Excessive Barking

How Do I Stop My Dog from Constantly Barking in the Garden?

Dear Pippa,

I have a 1 year old German Shepherd dog who has been neutered. My problem is his constant barking whenever he goes into the back garden. When I call him in, he completely ignores me and continues to run around the garden and barks more loudly. I have tried bribes, treats, water sprays you name it. He does go for walks.

Please can you help?

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Doreen Barber

Dear Doreen,

A barking dog gets very tiring for you and becomes a social nuisance for neighbours. Barking is a natural form of communication for dogs and might just be a reaction to being excited at experiencing the outside world. If the barking is excessive, you need to get to understand why he is motivated to bark and eliminate it.

One explanation is that owners have inadvertently rewarded their puppy by giving them the attention it seeks when barking. This develops into adulthood and the dog naturally continues to bark. If this has not developed from puppyhood, barking can be a sign of stress due to a separation from the owner, guarding behaviour of territory or boredom from lack of stimulation.

You have already tried a multitude of correction techniques which can help. These need to be used in conjunction with addressing the reason why he is barking. If he shadows you around the house and displays signs of anxiety when you go to leave he may be suffering from a condition called Separation Anxiety. Is he barking on a walk or just in the garden? This would indicate whether he is guarding his territory or stimulated by the outside world. If you are having trouble diagnosing the reason why he is barking a behaviour counsellor might the best person to determine this. The training methods used to eliminate his motivation to bark would depend on his condition.

To tackle the barking you have tried numerous training tools. It might be worth keeping a pot of his favourite treats by the back door, you need 'higher value' treats than his ordinary food such as small pieces of cheese or chicken. Alternatively if he is motivated by noise use a squeaky toy to encourage him back to you. When he starts barking in the garden wave the treat or toy in front of his nose, most dogs will concentrate on this and instantly be quiet. Praise him and introduce the word 'quiet'. Give him the reward after 3 seconds of him being quiet. When he barks again use the same technique but give him the treat after 6 seconds saying the word quiet, repeat again giving him the treat after 9 seconds. By increasing the intervals you are rewarding the time that your dog is quiet and not the barking behaviour.

I hope this helps, please contact me if you need any further help.

How Do I Teach My Dog to Stop Frantically Barking?

Dear Pippa,

I have a 10 year old toy poodle called Jimmy. He is a wonderful companion and perfect for me. However, I do have a problem with his barking. We were burgled two years ago and he was shut in the kitchen at the time. He wasn't hurt at all but since the incident he has started barking frantically when my neighbours come in or out of their house. I live in a small cul-de-sac so he only sees the neighbours go past the house. It is embarrassing that I cannot get him to stop. I have tried to soothe him by cuddling and talking to him, but that does not work. If I get angry and shout 'no' it works for a couple of seconds and then he starts again. Please help me to help him stop barking.

Many thanks,

Mrs. Gandy

Dear Mrs Gandy,

Thank you for your letter. It is horrible to see your beloved pet become so anxious with everyday noises such as cars entering or leaving your road.

Dogs bark excessively due to a number of reasons. These include being left isolated for long periods of time, frustration, attention seeking, or protective/territorial Behaviour. You describe him as barking continuously at the window, stimulated by the neighbours in their cars. This sounds like territorial barking, probably perpetuated by nerves, stemmed from his experience earlier in life.

To prevent the barking you have tried sitting and comforting him. Unfortunately this just serves to reward the unwanted behaviour and will not calm him as it does humans. You have used commands such as 'no' and 'stop' which have worked until you have walked away. I would try introducing a similar command, such as 'quiet' whilst also desensitise him to the stimulus that Jimmy is triggered by i.e. your neighbours!

To train the 'quiet' command when Jimmy starts barking wave a treat in front of his nose. Most dogs will immediately concentrate on this. Move him away from the window by walking into the centre of the room with the treat. Praise him and say the word 'quiet', give him the reward after 3 seconds. If he barks again use the same method but give him the treat after 6 seconds saying the word quiet, repeat again giving him the treat after 9 seconds. By increasing the intervals at which you praise him you are rewarding the time that Jimmy is quiet. By moving him into the centre of the room you are taking him away from seeing your neighbours, the stimulation for his barking. You might need to try permanently blocking Jimmy's vision through the window. If he is jumping on the sofa to see out, move the sofa!

You also need to desensitise Jimmy to your neighbours. If they are willing it would be helpful to ask them to drive past your house so you can practice your training. If they could then walk past your house and then build up to walking to your door and into your house Jimmy would gradually start to view them as friends instead of intruders. You would be teaching him that good things happen to him when they are around. You need to engage him in training such as sitting, staying, paw, down, anything to keep his mind off the neighbours' imminent intrusion! You will be creating opportunities to praise him instead of constantly telling him off. If he were to bark use the 'quiet' command.

I hope this helps. Please call me on 01303 269172 for further advice.

How Do I Stop My Dog Howling and Barking at 4am?

