As much as you swear they’re going to open their mouth and say something one day—there are only a few ways pups can verbally communicate with us. Barking is a big one! Unfortunately for us humans, there are so many translations, it can be hard to interpret them sometimes (and even harder to make them stop—like when they’re yapping at every.single.person who dares to walk past your window.) We spoke with Val DeSantis, owner of K-9 Psychologist Dog Training in Colorado, to learn what all the woofing it about.
Your pup is barking because…he wants a treat or your attention.
How to nip the yip: Many people inadvertently train their dogs to bark, DeSantis says, and this is one of those instances. If you give your pup a treat every time he barks near the treat jar—or every time he wants you to pet him—it reinforces the behavior. The simple solution is to never give him a treat (or pets!) after he barks. It’s tough, but you should turn your back and walk away. Then reinforce good behavior by giving your dog a treat or belly rubs when he does something worthy, like a trick.
Your pup is barking because…he’s nervous or afraid.
How to nip the yip: These barks usually sounds short and sharp, and are often accompanied by pacing, shaking and shortness of breath. Some pups’ tails stiffen as well. Your dog might yap like this if he’s in a fenced backyard and someone ‘gets too close’, or during Fourth of July fireworks. “You can’t train him to stop that bark,” says DeSantis, explaining that it’s what he does to protect himself. But you can try to calm him down by bringing him indoors, distracting him with a toy, gently petting him, or investing in a Thundershirt, a dog anxiety vest that will help him feel safe.
Your pup is barking because…he’s excited or freaked out by another dog.
How to nip the yip: When your pup’s just yapping to say hello (often accompanied by a tail wag and sniffing), it’s usually not a problem. But if it’s hostile, that’s another story: “Your dog is thinking, ‘You’re my owner and you’re a really nice person, but I don’t think you can protect us, so stand back and let me protect us,’” DeSantis says. It’s your job to show your dog that you won't tolerate their behavior. Say sharply, “no,” then tug on the leash and pull your pup away. Reinforce positive behavior once your dog continues to walk with a treat.
Your pup is barking because…he has separation anxiety.
How to nip the yip: Some dogs do fine on their own while you’re at away, but others will bark and cry incessantly throughout the day, says Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist for pets. While separation anxiety can be a major issue for some pups, there are a few tactics that can help with a less severe case: play music for them or leave the DogTV channel on (it’s designed to keep them stimulated!) Using a diffuser with lavender oil can relax a stressed pup, and make sure they get lots of exercise before you leave to help them de-stress.
Your pup is barking because…he is bored or lonely.
How to nip the yip: Dogs need mental and physical stimulation and, just like humans, some pups need more than others. If they don’t get enough, they might start to chew, dig or (whaddya know) bark simply to entertain themselves. You can combat the yapping by making sure your pup is getting enough exercise and has plenty of toys to keep him busy. If you are away from home for long stretches, get a dispenser that makes him figure out how to get his food out (or try one of these monitors that dispense treats remotely!) Anything to keep his mind busy will help curtail the barking.
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