They bark to communicate with other dogs and humans. They are telling us something, and that is their only way.
Thousands of years ago, humans began the process of domesticating the dog and shaping what “being a dog” really means. Through careful selection and breeding, an astonishing variety of dog breeds have been created. Desirable traits have been selected for in various breeds that are of a benefit to humans. There are some traits; however, that quickly become undesirable when expressed too frequently. Barking is an example of a natural behaviour that is encouraged in terms of guarding behaviour but becomes a problem when the behaviour is produced in excess. A recent health insurance investigation revealed that the sound of a continually barking dog was cited as the most disruptive and stress-inducing noise for humans.
Barking, in addition to whining, howling and growling, is a beagle’s natural means of communication. Barking is characterized by a series of short, sharp sounds, that tend to vary little in tone or pitch. A dog’s bark can signify territorial protection, the exertion of dominance, or expression of some need. Typically, barking is “a means of communication triggered by a state of excitement.” Being a natural trait, barking is not considered a behavioural problem, until it is produced in excess.
Causes of Problem Barking
Problem barking has a variety of origins. Genetics does influence a dog’s tendency to bark. Certain breeds belonging to the terrier family are prone to more frequent barking than breeds such as Greyhounds or Basenjis. Generally, however, excess barking can exist in any breed of dog. The key to solving the problem of inappropriate barking is to determine what external stimulus is triggering the behaviour. Improper confinement can be a major cause of problem barkers.
Improper confinement can include leaving a dog alone in a locked room, or in a dog crate. Other improper confinements can include restricted tethering outdoors, or even an enclosed yard without proper shelter from the elements. Such confinement can cause frustration in a dog and cause it to bark excessively. Closely associated with improper confinement is lack of exercise as a cause of excess barking. When a dog is not provided with adequate exercise, pent-up energy is released through barking.
Environmental sounds can also trigger barking. These sounds include such things as the barking of other dogs, the sound of passing cars, strange voices, thunder, and mechanical noises such as the ringing of the phone. Noises can initiate barking at different times of the day. A dog may not bark at accustomed sounds during the day, but at night may be incited to a volley of barking, much to the chagrin of the neighbours, by the slightest of noises. Other causes of problem barking can include separation anxiety, or the temperament of the dog: an over-aggressive animal may bark at the smallest provocation. A strongly territorial dog may bark at any stranger, invited or uninvited, entering your property.
Solutions to Excess Barking
Excess barking can be a serious behavioural problem and can mean the termination of the relationship with your dog or the dog itself if left untreated.
The first step in solving problem barking is to determine if your dog is barking in response to an inadequate shelter or improper confinement. If this is the case, the dog must be provided with a comfortable amount of space or supplied with a doghouse if the outdoor shelter is inadequate. Increasing the amount of exercise given to your dog may also help.
In the event, your beagle is barking in response to environmental noises, or the barking is simply due to its temperament, behavioural modification methods should be used. These methods can include reconditioning using a verbal reprimand such as “No!”, and leash correction. It should be noted, however, that you should never yell at your dog, as loud noises may encourage your pet to bark more. Also keep in mind the punishment should be applied while the barking is occurring, in order for your dog to associate the unwanted behaviour with the punishment. Also, remember to reward your dog when it stops barking.
Indirect intervention methods can also be applied. These techniques can range from spraying your dog with water while it is barking, to using noise-producing devices such as “Dog Stop” or “Barker Breaker,” which emit loud or high-frequency sounds that interrupt and deter barking. These devices can be controlled by the owner or triggered by the dog’s barking. In the event your dog is resistant to these behavioural modifications, more drastic action can be taken in the form of bark activated shock collars. This device is particularly effective when barking occurs in the owner’s absence. Shock collars, however, are recommended only after other control measures have failed. A final resort, when all other behavioural modification methods have been tried, and particularly when the dog’s life is in question, is a vocal cordectomy (debarking). This surgical procedure involves removal of all or part of the vocal cords.
The key to solving the problem of excess barking in your dog begins with an understanding of what is causing this behaviour. Once you have determined a cause, you have a greater chance of choosing the most effective solution like exercise or behavioural modification. Modifying such an instinctive and natural behaviour as barking can be difficult and may require considerable patience, time, and hard work. Solutions, however, are possible, and worth the effort.
