Media – Barking: Normal Canine Communication


Do you do debarking or bark softening? I have about a 20# sheltie.

Dr. Nichol:
I would debark a few people (politicians, mostly) but for noisy dogs, there are better ways. Barking is normal canine communication. Punishments, like verbal reprimands and electric shock or citronella collars seem simple but they create worse behaviors because they fail to address the cause of all that racket. Surgery would be just another symptomatic treatment. Naturalizing your dog’s life will be the best route to peace and quiet.

Your sheltie has stressors that his free-living brethren never have to contend with. He’s stuck behind a fence or inside a house. Essential to his behavioral genetics is the requirement to protect your home from invaders of all species. With that @#%*! fence, how can he check the ID of passing canine scoundrels? If he gets frightened and can’t run for the hills when a scary monster appears he may be trying to drive them off with a loud aggressive display. Leashes and windows are other contrivances that prevent dogs from doing what they naturally must do.

Neighbor complaints about noxious sounds emanating from your house can be a serious motivator but permanently altering your dog’s anatomy may not make a significant difference. The best treatment for canine yelling, cussing, and belly-aching is to provide quasi-natural behavioral opportunities.

Invest in a home surveillance system or aim your smart phone at your exit door as you leave. If your dog paces with anxiety as he wigs-out in your absence he may have separation anxiety. Providing all of his nutrition in food-dispensing toys or puzzles would keep him focused on his survival, much as he would if he lived in the wild.

All dogs need opportunities to investigate the wide world outside their territory. Your sheltie can engage in natural, off-leash activities with other dogs at doggy daycare while you hammer away at work. Your pupster will come home good and pooped from all that chasing and rear-end sniffing. And a tired dog is a happy dog.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.