We’ll all assume that I’m talking about your dog here folks, not your cat. Excessive barking can be extremely annoying, not only to you but your neighbors if you let your dog run outdoors in a fenced yard. We had a neighbor with one of these constant barkers when I was a child. It got so bad, the surrounding neighbors got together and signed a petition to take the dog owners to court for disturbing the peace if things didn’t quiet down. The dog owners had the dog “debarked,” which is a surgical procedure in which the folds of tissue on either side of a dog’s larynx, or voice box, are removed, leaving dogs with a breathy bark instead of a full bark. Many people, as well as I, think this is inhumane. Also inhumane are the shock collars that cause pain to your pet.
There are other alternatives. The first thing to do is try to find out why your dog is barking so much. Once you know why your dog is barking, you can start working on ways to decrease this annoying habit. Some medical problems can cause excessive barking, from bee stings to brain disease to ongoing pain. Older pets can develop a form of canine senility that causes excessive vocalizations (in humans we call it talking to yourself). It’s always a good idea to have a pet checked by a vet to be sure there’s no medical reason for a problem. It could be territorial, fear, protective instinct, boredom or loneliness. Whatever the cause, NEVER shout or raise your voice to the dog. This will probably only make him think you want to join in the noise making. Always talk softly and never yell. Turn your back and don’t make eye contact until he stops barking. Then talk to him and reward him with a treat. Teach him to understand the word “Quiet.”
A tired dog is a quiet dog. If your dog barks when alone, tire him out before you leave. Take a long walk or run, play ball or take a trip to the dog park before you go. Provide toys he can play with while you’re gone. Bringing an outdoor dog inside will lessen the noise impact on neighbors, and provide extra security for your home. It’s also safer, because dogs left alone outside can face escapes, poisoning, harassment, and other dangers.
Don’t allow problems to go on and on. The longer a dog does something, the more ingrained it becomes. Some dogs get an Adrenalin rush hearing themselves bark. And allowing a dog to bark in certain situations, such as when the mailman arrives, can eventually make a dog aggressive in those situations. What if your dog gets out one day as the mail is being delivered? Deal with barking problems as quickly as possible, and if you run into problems, ask your vet for advice.
On a personal note, growing up I had all kinds of pets. But as I grew older, I decided that I was more of a cat person than a dog person because I learned that unless one has spent at least an eight-hour shift in a kennel or shelter with a number of dogs, one can never truly appreciate the sound of silence. You could argue that dogs are “man’s best friend,” and you can’t train a cat to pull a sled or be a “service animal,” and you would be right. I agree that a cat won’t provide me with much protection against home invaders either, but I don’t really require a dog; I have a Colt.