By David Coder
Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column from David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers questions about canine behavior submitted by our readers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I just read an article you wrote about puppy training. Our dog is six months old and a teddy bear puppy. The puppy training itself is going pretty well, apart from the occasional accident.
My problem is that we have this dog thinking that it would not be a yippee/barking dog. But so far, our experience has been just the opposite. She barks very loudly, which is very annoying since she works from home and attends a lot of conference calls from home. How can I break her from that habit? Thanks for any help/advice.
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Dogs bark for many reasons. It is important to understand why your dog is barking in order to understand how to properly address the situation.
One thing you should avoid doing is reacting to or punishing your dog for barking. People often tell the dog to shut up or punish him for barking, but the dog is trying to communicate something to us.
If you were trying to tell me something that you think is important and I kept telling you to shut up, that wouldn’t stop you from trying to get your message across. So disagreeing with or scolding a dog for barking is sure to create frustration for both parties and won’t really help the problem.
One of the most common reasons dogs bark is because they are bored or under-stimulated. If this is the case, getting your dog extra exercise and mental stimulation every two hours should help.
Your average dog needs about an hour of exercise every day, but not all at once. For physical exercise, you can take your dog for a sniff walk, as sniffing burns more energy than walking. Play tug of war, games of fetch, chase your pup, or schedule playdates with other pups. exercise options to burn excess energy.
But there are a number of things you can do to mentally stimulate your dog, such as feeding him on a snuffle mat, giving him food or cookies in treat-dispensing toys, spreading peanut butter or frozen yogurt on a licking mat, scent play and basic training (in one or two minute practice sessions) are great ways to keep your dog mentally engaged.
One thing we recommend to parents in our puppy class is to start a journal. This allows you to mark how many times you feed your pup, when he gets physical exercise (and how much of each), how many times he gets mental stimulation (with details on how much), as well as any outbursts or unwanted behavior. If you’re marking times for each of these every day, it won’t be more than a couple of days before you start to identify how often your pup needs mental stimulation or physical exercise.
The idea is to create a schedule that meets your dog’s needs while also fitting in with what is reasonable for you to accomplish. For many puppies, this means getting mental or physical exercise every two to three hours or so.
Most people are reactive when it comes to getting their puppy or dog to exercise. A much better strategy is to be proactive and get them to exercise before they need it. If you meet your puppies’ needs before or while they occur, you should have a lot less barking.
Once you and your pup get on a regular schedule, the barking should decrease unless the barking is your dog’s way of saying he doesn’t agree with something. But that’s advice for another column.
Good luck and remember: everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.
Submit your pet questions to David Codr by emailing a photo of your dog and a question to email@example.com. Visit doggoneproblems.com to learn more from David.