Is His Bark Really Worse Than His Bite?

Brain games to exercise your dog

The issue of chronic barking has been debated and legislated by owners and the public alike. Those people who suffer with the neighborhood howler are often so adversely affected that their health could be in jeopardy.  Think of the shift worker who comes home early in the morning only to have to listen to his neighbors’ dog barking all night. That person will lose sleep for extended periods of time which could effect their ability to make decisions. Is this person also driving a car?  Real trouble there!  This may sound a bit extreme, but it happens every day in some town or city in America. There are also dog owners who are at wits end because they don’t know how to control or eliminate the problem. They don’t seem to understand why their dog barks all of the time. So, which came first? The chicken or the egg?  Did the problem start because of a few dogs that just couldn’t control themselves? Or was it started when people began to acquire dogs as pets and had no knowledge of how to train their dogs?

As responsible dog owners, we are obligated to teach our pets how to behave properly.  But when you think about it, anyone can get a dog and there is no requirement for obtaining one. You don’t have to understand dog behavior, you don’t have to have knowledge of training techniques and you don’t have to pass a test to get a license for one either. It is “Open Season”, so to speak, for anyone to own a dog.  As a pet sitter, I can attest to the fact that many dog owners do not have the tools or they do not have the time to spend training their dogs.  Sometimes this is no problem.  There are many dogs that seem to come with this behavior all plugged in to their hardware.  Call it luck or call it past life experience, but I have worked with dogs that appear to know the rules and only need a little direction to get them on the right track. And I have others that seem to be completely unaware that they are misbehaving.  In either case, the owner still has to take responsibility for their dogs behavior. Behavioral problems in dogs are created by the way their owners interact with them and arrange their situations.

Dogs bark for a number of reasons.  Loneliness can trigger the barking behavior in a dog because he is starved for attention.  It should be part of the dog’s day that he gets undivided attention from his owner.  Some scheduled play time, a good long walk or a vigorous workout with a frisbee, may be all the dog needs to calm his fear of being alone. Another factor could be separation anxiety. Puppies that are adopted should be crate-trained to teach them how to be calm when they are alone. I have written about crate-training and feel it is the best option for any dog that comes into a family.  Finally, there is territorial barking. Territorial barking may be the hardest behavior to modify.  The reason for that is territorial barking has a built in reinforcer.  As the “intruder” leaves the yard, your dog’s behavior is rewarded. The best way to reduce or eliminate this behavior is to introduce your dog to the people who most often come into your yard or socialize him with more strangers. As with any aspect of behavior training, consistency is the key to success. Enlisting the cooperation of every family member is important in controlling your dog’s barking, and in all other aspects of training. Verbal commands and expectations for your dog’s behavior must be consistent if you are to be effective.

Of the seven to eight million dogs that pass through the nation’s system of animal shelters each year, 85 percent of them are there because of behavioral problems. That’s a telling number.  It would seem that millions of people are acquiring dogs who lack the knowledge, skills, or commitment necessary to properly socialize and care for the animals. They are not taking responsibility for their dog’s behavior. Refusing to take responsibility for that which one should be responsible, is by definition, irresponsible behavior. We see the result not only in the wholesale killing of dogs in the death chambers of our overflowing animal shelters, but in the chronic barking epidemic.

My point is this: when faced with a bothersome barking dog , what is the real reason the dog is barking?  Whether this problem pup is yours or the neighbor’s, what can be done?  The information noted in this post suggests that most problem barking is caused by a behavior problem.  Solve the behavior- solve the barking.  So simple and yet so unattainable for many.  We cannot control who gets a dog and we cannot control the manner in which they chose to train it.  We can only be responsible for our own actions.  And we can be ambassadors of dog training and good dog behavior.  When you get a puppy, commit to training him, give him play time and structured activities.  Keep him busy so he won’t be bored and have a need to voice his opinion.  There are a multitude of training methods and tools available to you at your veterinarian’s office, the library and even online.  I prefer the teachings of Cesar Millan and have used many of his methods with my dogs and the dogs I care for. This is a great offer from Cesar on his training guide:  Buy the Complete 6-Disc Set – SAVE $30 + Get Free Shipping. Expires Feb 28.  For games that stimulate your pup’s brain- this wears them out faster than a good run- this book will give you and your pup hours of fun and loads of time for bonding.  He’ll be too tired to bark!
50 Games To Play With Your Dog (128 Pages)

Brain games to exercise your dog

Workout your pup’s brain and have a contented pet.

Best Practice for Cleaning Your Pet’s Ears

Practice safe ear cleaning
Practice safe ear cleaning

Regular ear cleaning can protect against infection.

Ear cleaning can be a very sensitive subject for both you and your pet.  I have often heard horror stories of pet owners chasing their beloved pets through the house with cleaning supplies in hand, or that same hand being destroyed by little kittie’s sharp claws all in the name of clean, pink ears.  The best practice is to start before there has to be a confrontation.  This requires an early and consistent pattern of handling your pet’s ears from the moment they come home.  This is behavior conditioning at it’s best.  I like to initiate this while my pet is sitting with me, maybe after a good long playtime.  As I am petting my bundle of joy,             I say ” Chelsea, ears?”  And then  I begin to handle her ears, flipping them up, looking inside, and carefully rubbing around the inside of the ear flap.  If I do this daily and frequently, Chelsea soon learns that when I say “Chelsea, ears?” she will get a nice ear rub.  When she is comfortable with this practice, I can then introduce a cotton ball and rub the inside of the ear.  My last step is to use a cleansing product like R-7 , this helps to remove earwax and deodorize the ears.  I have to stress that I use a cotton ball NEVER a cotton swab.  You just don’t know when your dog or cat may jerk it’s head and cause damage to the ear canal or ear drum.  You always want to practice safe ear cleaning.  The extra benefit is your smiling vet who will totally appreciate you having conditioned your dog to allow it’s ears to be handled.  I actually got a “thank you” from my vet when I told her about my practice.