Dear Pippa,

Thank goodness you've come to the Ashford area. I have a 5 year old Cocker Spaniel, black and white in colour. He has had problems health wise since a pup. He suffers from chronic bowel disease which is currently under control. In June 06 he hurt his back and was out of action for a while. In December 07 he did this again and was put on painkillers and confined to one room. He is now allowed to roam downstairs and in the garden, and his painkillers have been reduced to one a day. He has developed problem behaviour of whining. This goes into howling and barking at about 4.30am in the morning, wanting his breakfast. He used to wake up when we did at 7ish, but for no apparent reason this is happening much earlier. I cannot leave him to bark as we have neighbours. I have to get up and feed him to quieten him.

I have tried a silent dog whistle which has no effect, shouting, ignoring (but not for long). All this has no effect, I'm at my wits end with what to do next. He hasn't had a walk for about 10 weeks because of his back, but hopefully will soon start again. He has three meals a day of chicken or turkey with rice because of his bowel disease. I have tried feeding him later during the day to see if this helps and it still makes no difference.

Please help!

Yours very tired.

Sue Horsham

Dear Sue,

You are in a catch 22 situation. Exercise serves as both mental and physical stimulation and because of his condition you can not give your dog the exercise that he needs. Spaniels are a breed with notorious high energy levels and you have had to confine him to one room or at best the downstairs of your house. Obviously you must be concerned about your neighbours, would it be possible to talk to them to explain the situation? As your dog was not a 'barker' before he hurt his back, when he is given the appropriate amount of exercise the whining and barking should subside. As long as your neighbours know that it is only a temporary problem they might be more understanding, helping you to relax as well.

To treat the barking, you are coming down to feed him. If he is barking due to isolation or boredom this is working for him but obviously not for you! You could try to add more stimulation to his environment while he is recovering, such as leaving a radio or TV on. Kongs are indestructible dog toys which you can fill with treats. You could quarter a carrot lengthways (if that agrees with his diet) and place it inside the Kong for him to find. You can also buy dog puzzle feeders or skittles which dogs need to use their intelligence to get the treats. Pet Planet is a fantastic website for dog toys and gizmos to occupy dogs. Do you have him in a crate overnight? You could try placing a blanket over his crate, or add extra curtains in the room to make his sleeping place darker.

Is he allowed to see other dogs? Do you have any friends with a calm dog who you could invite round for him to see? Engage him during the day and spend time with him. Can you do any training with him such as the recall (from the garden to the house) or work on his heel command. Mental stimulation is as good as exercise. Are you able to take him out in the car? Maybe a little drive each day might help replace boredom!

I hope these recommendations help. As you are able to start taking him out for more walks, the barking should subside and you should be able to get more sleep!

Please call me if you need any further help, 01303 269172

How Can I Stop My Neighbour's Dogs' Unruly Behaviour?

Hi Pippa,

My neighbour's dogs are driving me up the wall. They have two varieties; one is an "eat my fence" type and the other is "start barking at 3am and continue all day" variety.

I have tried, politely, talking to the neighbours who are not in the least bit helpful or interested in doing anything about their dogs.

Other neighbours, especially those who are at home all day, complain about the constant noise as well. The police tell me to tape-record the barking and note the times it happens and if it reaches a certain level of decibels over a certain period of time then they can do something about it but only then!! I am at work and thus cannot do this!

Short of moving what can I do to resolve this problem? The barking dog sleeps in an outside kennel and as soon as it wakes, goes into the garden and barks. I have resorted to wearing earplugs but cannot sleep with my windows open. This is a very real infringement of my freedom. Are there any bodies - perhaps the RSPCA - who can act as a third party between us? Solicitors are expensive and I cannot afford this option.

I await your reply sleeplessly,

Edwina Morris.

Dear Edwina,

Noisy dogs are one of the most common complaints the council receive regarding neighbouring disputes. Your neighbours dogs are being both destructive and noisy, both symptomatic of boredom. The pollution team at Shepway District Council should be your first port of call, although they always advise that you talk to your neighbours first to see if you can resolve this in a reasonable manner. As you have already experienced, governmental bodies can do little to change the situation without evidence. You need to make a log of the barking times, duration and preferably decibels, I know this appears difficult but video footage would be ideal. Once the council have this evidence they can begin mediate between you. If the council feel that the noise pollution amounts to a statutory nuisance and that your neighbours have not made steps to reduce the noise, they can serve your neighbour with an abatement notice. Failure to comply could amount in prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000. This is a long and laborious process, if you can resolve the problem with you neighbours first that would be ideal. I can help to stop your own dogs barking but there is little I can do if the owners are not willing to admit there is a problem. Your neighbours should seek advice from a behaviour counsellor or the council.

To stop your own dogs barking you should Increase their exercise and introduce boredom alleviation activities such a puzzle feeders or Kongs. I also run a dog school where dogs are collected from your home, run with other dogs in a secure field and returned happily exhausted, an hour running with other dogs in a day definitely stops excess barking for the rest of the day!

For more information on governmental advice for noisy neighbours look at Defra's website.