Book First Walk Free!
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs that are hurting from brain disease or bee stings or perhaps are starting to suffer from dementia will often bark and pace because everything is hurting and misfiring in their brains. If your dog sees or hears someone or something outside, he will bark to alarm you of the possibility of an intruder. Dogs will bark if they need something or want your attention, just as you would communicate with another person for the same reasons. Typically he will look you directly in the eyes when he wants your attention or wants you to do something for him. Socially, dogs bark in response to each other, as a form of greeting, or a call and respond form of communication similar to wolves howling in the wilderness. He will also bark out of excitement and playfulness while playing with you, another dog, or in anticipation of something fun like going for a car ride or walk. This bark will even sound happy and musical.
No one should ever expect a dog to not bark as that would be similar to expecting a baby to never babble. At some point, however, barking can become excessive. Often, excessive barking is a result of how the dog has been treated and how you have responded to his needs and his barking. Dogs will always take any type of attention as encouragement of a behavior, even if you are not intending to enforce the undesired behavior.
Encouraging the Behavior
Please note that shouting at your dog often only motivates them to bark more as he thinks you are just joining in. You need to speak firmly and quietly, not yell. He also does not know what you mean when you yell ‘quiet’ or ‘shut-up.’ He needs to be trained what the word quiet means. When he is barking, you can firmly and quietly say ‘quiet’ and the minute he pauses from barking, reward him. Teach him that he receives a reward when he is quiet. Alternatively, you can teach him the command to ‘speak’ and then the command ‘quiet’ so that he can learn to control his communication. Consistency is key; so do not allow barking in some situations and not in others.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Some people wonder, when their dog is barking at seemingly nothing, if they are seeing a ghost. There has been research into whether or not dogs have a ‘sixth’ sense. While studies are not conclusive, most scientists believe dogs barking at ghosts has more to do with the fact that they can hear four times farther away than you and they also have a sense of smell up to 10,000 times more sensitive. Simply, they are barking at what we do not see and hear.