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My dog barks at the slightest noise! What do we do?

Dogs who are overly sensitive to sound are sometimes called “alert barkers,” more accurately this can be “alert” or either “attention”, “fear”, “anxiety”, or “habitual”. Luckily, there are ways you can help your dog stop the incessant barking.


Firstly, understand why your dog is barking. And know that you should not bark back. So, do not scold your dog for barking, it will make it worse in the long run.


It is impossible for me to tell you exactly what is going on with your dog without communication about this directly. But, I can give you some generic advise and information which should help.


There may be a few potential reasons:

  • Your dog is anxious and stressed, and that manifests through barking at everything. If this is the case you will want to consult a professional to build your dog’s confidence.

  • Your dog feels the need to guard his home and you from every threat, and that includes any noise he hears. If this is the case you must ensure your dog understands that you are protecting him/her and yourself. You do this by being very calm, confident and controlled.

  • Over-excitement, like when they hear you dishing up their food or someone parks a car in the driveway.

  • Because other dogs in the area are barking and your dog feels inclined to join in. This can happen a lot in high population dense areas such as Singapore, or any other city.


WHAT NOT TO DO!

  • Do not shout at your dog when they bark. This will more than likely either increase your dog’s volume and likelihood of barking, or scare them into being quiet for a short time, but ultimately make the barking worse in the future.

  • Do not use shock or sound collars/ devices. Although this will stop the barking, it will not take away the reason for the barking. This means the root cause will manifest in another area such as destroying furniture or nipping.



WHAT TO DO!

  • Ignore the barking. This seems like the last thing you want to do. But, there is a high chance that your dog is attention barking or alert barking. If this is the case, ignoring them will communicate that they are being ineffective. This will stop the barking. If you think (but do not know for sure) that your dog is barking out of fear, don’t pet or try to console him, your dog may think he is being rewarded for barking. It’s best to ignore it. (Earplugs and chocolates for the neighbours are great at this stage…)

  • Counter conditioning. Next, we will aim at the barking being triggered by a minor anxiety or over excitement. For this, we use science. Since noises make your dog react, you are going to condition him to think “reward” when he hears a noise and is quiet, instead of barking. To do this, you need to start out with a noise or a volume of noise that your dog doesn’t react to. Then reward him for being quiet. Gradually increase volume or type of noise as your dog is successful. This technique is also great for doorbells, guests coming into the home, and basically any trigger which you are able to control during the exercises.

  • Get help. Never be shy to get help for your dog. High level anxiety or fear is not something easily worked on and much of the time when owners try to fix the situation by trying out of date methodologies, they end up approaching a science based behavioural specialist in the end anyway. A professional will help to identify what your dog is suffering from and any behavioural underlying issues, such as stress and anxiety, which may be making the behaviour worse. They then will create a tailored rehabilitation and training program to solve the issue properly. Doing it earlier, makes the process easier and less stressful for everyone involved.

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