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How do I stop problem barking?

Which breeds are most likely to bark?

Barking is more common in smaller breeds - terriers and Toys can be very vociferous - while Beagles and some herding breeds also tend to bark more. One breed, the Basenji, doesn't bark at all, instead he makes a sound which has been described as being similar to a yodel, chortle or even a scream. Studies show that where excessive barking is concerned, there's no difference between males and females - either are likely to be culprits.

TTouch

TTouch, the special system of circular, lifting and sliding movements devised by Linda Tellington-Jones, can help dogs who tend to bark. "Very vocal dogs often hold a lot of tension throughout their bodies and more specifically around the head and mouth; they are also frequently stressed emotionally as well as physically," explained top UK TTouch practitioner Sarah Fisher. "Barking can be a way of trying to release this stress and tension but usually just results in cranking up stress levels even higher, so it becomes self-perpetuating. Using TTouches helps show the dog how to relax and release tension without resorting to barking."

In cases where anxiety is the cause the TTouches also promote confidence and reassure the dog without sending the wrong messages. Using 'Lying Leopard' TTouches over the whole body can help, plus Ear TTouch and 'Belly Lifts' can help regulate breathing. Mouth TTouches are especially beneficial, particularly with chronic barkers, because they directly affect the limbic system, the area in the brain which controls emotion. Sarah continued: "Don't wait until your dog has started barking before doing the TTouches - working with him at any time can achieve a major change in his behaviour without any direct association to the barking.

"Calming bands can also be very helpful. These are passive training tools based on the face wraps used in TTouch work. "A band is made from a loop of soft nylon web in a figure of eight shape which fits around the dog's muzzle. The band has an elastic insert where it crosses over the top of the dog's nose. It is designed to make the dog aware of his muzzle area and helps release tension in the jaw and has a calming effect."

Bark beaters

Wolves do vocalize but to a far lesser extent than dogs and mostly during juvenile play. It's thought that our pets' tendency to bark is partly due to early breeders wanting to preserve immature traits in dogs to make them safer companions. Breeding from dogs who barked was also likely to have been encouraged in a bid to create good watchdogs.

Research has shown that even non-dog owners were able to match different types of barks to the situation responsible for causing them fairly accurately when asked to listen to recordings.

Actively encouraging or allowing your puppy to bark will increase the likelihood of him becoming a noisy adult, so it's best to deal with it before it becomes an unwanted and established habit.

Barking can sometimes be a symptom of senility in elderly dogs. Your vet can prescribe drugs which may be able to help if this is the case. Brain disturbance due to an illness or tumour may also be responsible and you should ask your vet to investigate if you suspect a health problem.

Top tips

  • If your dog has been disturbing your neighbours try not to let things get acrimonious. Keep them informed of your intentions and progress in remedying the problem and ask for feedback. By staying on good terms and demonstrating you are trying to do something about the situation it's likely they'll be more willing to give you the time and opportunity to improve matters.
  • Choose activities and any toys you give your dog to occupy him while you're out with care. Games such as playing ball, excessive chasing or lots of agility, and some toys that have to be moved around to release treats, can cause stressed dogs with too much adrenalin in their systems to become more 'hyper'. Tracking and scenting games that allow a dog to use his nose and brain, chewing (bones and stuffed Kongs), and TTouch, on the other hand, increases the release of seratonin into a dog's system which helps neutralize and dissipate adrenalin.

Teaching a "Hush" command

1. Attach your dog safely to a fence or gate.


2. Tempt your dog with a favourite toy or treat so he starts to bark.


3. When he starts to bark, give the "Speak" command and release the toy.


4. Once your dog has learned to "Speak" you can then teach him to "Hush" by interrupting his barking to give him a treat and putting the word "Hush" to the action.

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