#2 – Excitement barking

As promised I am giving you some helpful hints about excitement barking that occurs in the car or when guests arrive and stress barking.

Barking in the car is sometimes encouraged because we often take our dogs to great places in the car – dog park, the beach, etc.  Conversely, many dogs hate the car because it means the groomer, the vet, daycare, etc.  In both situations, the suggestion is to take your dog on lots of short, boring trips where there is no great payoff or perceived punishment.   If the trips are short enough you might not take the dog out of the car, so no sniffing or exploration.  Depending on the number of boring trips you can expose him to, the dog will adjust his expectations of what it means to get into the car.  Some dogs ‘get it’ in 5 or 10 trips, others might take more.  The first few times the dog may continue his barking behavior, but refrain from yelling or other physical punishment. In fact, say very little once you are in the car.  And, you might consider ear plugs!

Dogs that bark at guests often jump and generally are a pain in the butt!  What I find works best is a few minutes before guests arrive crate your dog with a great toy or yummy treat.  The guests enter and ignore the dog.  When everyone is seated and visiting bring the dog out – perhaps on a leash – and introduce him to the guests.  At the first sign of excitement lead him away from the guests, wait for a few seconds and lead him back to the guests.  Let him sniff, etc.  It’s helpful if you tell your guests ahead of time to say hello quietly and not engage in any play.  If the dog remains calm you can take the leash off and allow him to be in the room with you. At the start of training even that level of interaction may be over the dog’s threshold and you may need to re-crate him for a few minutes and try again.  Once the behavior of a civilized greeting is standard you can graduate to having the dog with you at the door in a sit/stay position and while you are taking care of coats, etc. the guests can offer a polite hello and a nice pet.  The dog can then be released.

Stress barking needs a different approach.  With stress barking you must address the reasons for the stress.  Chronic stress can be caused by over exertion through excessive, repetitive play, owners who are aggressive (children can fall into this category) and demanding, demands for behavior that are beyond the dog’s experience, training and mental development.  The dog may be getting too little rest, too little food and water, no close contact with the owner, too much time alone, too much noise, being tied up, you get the picture.  In these cases the environment must be managed and if the environment cannot be managed in order to give the dog a safe haven then we need to consider re-homing.  You will not be able to train out of stress barking without first identifying the triggers and finding alternative solutions to eliminate them from the dog’s life.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss the ‘warning bark’.  See you then.

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