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How to reduce demanding barks

Barking is one of the very few ways that a dog can communicate verbally, the tone of the barks may have different meanings but they are definitely not as complicated as human language.

Imagine waking up every morning at 6am to find your dog barking nonstop for attention, this is what many families have been experiencing with their dog throughout their lives, thinking that it is normal and not possible to rectify.

How do you know if it's demanding barks?
Attention seeking barks should not be linked to anxiety, guarding nor aggression, if you suspect your dog having more than just attention seeking issues then this article will not help, it will be better to engage a trainer instead. Here are a few examples to help you understand if the barks are solely attention seeking behaviors:

• Your dog barks at a certain time every morning
• Your dog start barking every time it finishes pee/poo
• Your dog stops barking after meals
• Your dog stops barking after you provide attention

The above mentioned scenarios are most likely attention seeking behaviors, some dogs might even progress to howls and it can be really annoying. Good news though, attention seeking barks are actually one of the easiest to eliminate compared to other behavioral issues, the key is patience, time and consistency.

Understanding why
When it comes to dog behaviors, I will always look at the perspective of the dog and try to understand the reason behind each action. In the wild, there are no such thing as excessive barking, dogs do not possess such knowledge against other animals, therefore you need to understand that these precisely timed barks are not a natural behavior.

To be clear, the morning barks that many families experienced are created by humans themselves. "But I don't even know how to train a dog!", this is something that many owners will exclaim when I mention that the behavior is always caused by human.

Any behavior can be conditioned without you knowing that it's happening. For example, Mr Lim used to wake up at 6am every morning, then he'll start to serve breakfast to his dog first before preparing for work. This although sounds nothing like dog training, actually conditions the dog's mind that someone should be awake at 6am and food should always be there at without fail. So one day if Mr Lim decides to wake up at 9am, the dog will start thinking why food is not there and why it's owner hasn't woke up yet, then dog may attempt to "communicate" by giving a few barks.

So Mr Lim, like most owners would wake up after hearing the 6am bark, feeling guilty and start feeding the dog. This continues for many days and months, now here's the important part, the dog learned a few things:

1. Owner should always WAKE UP at 6am,
2. 6am should always be FEEDING TIME,
3. If it's not according to plan, BARKING will work!

Since you've understood the reason behind these attention seeking barks, it's time to find a solution, and the simplest way is to purposely break the routine.

Below are the combination of things that can help break the routine and reduce attention seeking barks.

1. Change feeding time
Dogs are very sensitive to fixed routine and may start demanding when things are not going according to daily plan. You need to understand that we humans prioritize things and there will be times when we have to forgo our dog's routine, therefore breaking up the first line of routine will be the key to stopping these unnecessary barks. If you used to feed at 6am in the past, change the feeding time everyday, you can start at 6:30am for day 1 and suddenly change to 8am on day 2, or even skip breakfast once every few days just for the time being.

You may notice increased barking and even louder tone initially, if so then you are already on the right path. This means that your dog is reacting to the change of feeding time and is just increasing the volume thinking that you can't hear it.

2. Ignore barking
Now it's time to ignore the barking, the duration of barks will depend on the personality of the dog as well as the severity of the behavior. It can last between 5 minutes to hours, if you and your family can work as a team to help eliminate this problem, you should see improvements within 2 weeks. By ignoring it means no attention should be given when the barks are going on, no touching, no talking, just stay in your room and wait it out.

3. Treats after barking stop
Once you hear the barks stopping for a moment, quickly walk to your dog and provide a yummy treat. If you are walking halfway and the bark start again, go back into your room and continue waiting, if done correctly your dog should gradually get better as you repeat the procedures.

4. Crate at night
I've emphasized a lot of times - dogs that have undergone proper crate training are usually much more confident and relaxed compared to those that sleeps with owners.

Being away from your dog reduces the distance between both of you, crating your dog at night will help to reduce the impact of your dog's attention seeking behavior. (This article is not focused on crate training so we'd assume that the dog does not have trouble sleeping alone.)

For those that still wish to sleep with their dogs, you can start by slowly reducing the time spent together on the bed. Have your dog sleep with you for a few hours, then put it back to the crate, ignore. Gradually reduce the time your dog sleeps on the bed till you are comfortable to let it rest alone throughout the night.

5. Exercises 
Exercises are one of the most important things to provide your dog daily. No matter if they are categorized as hunting or lap dog, all dogs require daily exercises to stay physically and mentally healthy. Having a dog that isn't exercised(at least once every 2 days) is equivalent to a human being locked inside the house with no freedom for a week. When this happen stress will definitely build up and create even more problems in no time.

If you wish to own a dog, remember that routine walks are one of the criteria that you'll have to commit for the rest of your dog's life.

Remember, this is a general guide on demanding barks and meant for educational purposes, they will not work on dogs with mix of anxiety and other hidden behavioral problems. Do consult a trainer if problems persist.


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