Question:
I have a Pyrenees/Anatolian shepherd who is 1 year old. He barks constantly. If nothing is out there to bark at, he barks at birds and such. My husband is considering an electric bark collar. I know it is in his breed to bark, but are there any other suggestions before the collar?

Dr. Nichol-
Why in the world is your husband considering an electric bark collar? Isn’t it the dog who’s barking? You need to act fast. The poor man thinks he’s a Pyrenees/Anatolian shepherd.

Barking is a normal part of canine communication. Excessive racket is not acceptable but reprimands would only validate a behavior that’s occurring because an essential element is missing from a dog’s life. Your canine adolescent is a big, active, social fellow stuck in a fenced yard doing his best to commune with a flock of sparrows. They’re ignoring him.

Dogs are behaviorally different than humans. They need to break loose from their home territory and hang with their buds, sniff rear ends, spit, and swap uncouth epithets. There is more to your responsibility as this dog’s leader than putting the kibosh on the commotion. You must set him up to succeed by providing for his essential social requirements.

Electric shock or citronella anti-bark collars are effective punishers in some cases but your boy is already struggling. If he remains stuck in a sterile environment (a suburban yard), different unhealthy behaviors would emerge. No longer able to act out by barking he may self-mutilate, become destructive, or engage in repetitive anxiety- related behaviors. I advise against punishment.

Start by making sure your young active dog gets daily, vigorous, sustained exercise-ideally with other dogs, off property. Run the La Luz trail with him or take him to a dog park or drop him off at play time at a good kennel like the Canine Country Club. Exercise and interaction are great canine stress relievers.

If you provide these healthy activities consistently for 1 – 2 weeks you will learn from your dog’s noise level whether I am right about the reason for his seemingly constant barking. If he’s still a source of madness please contact my office about a behavior consultation. We’ll get to the bottom of it.