TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. - I have a 2-year-old mixed breed rescue named Kodiak who I adopted about a year ago. Kodiak barks like crazy at every single person or dog who walks by our house. Sometimes he just sits by the front windows waiting for someone to bark at. I work from home and frequently have conference calls. His barking is very disruptive. How can I get him to stop?
- Fed up with the barking
Dear Fed Up,
Dogs bark for different reasons and some breeds are more prone to bark that others. There are alarm/alert barkers, demand barkers, frustration barkers, arousal barkers, boredom barkers, stress barkers, play barkers, and greeting barkers. It's helpful to identify why your dog is barking so you can identify the trigger and reinforcement then eliminate it.
It sounds like Kodiak may be an alarm/alert barker or a boredom barker. Alarm barkers want to tell everyone that danger could be approaching. This type of barker is out to save the family. The best way to manage alarm barking is to control the dog's exposure to the stimuli. This means limiting his access to the front windows. You may need to gate him out of the front room or tether him near his bed in your office away from the windows. It's also helpful to teach an interrupter cue like "Ah Ah" followed by his name and "Come." This should be used if he accidentally gains access to the front windows and spots danger.
The other possibility is boredom barking. If you are working all day and not paying attention to Kodiak, he may be entertaining himself by looking for passersby. The solution to this type of barking is pretty obvious; give him something else to do. First, make sure he gets enough exercise so he's reasonably tired during the day when there's nothing to do. Perhaps you could also take a mid-day break and throw a ball or run around the block with him. Stuffed Kongs are a great way to keep a dog busy while you work. Soak some (or all) of his morning kibble in water until it is mushy then fill the Kong with it. Put a little peanut butter over the large hole and then freeze it. Let him work on these to get his food throughout the day. It's good mental exercise and will keep his mind off patrolling the front windows.
- Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org