It’s tough to live with a dog who barks incessantly. If animal control shows up you have to act fast. Don’t wait until you’re out of options but be careful about how you try to fix the problem. Effective management for one dog could make another dog worse.

Dogs bark naturally.

  • Many do it if they’re threatened or attention seeking.
  • For some it’s a compulsive habit.
  • Older dogs may have aging brain changes.
  • Dogs who bark at strangers are self-rewarded when the threat goes away. It’s a built-in behavior that can be hard to solve.

Watch your dog carefully to see what triggers her barking.

  • The solution may be as simple as blocking her view of the neighbors or their dogs.
  • If your dog is attention seeking ignore her or banish her to time out until she stops.
  • Gently praise her when she’s quiet.
  • Repeat hundreds of times.

If your dog barks just to get a rise out of his homies a citronella anti-bark collar (www.premier.com) could work well.

  • A canister of citronella, attached to the collar, sprays next to the dog’s face with every bark. Dogs hate it.
  • These collars aren’t perfect. Highly motivated barkers can’t stand the smell but bark anyway and those with separation anxiety, fear, or compulsive disorders get more scared.

Many barkers need to be “desensitized.”

  • A Gentle Leader head halter (www.premier.com) is a great tool for closing a dog’s mouth and directing his attention to his owner.
  • Start your training with the stimulus some distance away to make it easy for him to understand your corrections.
  • At the earliest woof say “Quiet” as you pull up on the lead. Tell him he’s good when he stops and relax the lead.
  • As he improves move progressively closer to the threat. Repeat hundreds of times.

These techniques are good but they don’t work for every dog.

  • Some just learn to shut up when their owners are home, meaning your neighbors will continue sticking pins in dolls that look just like you.
  • Forget shock collars; they’re painful and studies have shown the citronella version to be much more effective.

Avoid yelling and hitting and don’t try to grasp your dog’s muzzle.

  • It’s hard to get the timing right (corrections have to be faster than one second) and frightened dogs may respond by biting or by getting hand shy.
  • If your dog barks and freaks out when home alone none of this will help; she needs very different behavior management.

Debarking surgery is another option but only as a last resort; these dogs continue their attempts to wake the dead and, incredibly, some learn to contort their throats and bark again. Don’t feel that you have to fight this battle alone. Dogs who are frightened, compulsive, or anxious do much better with antianxiety medications along with tailored behavior modification. Please don’t consider placing your dog elsewhere. Excessive barking will worsen in the next home. Dogs relinquished for barking usually end up unadoptable. These are the tragedies.