We have all known them. We have all met them.
And, hopefully, we don’t own them. 😉
But, there are some dogs that seem to want to bark at EVERYTHING!
And, I think there are 2 very distinct and different reasons for this behavior. And, as such, there are 2 very distinctively different ways to deal with this behavior.
#1 The Fearful Barker
The fearful barker barks at everything he sees and hears because he has no confidence.
He is a firm believer that the best offense is a good defense!
So, if in doubt, he will bark and try to scare it away.
Often his ears go back, tail tucks and he may run up to threaten and then back up to get away.
If this behavior is allowed, it becomes his coping mechanism.
And, honestly, he thinks this behavior is working.
He may threaten the mailman or the squirrel running up the tree outside and once he is done with his “display”, many of these distractions or “triggers” are gone.
He thinks he has done his job and frightened them away, but the truth is that most triggers leave on their own after a period of time.
The bad thing is that this belief rewards and conditions the behavior.
Meaning, it will continue and get worse unless it is put in check.
It creates a monster!
Actually, any dog that barks at EVERYTHING is kind of a monster no matter the reason.
Only because this is a monstrous behavior to have and solve.
This dog needs to have his confidence raised.
I stopped at a rest stop once to get gas, got my normally very confident Malinois out of his crate and proceeded to take him toward a field to take a break.
There was a very old, large framed gas pump on the edge of the parking lot and toward the field.
He hackled, and his bark pitch got very high as he charged up and back toward it.
He just didn’t know what it was and was trying to scare it away.
I am not a fan of this behavior or feeling.
I want and need a confident dog.
So I laughed and approached the pump.
I encouraged him with treats and finally we got close enough that he realized it wasn’t a “person”, it was a silly “thing”.
The worst thing to do would have been to let him go back to the car, or to coo to him and tell him “it’s okay”.
If I want him to gain some confidence; I need to allow him to work through things.
I also like to give my dogs confidence through obedience.
If you are busy working through a task, you have less time to get worked up and scared.
Like the mailman. I would first teach my dog some obedience and focus and then I would put him on leash and sit in the corner of the yard while the mailman comes and delivers the mail.
I don’t want my dog anywhere near the mailman, I just want him to see that he can function in his presence and by being quiet, he will also disappear.
I want him to learn to work through that fear and learn to function.
Yes, I know I kind of have to work at his pace (so as not to scare him more), but my goal is for him to work through it and not avoid it or bark through it!
A confident dog is a good dog!
And, even if you will never have a dog that is confident enough to conquer everything and all environments, you will end up with a better dog that has more coping mechanisms.
I once had a dog that was scared of the toilet if the seat was left up…he would bark ferociously. What a sad life it would have been for him if I hadn’t made the effort to teach him to work through his fears.
He was never overly confident, but he was capable of trusting in me and meeting new challenges through obedience.
#2 The Dominant Barker
This dog will probably look a lot like the above dog, except for body language.
A fearful dog that barks at a falling leaf will look nervous and the pitch of his bark is likely higher. The dominant dog that barks at the falling leaf will be stiff and forward facing with erect ears and tail and he will be lunging toward the noise.
Neither is optimal.
I have never known anyone that was killed by a leaf.
Nor do I want a dog that thinks I am incapable of taking care of myself and him.
In my house, I AM IN CHARGE.
First off, if I owned a dog like this I would want control of his mouth.
I teach all of my dogs to bark and be quiet on command, so I can request that whenever I want.
This is the ultimate way to get your dog to be quiet.
I mean, if you can’t ask your dog to be quiet, how are you going to deal with most situations.
Also, Obedience is Key.
Simply put, I am not going to allow you to bark at everything.
If you can’t handle leaves falling and squirrels running up the trees, or you are trying to hurl yourself through the window at passers-by, then you aren’t going to have much access to the window.
I will put you on leash, and you will follow me wherever I go.
You will also learn some boot camp type of obedience.
You WILL learn to sit and lay down on command, and you WILL learn to focus on me when I tell you to!
No longer will you be allowed to run around the house and dominate anyone and everyone, including me.
And, if you bark…you lose a privilege.
You may go outside, in a crate, or do a long down stay on your “place” or bed.
The world should not be controlled by the sound of your voice.
And, just like the dog in the first example, this dog is also rewarded for his own barking.
The same things happen; the mailman goes away, the squirrels disappear, the leaf in the air is gone.
The dog is rewarding himself with negative behavior.
And, that reward needs to be taken away.
This isn’t going to be easy.
Sticking to your old regimen and not being consistent will set you both up for failure.
But, keeping your furry companion with you and teaching him obedience and how to control himself will teach him that he can also be in control of his impulse to bark and run his mouth!
As always, be consistent.
If the dog makes a mistake, it must be immediately addressed so old habits can be broken and new habits forged.
With some time and effort, you can stop your dog’s barking at EVERYTHING!