“He barks when people are at the door.”
“She barks at squirrels.”
“He barks in his crate.”
There are different reasons for barking behind each of these statements. And in addition to the reason behind the barking an owner needs to consider whether the breed of his dog is a factor.
Barking because a stranger is at the door is a guarding behavior. This is an instinctual behavior that many breeds exhibit and some breeds exhibit more than others. My approach to curbing this behavior is found somewhere in between acceptance and obedience. Whenever Nitro takes to barking at the front of the house I investigate what is so important to him. Once I’ve given respect to his emotion by going to see why he’s so upset I give him guidance on how he should continue to feel about the situation. This morning it was my neighbor’s 3-legged dog hobbling around in our front yard off-leash. To this, I responded by shutting the curtains and telling him “it’s OK, he doesn’t mean us any harm.”
If you have a good relationship with your dog they can tell by your tone of voice and your physical behavior that the issue no longer needs his concern. However, if someone had been at the door that I wanted to speak with I would have told Nitro “thank you, now go to your bed and lie down.” If it had been someone I did not intend on opening the door for, I would have let him carry on and then thanked him for his service once they had left.
Barking at squirrels or other prey is typically a response of excitement. Dogs with hunting instincts are most likely to exhibit this behavior. If you need to stop this behavior to make your neighbors happy you only have a couple of options. The first would be to keep your dog indoors. I’m sure you would agree that’s not a very realistic option. The second would be to put a bark collar on your dog before sending him outdoors. Some people take issue with this, but I find, when used properly, most dogs become conditioned in a very short amount of time to not bark while wearing a bark collar. If you feel this is an option, you’d like to explore get some professional advice about how to introduce a bark collar correctly. Turning the collar up too high could cause your dog to no longer enjoy his time outside.
A dog will bark in his crate for a few reasons. He might need to use the restroom. He might be protesting the confinement or he might be panicked by the confinement. Barking to use the restroom is usually accompanied by whimpering and pacing. Barking in protest is usually very loud and rhythmic and done while staring at you in the eyes. A panicked bark due to fear of confinement usually includes scratching at the crate, sweaty paws and heavy panting. Each of these reasons requires a different tactic to control. Obviously, a dog that needs to use the restroom should be permitted to do so. A dog that won’t tolerate confinement most likely feels a sense of entitlement that would be controlled through obedience training carried out by the owners. Finally, you should contact a professional well-versed in behavior if you believe fear is the reason your dog barks in his crate.
As you can see, there are many different reasons for barking and each reason needs to be considered when deciding the optimal way control it. Owning a dog means you’re going to have to deal with barking. Be understanding and consider consulting a professional to find the best way to manage the unwanted barking.