are you actually listening?

Thanks for tuning in! Next week we will look at how to handle certain animals like rabbits.

WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER!

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