excessive barking

Posted by diesel049
Dec 30, 2007
I adopted an extremly friendly 4 yr old lab. (Smokey) The employees at the the shelter mentioned that his previous owner took him everywhere, and treated him like a family member.(His owner passed away) He shows no signs of aggression and even took to our cat right from the start. He's a very lovable dog.

I could tell right away that smokey was allowed to do whatever he wanted in his previous home. I had to teach him right away to stay off off furniture and how to walk on a leash. Smokey was house trained but, was never taught basic commands. (Sit, Stay, Come) I'm still working on that.

Now the problem. Whenever i let him out in the yard, he begins to bark non stop. He NEVER EVER barks at any other time for any reason. In fact, i never
heard him make a sound for the first three weeks of ownership. I even started to think that he was not able to bark.

Suddenly one day he started barking in the back yard nonstop. I've read many suggestions on how to correct this. But they all include doing something to make him bark, or catching him in the act.

My dog stops barking immediately after he see's me appear, and begins wag his tail happily and rejoice long before i get a chance to get close enough to use any of the recommended methods of correction such as using a spray bottle, or shaking a can. He only barks when he's outside and, i'm not with him. He is not at all aggressive, and there is nothing that i can do that will make him bark in my presence.

I would also like to mention that i have owned, and trained other dogs in the past. I'am familiar with the alpha dog position. He is not allowed on ANY Furniture, He always see's me eat first, I always make him sit before he eats,
and things of this nature. But i don't know what to do here. I can't get close enough to correct him while he's barking, and there's nothing i can do to make him bark as long as he can see me.
Posted by Todd
Jan 1, 2008
Hi there and thank you for your question about Smokey.

I am very glad that you are the Alpha, in most behavioural problems this is what is needed to help the problem. But seeing as you have this under control i'll save telling you what you already know
The second thing is obedience but again you are all over this so i'll skip this too.

Firstly i do not generall recommend teaching your dog to bark on command as the first step and usually reserve it for later. It is better to be able to stop them from barking before you teach them to start, otherwise you can get very sore ears.

Dogs bark for a huge number of reasons. From fear, to seeing things, boredom, territorial, excitement and aggression. Determining the cause can be quite challenging but i think the problem here may be to get attention from you.
Before you try and solve this though i have a few pointers that can help greatly. Firstly exercise, a tired dog is far less likely to be bothered barking, especially a labrador I would recommend a brisk walk or run for at least 40 minutes a day to help burn off some energy.
Also i recommend toys and other things to stop Smokey from getting bored. Chew toys are a great idea as they are challenging and can keep him occupied for hours. Distracting him with a digging pit or toys may be all that he needs.

If the problem is indeed for attention you need to reprimand him without letting him see that he has got attention. This rules out things like reprimanding him as by telling him off he has got attention. When you let Smokey out find a hiding place where he can't see you. This is often the most challenging thing. The second he starts barking you need to reprimand him from a distance. A hose or a handlful of pebbles thrown near him are often great ways to do this. The dog will get startled and not know what happened.
The second he stops barking come out from hiding and reward him. This will reinforce the importance of quiet.

If he always sees you you may just need to soak him with the hose when he starts as this is still a pretty good deterant. Don't reward him for barking eg by letting him in or feeding him as this will only make things worse.

Citronella collars are used by many people as a better alternative to shock collars which have no place in controlling barking. Your vet may be able to advise you on their experiences with the collars but for me training is far more successful.

By the mix of reprimanding him and rewarding him hopefully he will learn what is acceptable and what is not. Be patient and explain to your neighbours what is going on, that way they are less likely to get annoyed at you. Good luck and please let me know how things go.

Kind Regards
Todd Field