Friday, October 3, 2003

As a puppy, Linda Moriarty's Maltese Kujo was a nuisance to her neighbors. A citronella anti-barking collar brought peace to Moriarty's home again.

Dog’s excessive barking
is noisy but correctable

One common dog behavior that can become an issue and possibly upset the human-pet bond is excessive barking. Thankfully, it is also one that can be corrected.

This month is Love-A-Dog Month at the Hawaiian Humane Society, and we'll be matching up new people and pooches, and just so we can all continue to love our dogs, we are offering some insight into barking and tips for having a quieter canine companion.

Why dogs bark

Dogs bark to communicate, warn their packs (of dogs or humans), protect their territory, fend off aggressors, respond to other dogs' barking, because they're bored, receive too little attention, or are exposed to distractions.

A natural response for dogs, barking only becomes an issue when the dog barks at inappropriate times, doesn't stop when told to, or when the dog barks continuously for a long period of time. (On Oahu, a City ordinance defines nuisance barking as a dog barking constantly for more than 10 minutes or off and on for one-half hour.)

Appropriate barking

Most dogs will bark at strangers entering their territory, not only to warn the stranger, but also to alert the pack. This type of barking is considered appropriate, as long as it is controlled. When the barking continues, it is no longer appropriate. Simple training techniques can satisfy both your dog and your neighbors.

For example it is appropriate for your dog to bark when someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, then stop barking when you say "quiet." The dog has done his job and the barking has stopped. If your dog doesn't stop barking, try this training technique.

Have a friend or family member pose as a visitor and ring the doorbell, or knock. Let your dog bark two or three times as a reward for alerting you, then say the "quiet" command. Praise your dog for not barking before you open the door and greet your "visitor." If your dog remains silent, let your visitor reward the dog with a treat. Soon your dog will realize that just a few barks will alert you.

Boredom barking

Boredom can cause some dogs to bark in a persistent, measured monotone, just for something to do. Try making your home more interesting to your dog's natural impulses by providing toys to keep him busy. For example, the battery-powered "Bumble Ball" moves randomly to pique your dog's curiosity.

The "Talk to Me Treat Ball" will play a recording of your own voice and randomly dispense treats during playtime. Dogs are intrigued by a tough rubber "Kong" toy stuffed with peanut butter or cheese spread and kibble.

Fill a "Buster" cube with kibble; it will release one or two pieces at a time as the dog nudges the cube around the floor. (Remember to reduce the amount of food you normally feed your dog to compensate for extra treats.)

Give your dog plenty of attention when you're home.

Learned barking

A dog can inadvertently learn to bark when exposed to distractions. When an "intruder" such as a delivery person or pedestrian comes near the home, the dog barks to warn them to stay away. After the person has passed, the dog feels satisfied that his barking successfully chased the intruder away.

Every time this happens, the behavior is reinforced -- bark and intruders go away. The dog is just doing his job.

If possible, move the dog away from the sidewalk or window where distractions such as people and animals can be seen. His territorial urge will be greatly reduced, along with his barking.

Separation anxiety

Excessive barking can occur when the dog owner is not home. The dog gets bored, becomes anxious or is stimulated by noises. If only the barking is addressed for separation anxiety, the dog may turn to another undesirable habit like chewing or digging. Here are some ideas for relieving this anxious feeling.

Try vigorous exercise with your dog before you leave, which may help him relax while you're gone. Tire him out with a long walk and a game of fetch. Some dogs enjoy having the radio or TV left on, probably because it gives them the feeling they are not alone. Make the dog's environment more interesting with special toys and hidden treats that come out only when you are gone.

Sometimes the fuss of leaving and coming home can create more anxiety in your dog. Some animal behaviorists suggest minimizing the drama of leaving and returning home by slipping out and in quietly. If you've tried everything and your dog is still stressed while alone, talk to your veterinarian about pheromones or medication to help Fido relax.

Helpful resources

The Humane Society offers more ideas for controlling your dog's barking through a brochure called "Training Your Dog When and (When Not To) Bark." Fliers that address other barking problems and solutions are also available. Humane anti-barking collars that spray citronella can be borrowed for two weeks and prove successful in many cases. It is the goal of the Hawaiian Humane Society to keep people and their pets together for a lifetime.

To receive the barking brochure by mail, call 946-2187, Ext. 223, or download it from the Web at, Animal Care & Behavior section.

To rent an anti-barking collar (when available) from the humane society, call the number above at Ext. 285.

You can also consult your veterinarian or a dog trainer for personalized help controlling your dog's barking.

If you have a barking problem in your neighborhood, try talking calmly with the dog owner first. Suggest that they contact their veterinarian or the humane society for help.

"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. They are at 2700 Waialae Ave.

Dog day morning

Oct. 25 is K-9 Game Day at Thomas Square. There will be games for pooches and their people from 9 a.m. to noon.

Join in the fun and come prepared for the Doggie Costume Contest at 10 a.m. It's another way to celebrate Love-A-Dog Month!

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.


E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --