You say your dog never barks? Yet the neighbors complain that he does? The neighbors are probably right. Why do dogs bark and what can you do about it if your dog is annoying the neighbors? There are lots of reasons why dogs bark. The four most common are: 1. To alert pack members that there is an intruder and warn the intruder that they have been noticed. Most of us want our dogs to bark when there is something important to bark about – but not at every little movement in the yard next door… or at a flock of birds high overhead. 2. To communicate to the owner that he would like something done NOW! When a dog wants to door opened, he barks his request to you. When he wants your attention, he barks to get it. Get the idea? 3. When spooked or uncomfortable about something in the environment, dogs bark to say “I’m dangerous! Don’t come any closer!” 4. To express loneliness, frustration and boredom. This is the most common source of barking dog complaints. Dogs do not bark out of spite or to punish us! Therefore punishing a dog for barking does little good – in fact, it may worsen the problem. In order to control your dog’s barking you need to have a good idea of what is causing the problem. With time, patience and application of a few basic training principles most barking problems can be solved. In this article, we’ll look at solutions to the most common causes of dog barking: loneliness, frustration and boredom. If you find out that your dog begins to bark or howl as soon as you leave the house, and continues off and on, throughout the day or night, he is probably lonely, frustrated and bored. Dogs are social creatures and need to feel part of a pack to function properly. Dogs left out in the yard alone all day or night are likely to be lonely, anxious, destructive and noisy. Solving this problem not only makes you and your neighbors happier – it makes your dog happier too! Rx for Barking: • Bring your dog into the house when you are home, at least for a good portion of the time. • Also put him outside from time to time while you are at home, so he doesn’t feel isolated as soon as he is left out. • If he is very demanding of your attention when he is inside, make a habit of not petting him every time he seeks attention. Ignore him and he will eventually relax. This takes patience. • Desensitize your dog to your absence. Put him outside or leave the house for just a minute or so, then return and go about your business – all without saying anything to the dog. Do this over and over until the dog gets used to it. Then increase the time you are gone in increments of ten to fifteen minutes. It is important that you do not pet or croon to the dog, since that will only increase his anxiety. • Show the dog that good things can happen when you are gone by giving him a long lasting treat or toy. A Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese will keep him happily occupied for a long time. Give the treat to him five minutes before you leave. When you return, pick up and put away the treat. Only let the dog have this particular treat or toy when you are gone. • Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. Playing in the yard alone is not good enough. Dogs need outside stimulation. Two long walks with you per day are adequate. Better yet, play high-intensity games with your dog – like ball-fetch, Frisbee, hide & seek, etc. – to tire him out before long absences. • Dogs are highly social and don’t cope well with prolonged isolation. Consider a second dog, doggie daycare, or hiring a dog-walker at lunchtime if you work all day. Dogs are time-intensive pets. There is no quick fix to boredom barking but with time and patience the problem can be solved by meeting your dog’s basic needs for stimulation, exercise and companionship. Do this and you will not only solve his barking problem and restore good relations with your neighbors – you will have a true and loving friend for life!