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Do You Know Why Dogs Bark?

I was asked this question by Marty Unger on Questionland today:

“My golden-doodle is incredibly sweet and wouldn’t hurt a fly but when she sees someone outside, whether she knows them or not, she barks like she wants to rip their head off. If she could speak english, what would she be saying?”

My answer:

Thank Dog they don’t speak English. I think dogs would just tell us how silly and boring we are. But it would help keep humans from making dumb mistakes, like patting dogs on the top of the head, as if they liked it. I would LOVE to be able to explain a few things to my dogs, though!

Your dog is probably simultaneously shouting “Intruder!” to the folks in the house and “Go Away!” to the people approaching. You’ll probably hear a change in pitch once she recognizes the people, getting higher when she realizes it’s a friend, not a foe, out the window.

The bigger question is, why are you training your dog to bark like that? Ditch the perch – close blinds (Roman shades that open from the bottom are great), move the furniture, whatever it takes to keep her from feeling like she has to guard the house all day. She’ll relax more and probably live longer. Stress kills.

If she’s still young, under 2 or 3, be careful. This can be the start of a bigger problem, like biting people at the door. You might think about getting a trainer or behaviorist in to help – not one that will use pain or intimidation to correct the barking, but one who teaches her what *to* do, using reinforcement.

It could also be just what it already is, annoying. Many, many dogs bark at things they see outside. But it’s definitely fixable!

Related Link: Private dog training in Seattle

Written by Grisha Stewart, Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle [Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon] Tweet This Post!
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3 Responses to “Do You Know Why Dogs Bark?”

  1. anna Says:

    I’m confused. Should the dog not be allowed to see outside? My cats love to sit in the window and watch the world go by. It would be terrible cruelty to deprive them of this. It appears to me as if the dog loves it too. She heads for the same ledge and watches the passing show in the street below. Of course she barks at any dogs that come into view. Then I reprimand her. Is that wrong? Should I not allow her to sit in the window?

  2. Grisha Says:

    Hi Anna,

    While dogs do need entertainment or even jobs to do, they don’t need to be the head of Homeland Security. Being on alert all day just raises her cortisol levels (stress hormone) and such constant stress is not healthy.

    If you keep having to reprimand, it’s not working, and probably just adds even more stress.

    Something to think about…

  3. anna Says:

    Oh, I see. I’m new to this. Am actually a cat person. But I love walking and my neighbour (whose dog it is) hates walking. So I take the doggie for long walks on the mountain. Never would have thought there is so much joy to be had from sharing my hikes with a dog. I was trawling the Internet to look for advice on how to teach her not to taunt big dogs we come across by yapping at them. I’ve taught her to sit, come when I call, lie down, and she’s starting to learn sit-stay-go. I’ve learnt that as a spayed bitch she’s not in too much danger. I assess the situation and if the other dogs seem laid back, then just keep walking and let her sort herself out. She’s getting much calmer, but the yapping at big dogs still worry me. And: when the danger’s past – she turns round and goes after them yapping. Fortunately she stops and comes back when I call.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question. I’ll take her out of the window in future. I’d thought it was a harmless way to habituate her to the sight of other dogs. Any further insights will be most welcome.

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