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  • Writer's pictureTeaching Tails

Barking Mad!

Understanding and Stopping the Barking Madness.

Welcome to our blog about demand barking, where we dive deep into the fascinating world of why dogs demand bark, how to figure out what they want, and most importantly, how to curb this behavior once and for all.

The Curious Case of Demand Barking

Why is my dog barking?

Barking can be a dog's way of communicating, but demand barking is a behavior we want to discourage. It often stems from attention-seeking behaviour, where dogs quickly learn that barking gets them what they want. So, it's important to closely observe your dog's behavior and ask yourself what triggered the barking. Was it just before you gave them attention, fed them food, or threw that toy? Chances are you have already unintentionally trained your dog that barking works.

It is important to note that demand barking can also indicate unmet needs. Tending to your dog's health and dietary needs is essential. Dogs also require mental stimulation along with sufficient exercise to stay happy and content. Incorporating activities like scatter feeding or going on short "sniffari" adventures where you follow your dog's nose can provide the mental stimulation they crave. Mental stimulation can also include physical training, for example, spending time teaching your dog that calmy settling on a mat, can also be just as rewarding for them.

Silencing the Siren Call of Demand Barking

How to put a stop to it?

Sometimes, dogs demand bark even after a long walk. Now you know you have done everything you physically can and the dog is still going. Look at the type of walks you are having. Are you giving them the opportunity to sniff and explore? Not allowing or encouraging this may well lead to frustration at the walk being over. Do they get off lead-free to play with other dogs or are you playing fetch? This kind of high arousal can lead to overstimulation resulting in your dog seeking more of your attention as they struggle to settle.

This is the perfect time to redirect their behavior, it's helpful to have a filled Kong, lick mat, or a long-lasting chew ready to encourage them to settle down postwalk. Also finding a balance on your walks for calm exploration and crazy play is important to help strike that balance between physical and mental stimulation.

Many dogs bark during training sessions. This barking can be a sign of confusion, or frustration because your dog is not understanding what you want them to do. This barking is easily reinforced as we are so focused on teaching the behaviour that we just keep going. We say "SIT" and the dog barks as they sit, we give a reward and the dog thinks barking is just part of the learning.

If your dog is barking during training begin to shorten the training sessions and focus on doing just a few quick, successful repetitions. Also if teaching a new behaviour break it down into simple steps and take breaks to do some fun repetitions of cues they already know well. Additionally, get proactive and start actively reinforcing as much calm behaviour as you can at home to help them understand what you expect from them

Demand barking during playtime is a common challenge. Many owners think dogs barking during fetch is just excitement and yes there is an element of that. Many dogs however think barking makes you throw the ball. Think about the time you were trying to relax at home and your dog came over and dropped a toy onto your lap. You may have ignored it for a second the dog will bark, you throw the toy, and just like that the barking works. Retrieve and repeat to ingrain the behaviour just a little bit more.

If you have issues with barking during play instead of giving in to their barking, teach them an alternative behavior, like sitting or lying down, to initiate the game. By consistently reinforcing this behavior, you can gradually replace demand barking with a more appropriate way of asking for play.

Barking and walks. This can start the moment your dog sees the lead. Start by desensitizing your dog to the lead by picking it up and moving it around without actually going for a walk. Reward them for remaining calm.

Barking at the door if you open the door and go straight out then of course the dog thinks that this behaviour gets them out on a walk. Using reward-based training start teaching your dog that waiting calmly around the door makes good things happen and that the calm behaviour is what gets you outside.

If your dog barks when you stop to talk to people out and about it is their way of saying they don't want their walk interrupted. What will have likely happened is owners get embarrassed and walk on, again making the barking work. Some owners do feed treats but only to silence the dog so usually they only treat when the dog barks. At this point in the post, you know why that isn't going to work.

What we should do in these cases is ask them to perform a behavior they're really good at, like sitting, and reinforce their calm behavior with treats. Treats must come rapidly to start with, eventually spreading out and varying their delivery. If the dog is too over aroused and struggles to sit then you can simply scatter feed them on the ground to keep them busy. Do help them out in the beginning by not stopping too long. Over time, they'll learn that being calm leads to rewards.

Barking during meal times can be really frustrating. First of all, ensure your dog is eating the correct amount of food in a day. Hungry dogs will naturally struggle during mealtimes. Feeding them at the same time but in a kong, snuffle mat, or giving a long-lasting natural chew can help keep them calm and busy giving you the opportunity to eat in peace. If your dog finds meal times really stressful I would consider feeding them in a separate room.

When Barking is A-Okay!

Understanding acceptable barking

While demand barking is something we want to minimize, it's important to remember that dogs bark for various reasons. Alerting us to potential danger or expressing fear and anxiety are valid forms of communication. In such cases, barking is completely normal and acceptable.

To conclude

Demand barking can be a challenging behavior to address, but with consistency and positive reinforcement, you can help your dog break the habit. By understanding the reasons behind demand barking and implementing techniques to redirect their behavior, you'll be well on your way to a quieter and happier home. Remember, patience and persistence are key!

Seek guidance from a trainer if you are really struggling with demand barking.

Share your experiences:

We'd love to hear from you! Has your dog struggled with demand barking? What training methods have you tried, and did they work? Share your stories and tips in the comments

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