Ginger gets two meals, morning walks, evening walks, play dates and a lot of love and affection. She seems to have a content life.
One day, she started barking in the evening. That was a bit unnatural. Maybe she wanted to pee. She was allowed outside, and, turns out, she did want to pee! The second day, she barked in the evening again. Maybe this time, she’s hungry. She got some food. The third day, she barked in the evening again. They ignored her for a few minutes, but they couldn’t take it anymore, she was taken out again! Ginger learnt that she gets things if she barks, be it outdoor time, food or attention. She starting barking incessantly every evening.
If you have a barking dog, try to figure what your dog is barking at. It could be at the mailman, at car horns, at people wearing masks, or at a vacuum cleaner. It could be anything! It could also seem that the dog is barking at nothing in particular. Maybe she’s just bored!
Barking is a form of communication, and it’s your job as a pet parent to be receptive to it. Ignoring this communication can make way for fears, anxiety and more severe behavioural conditions.
Ginger wasn’t really barking at one thing. Sometimes it was towards where her leash was kept, sometimes it was at her pet parents. She would bark for a few minutes, and settle down, and bark again, and scratch herself. Evenings became a dreaded time!
Some strategies we tried with Ginger:
- Ignore her – everyone in the household strictly ignored her barking
- Praise her for calm behaviour – giving verbal praise, food and toy treats for when she was quiet, during the day, and if she remained quiet for two minutes or more in-between the barking sprees
- Change her exercise time – go out later in the evening, just before she started barking
- Delay her evening meal time – to make sure it’s not hunger that’s causing her to bark
- Increase exercise time – Her evening walks were increased from 30 minutes to about 45 minutes
- Train her – 2-3 short sessions per day where she learns and practices basic obedience and a few tricks. Mental stimulation is as important as physical stimulation
- Disturb her sleep – We woke her up during the day and made her play with us so she would be more tired in the evening (this didn’t work at all)
- Increase the intensity of exercise – We made her run, and play fetch AND we took her to new places on her walks in the evening. I think this really helped Ginger!
We think the same walk in the same place every evening caused boredom. Living in Mumbai, there was no dearth of people, smells and sounds, and Ginger now walks on busy streets, through markets, and gets more running and free play time. She’s been bark free for 3 weeks now! 😀
Shout out to the Canine Trainer course participants of March’14 for their suggestions!