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Barking

Dogs do bark. It is natural behavior for them and along with whining and howling it’s their only way to communicate aloud. Even those breeds that are “advertised” as non-barking-breeds (for example Basenji and Schipperke) do have some kind of way of emitting equivalent to barking. Every dog has many different reasons for barking and different barks for different purposes. Along statistics bitches bark as much as males.

For some breeds barking is more typical than for the others. The purpose for what the dog was originally breeded has a huge impact. For example hunting dogs have barking as their response to almost everything. They may start doing it because of a lightest irritant. This perspective should already be considered before choosing a puppy. Not only your and your family members’ but also your neighbors’ tolerance must be taken into account. Luckily, only few people can’t stand barking at all, but there still are many of us who for example do night shift or have to stay awake with the baby all night long. They have their right for silence by daytime. 

In some cases a dog barking day after day may evoke not only irritation but concern.  Neighbors may start to suspect that there might be something wrong with the dog. 

Not all the barking is alike. An owner knowing his dog will soon learn how to separate one bark from another. There are many different barks, for example:
1) Alarm/warning: someone has entered dog’s territory. (A real alarm bark is usually quite deep, while the higher noise means a greeting.) 
2) Attention seeking: Dog usually learns quite fast to catch his masters attention by barking.
3) Excitement/playing: A dog barks when it’s enthusiastic. 
4) Greeting/letting the other dogs know that one is here: A dog barks in order to say 'Hi' or to mark his territory or to communicate with the neighborhoods dogs.
5) Boredom: A dog may bark because he just wants to do something.
6) Loneliness/fear: A scared dog separated from its herd often howls or barks. Real separation anxiety is kind of a “disease”. It’s caused by a certain kind of nerve structure and therefore cannot b cured. The difference between dogs suffering from separation anxiety and from “just usual boredom” must be made clear.
7) Confusion: Sometimes a dog barks just because it doesn’t know what else to do.  

When barking becomes a problem?

Barking doesn’t have to be a problem. In principle, if the noise doesn’t bother you and your neighbors, you may as well let the dog express himself. (In the real world, this probably is possibly only in the countryside.) The backgrounds of barking, however, should be investigated, to be sure that the dog is fine. Is the dog too much alone, without meaningful exercise or companion?

 The volume of the bark can be surprisingly high and it can really harm your hearing. A bark can be somewhat 85 decibels, while only 75 decibels may cause permanent damage. Long-lasting exposure, of course, may cause damage even in lower decibels. 

If your own hearing is protected (or gone), it would be time to give a little thought for your neighbors. As mentioned before, it’s unlike that someone would complain about barking without a good reason. People have different reasons why they really do need peace by daytime. Even worse, some dogs bark at night when people want to sleep. Constant, annoying disturbance may cause huge arguments between neighbors. 

A dog barking alone all day long day after day makes people not only annoyed but worried. People often assume, that dogs bark because they try to tell that something is not right. Therefore constant barking can make people think, that the dog or someone in his herd is treated badly.   

What to do, when the barking becomes excessive?

Once barking has become a problem, the first and the most important step is to survey the reason(s) for barking.  Reasons for barking are numerous. Some of them are:
1) Extra energy and lack of activity
2) Warning, alarming or herding
3) Wish to keep contact to neighborhood dogs
4) Separation anxiety 

Corrective actions can be performed once the reason is found. Spending the energy with proper exercise and especially activity where the dog gets to use his brain and nose are recommended, if the dog barks because he is bored.  

If the dog barks only when he’s left alone, some new arrangements should be considered. Could it be possible to arrange things so, that the dog wouldn’t have to stay alone so much? Private dog schools and 4H-clubs arrange dogsitting and dog day care at least in the biggest cities in Finland. Also relatives, friends and neighborhood can be checked. What if there was, living right across the street, a pensioner who needs a companion for afternoon-walk?  

Along what’s mentioned, problem can be inferred with training. The easiest way is prevention. Puppy-owners often reward barking accidentally by watching or speaking to the puppy. Reassuring is just what he is after, and giving an embrace to a squeaking puppy will only make sure that he will repeat the behavior. Shouting to already barking dog usually makes it only more overwrought. Best way to get silence is to reward it. If the dog already is excessive barking, one way of solving the problem may training the command “Bark”. Once the dog has learned that, it should be easy to train command “Silence” or “Enough”. 

On the market there are options to restrain the barking, Anti-Bark Collars: 
1) Spray collars (lemon):
2) Remote-controlled Spray Collars
3) Ultrasound collars  

I would not recommend to use them, because in long run they are not effective and can cause dogs to stress even more. It is better to find some other options.

Spray Collars

Some dogs learn to “cheat” the collar by barking a deeper voice or to check if the battery is on. What is negative in Spray Collar, is that the collar sometimes goes on if another dog barks or if the dog jumps. There are also dogs who don’t give a thought for the collar and go on with barking as they used to. Collars can also leak the spray continuously to dogs nose.

Remote-controlled Spray Collars

Remote-controlled spray collar works just as original spray collar except for one thing: it is controlled by a human with remote-controller. Therefore the collar will go off only when it’s supposed to. The problem is that if the handler reacts too slowly, the time period between bark and the collar going off will grow too long making learning more difficult. Remote-controlled collar can’t, of course, be used when the dog is left alone.

Ultrasound Collars

Ultrasound collar emits a high noise inaudible for human ear. The noise is unpleasant (for the dog) and therefore effective, but the problem is that a human can’t observe whether the collar works properly or not. With my experience, they are not working reliable and react also for the movements of the dog (jumping etc).