Disciplining your dog

How to get your dog to respect your garden Part 5

Who hasn’t heard the plaintive barks and howls of dogs left home alone? Nuisance barking is one of the most frequent complaints phoned in to urban and suburban quality-of-life hotlines.

What are these dogs trying to say? Several things, actually. Dogs bark to sound an alarm that they’ve spied a stranger. The bark may ratchet up from alarm bark to defensive bark if they feel challenged by the intruder. An energized dog barks or bays in excitement when it is on a scent while hunting, or as an invitation to play. An isolated dog also may bark or howl as a call to reunite its pack.

To avoid noise pollution citations and war with your neighbors, be mindful of our puppy’s vocalizing while it’s in the yard. Track what events set your pup off by staying home one day and monitoring it. Or videotape the events if you can’t stay home.

Take steps to minimize exposure to whatever sets your dog off. If there are certain times of the day when your pup appears to bark non-stop – perhaps when the school next door lets out for the day – keep it inside at those times.

Barking to alert you to the presence of a deliver person or other stranger on your property is the dog’s job. Unfortunately, some dogs don’t know when to stop. After a half-dozen woofs, thank the dog for its warning and request silence. If your dog is still barking, ask it for a down-stay. Few dogs will continue to bark when their chests are resting on the ground.

If your dog is still in a barking frenzy and cannot process an obedience cue, you may need to use some sort of sensory interrupter, such as a spritz of canned citronella spray, water from a water pistol or the blast of a whistle. When you’re not home to guide the dog’s behavior, keep the dog in the house so as not to inconvenience your neighbors with your dog’s vocal warnings.

A dog that gets plenty of opportunity to practice misbehaviors will only get better at them so don’t put your pup in the yard unless you’re there to supervise. Erect a solid fence or wall if normal neighborhood activities repeatedly send your dog into a barking frenzy. Teach it to limit its warning barks to a half dozen woofs, then say “enough” and redirect its attention to another behavior, such as “go to bed” or “lie down.”

Reward with a high-value, tasty treat when the pup complies. Dog’s don’t continue to bark when lying down; it’s just not comfortable! Plus, it’s hard to bark and eat a treat at the same time.

Just remember, the backyard can be a special place for your dog to romp off-leash, to nap in a sunny patch of grass, and to enjoy time with family and friends. With supervision, some training and an adept eye toward puppy-proofing, your backyard can be a peaceful haven for the entire family.