Ever since our ancient ancestors brought the first wolf cub back to the cave, there have been questions and conflicts about what is acceptable behavior in dogs. As humans, we live in a community with neighbors all around us- neighbors who have the privilege of choosing whether or not to share their home with dogs. Generally, we have a comfortable relationship with our neighbors, even if we do not know them well. However, one of the most common causes of friction between neighbors is a barking dog. Even the most staunch dog lover will have to admit that a barking dog can become a public nuisance.
It would be unrealistic to think a dog owner (hereafter referred to as “guardian”) can keep a dog from barking, at least on occasion. The question is, how much barking is allowable. Having a dog in the neighborhood that barks off-and-on for part of the day is not necessarily against the law. To find out what, if any, ordinances apply in your area, check with your local animal control agency or look for city or county ordinances in your area that address the issue.
The first step in dealing with a barking dog problem is to make certain the dog’s guardian is aware that the barking is an annoyance. Although it may seem obvious, it is best to act on the assumption that the guardian is not aware of the problem. If a friendly visit seems out of the question, then write a card or letter, respectfully explaining the problem. Focus on what the dog is doing, rather than telling the person that you think they are a bad dog guardian or a bad neighbor. Think about how you would like to be approached if it were your dog making noise.
As a pet guardian, be proactive. Ask your neighbors if your dog barks while you are gone or if the level of barking is disturbing. If so, take immediate steps to alleviate the problem. Not only will you have a better-behaved dog, you will also have happier neighbors.
If a pet guardian needs help with barking or other problems, there are various resources available. Veterinarians are often a good resource, especially if the veterinarian knows the dog. Books and magazine articles on dog behavior, many of which are available at the library, can explain the various reasons for barking and offer techniques of dealing with it. Animal professionals, such as animal behaviorist and trained staff at local animal shelters, help guardians deal with behavior problems every day.
The Internet is also a good source of information on dealing with barking, however, beware the “quick fix” approach that is offered by many anti-barking devices. It is preferable to work with the dog to correct the cause of the barking, rather than to buy gadgets that advertise they will solve the problem. Not all anti-barking devices are effective, especially if used without dealing with the underlying cause of the barking, and not all devices that are available are humane. For instance, the American Humane Association does not recommend the use of electronic or shock collars.
Much like the wolves that first joined humans around a fire, our dogs are still pack animals that are genetically coded to play, run, and hunt in a group. Some of the most common reasons for barking is that a dog feels insecure, scared, lonely, or board. If the dog is outside a lot, just bringing it inside so that it feels more like a member of the family may help tremendously. Another easy method of helping a dog bark less may be to give the dog more attention, including exercise and play.
Whatever the cause, the process of overcoming excessive barking can be a rewarding and bonding experience for both dog and guardian. It is a wise and caring pet guardian that helps his or her canine companion to become an acceptable resident of the community. As with most conflicts among neighbors, respecting each other’s point of view and working together to reach an agreeable solution should be our goal.
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