Tag Archives: barking

Poodle barking

What to do when a neighbor dog’s barking is driving you insane

I live out in the middle of nowhere on Almost Heaven Ranch, and one of the things I most cherish is the peace and quiet. But people who live in townhouses, apartment buildings, and neighborhoods value peace and quiet, too. Which is what makes a constantly barking dog next door so infuriating. What can you do? That’s what a reader asked, and as with all things behavior and training related, I asked my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to weigh in.

Q: I live in a townhouse, and my neighbor’s poodle is a barking machine. Can a dog be trained not to bark?

A: Barking is a natural dog behavior. Dogs bark to communicate — “Hey, someone’s walking up to the door” — out of frustration or excitement, or out of boredom. The good news is that dogs can learn when it’s appropriate to bark and when to put a lid on it. More difficult, sometimes, is educating owners about how to deal with their dogs’ unwanted behaviors.

The first thing to do is document the frequency of the dog’s barking. Note the days and times the dog barks and the length of time the barking continues. Record the barking so your neighbor can have an idea of how much noise is coming into your unit.

Then knock on her door and politely ask if you can have a chat about the dog’s barking. Explain the specific problem, whether it’s being unable to sleep, unable to hear your television or unable to concentrate on work.

If your neighbor is not home during the day, she may not realize what a nuisance it is. She may be able to set up a “dog cam” to determine what’s setting the dog off. It might be people, other dogs, squirrels or birds that he sees through the window. If that’s the case, she may be able to put a stop to the barking by closing the blinds or restricting the dog’s access to rooms with windows. To offset boredom, the dog may need a midday walk with a pet sitter or some interactive toys to occupy his brain.

If she’s unable or unwilling to deal with the dog’s barking, it may be necessary to approach the homeowners association or animal control.

Read more, including a report from the world’s largest veterinary conference, in this week’s Pet Connection!

Why dogs bark but wolves don’t

A reader had a question about barking dogs. No, not how to get them to stop, but why wolves — who are the same species as dogs — don’t do it!

Q: I read recently that wild dogs like wolves don’t bark. How come dogs do?

A: Wild dogs aren’t silent, that’s for sure. They howl and yip and whine, but they don’t make the percussive and repetitive sound that we know as the bark. It’s one of the behaviors that separates dogs from wolves.

A Hungarian ethologist (someone who studies animal behavior) named Csaba Molnar suspects that dogs bark because, well, we designed them to. In several studies published in various scientific journals, he hypothesized that a dog’s barks share information about his emotions or surroundings and that humans are able to understand what dogs are communicating with their barks.

In an article on Wired.com, Brandon Keim explains the results of one of Molnar’s studies:

“Molnar’s statistical algorithm showed that dog barks displayed common patterns of acoustic structure. In terms of pitch and repetition and harmonics, one dog’s alarm bark fundamentally resembled another dog’s alarm bark.”

That makes sense because it’s important for people to recognize an alarm bark quickly.

Other studies found that people could reliably identify the context of different dog barks. People with different experience with dogs were asked to describe the emotional content of several artificially assembled bark sequences based on five emotional states: aggressiveness, fear, despair, playfulness and happiness. The researchers found that people with different levels of experience with dogs described the emotional content of the bark sequences similarly.

According to study summaries, the authors suggest that dog barking emerged through selective processes and that dog barks may present a functional system for communication in the dog-human relationship.

The other thing to know about barking is that in wolves, it’s a behavior seen only in juveniles. When we domesticated dogs, it’s likely that we selected for more friendly, less threatening behavior and appearance, and perhaps the bark accompanied those traits.

All this and more, including how to rehome a pet, in this week’s Pet Connection!