I am back with Deuce from sheepherding and back at work in my office when I hear a “strange” bark coming from Deuce. I ask John if Deuce is with him in his office, which is on the opposite side of the house, and he tells me no. So I get up and go towards the bark to find out why he is barking. I find Deuce standing next to where their water bowl normally is and realize that I forgot to place the bowl down after having cleaned it.
Now, I see why Deuce was barking! How else can he let me know that I forgot the water bowl and that he really needs a drink? Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. Their barks (and other vocalizations) are in effect communication.
Barks sound differently and one can learn to identify the purpose behind a particular bark. We are all familiar with the “someone is at the door barking”. The kind of barking that people hate the most. I guess (most) dogs missed-out on the memo that said that a couple of barks would get the job done! And that if we are not rushing to the door is because we can’t! However, in part, the reason why barking can become excessive at the front door is because most people do not have a specific behavior for their dog to engage in once they have warned them about the visitor to the home.
Recently we have been changing our tune: Whenever Rio goes on alert mode because someone is at the front of our home, we try to acknowledge her as soon as possible. We then proceed for us; the routine is that when Rio (for the most part) makes us aware of someone at the door consists in attending to her for a job well done. And depending on who the visitor is will determine how we proceed to ask her to move away from her post and direct her to the bed in the kitchen. Once she is there she will get a tasty treat or if we are just finishing our meal the opportunity to lick clean our plate – an A+ reward for her.
We continue to treat the dogs occasionally for staying put on their beds until released to continue with their daily doggie activities of naps, barking at an occasional crow – who is perhaps taunting them – and more napping as they await the last play/training session of the day, followed by dinner and a chewy for dessert.
I have noticed that since we have been taking the time to first acknowledge Rio for alerting and then removing her from the window it has become much easier for her to fully relax after seeing someone outside.
It is important that we acknowledge that for most dogs not barking excessively when someone is at the door is a very difficult behavior to master.
Helping our dogs tone down their routine requires following our plan of action consistently and calmly since yelling will just agitate the dog even more. Clearly this is one of those occasion in which we need to teach by example: by keeping our cool when someone is at the door as we follow our plan of action. As a result, we will experience less barking from our pup and less frustration for everyone involved.