Beagle dog behavior
A dog’s behavior is influenced by certain basic instincts which you should be aware of if you want to understand your dog. Some of them have been lessened by the protected life led by modern pets. In fact, the dog as a species seems to be undergoing an important period in his evolution since never before in history have so many of them been bred exclusively as pets.
The instinct for survival is common to all living creatures. No acquired behavior pattern is strong enough to dominate this powerful drive entirely. When it is aroused, the only effective means of controlling it is a constraint. Along with this instinct is the Instinct for procreation, or mating instinct. It is normally very strong although it varies for the same health reasons, hormonal balance, opportunity and more rarely, psychological inhibitions.
Need for companionship is an instinct common to both dog and man. Many canine personality disturbances have no other cause than the solitary confinement imposed on them by man. Studies show that the critical period when a puppy forms his primary attachment to humans is between the ages of 3 and 10 weeks. If he is “imprinted” by sufficient pleasurable human relations during this time, he is apt to remain attached to humans, But if he is confined in a Kennel with only other dogs and deprived of human contact, he will prefer animal contact over humans forever.
Like human beings, dogs are vulnerable to mob psychology. The pack instinct is a more accurate term because it usually brings out the worst side of their nature. It may take no more than one other dog for this psychological phenomenon to occur. Most dogs want to please their owner. But once they become a member of a pack, their old instincts take over, and the owner is forgotten. It is very important never to let your dog run loose where he can get into bad company.
Dogs have always retained the instinctive need for a pack leader. This need is the role that we play in our pet’s life. Dogs I whom this instinct is strongest are the most trainable. They are the ones that follow you around like puppies, who never want to leave your side as adults, who listen to you, study your facial expressions, and enjoy contact with you. They seek the approval of their pack leader and will do for free what other dogs need to be bribed to do.
Most owners provide protection, food, and shelter as do wildlife pack leaders. But you must also offer leadership, enforce discipline, and maintain their prestige and authority. Psychological superiority is more important than in physical size or strength. Moreover, the modern dog’s dependence on his owner is as much emotional as it is physical. Your dog will love and respect you more if you live up to his leader image of you. Be dependable and consistent so that he can trust you.
You must be reasonable and fair in order to avoid offending his sense of justice. But above all, do not think it is a kindness to let your dog always have his way. In their wild state, dogs instinctively seek and accept leadership as well as a strict social code. In fact, discipline and obedience are probably more natural to them than indulgence, which they have experienced only as modern pets.
Territorial instinct has a profound influence on a dog’s behavior, as it has on ours. It is related to the survival instinct and is therefore very powerful and vital to his existence. Puppies as young as 2 or 3 weeks old display their sense of territory by annexing a certain corner of the nest, a bed, cushion, or chair as their personal domain. Their territory grows bigger as they do on until adulthood when they transfer their territorial instinct to their owner’s home, and their pack instinct to their human family.
Dogs respect man-made boundaries such as fences, walls, and gates, but they also establish markers of their own. Which they mark with urine and visit regularly and refresh as necessary. Domesticated dogs are respectful of their neighbor’s territory as they are jealous of their own and seldom engage in territorial warfare. In the animal world, an intruder is always psychologically inferior to an individual who is in his home territory. Under these conditions, a tiny beagle can chase away a Great Dane.
Generally speaking, dogs are most aggressive on their own territory, most submissive on another dog’s territory, and most sociable on neutral ground. An old family dog will make friends more easily with a new puppy if the two are introduced on neutral ground before the newcomers are taken home. The territorial instinct varies in intensity and quality from one breed and individual to another. Still, in all dogs, as in all humanity, there is a territorial instinct. Oddly enough, both will accept with tolerance, and sometimes even welcome, intrusions by innocent infants, unthreatening inferiors, and attractive members of the opposite sex.
Finally, dogs possess an instinctive loyalty that is much stronger than our own. Once a dog has accepted someone as his master, it is very difficult for him to switch his devotion to another. Better food, greater comfort, kindness, and understanding may not succeed in swaying his allegiance even from an unworthy owner. On the other hand, if you adopt a dog who has been happy in his previous home, give him plenty of time to transfer his loyalty to you, you will have a friend that would never fail you.
Training your dog can be time-consuming and frustrating at times, but it’s well worth it. Here are several tips that should help things go much smoother and faster… plus reduce the frustration both you and your dog feel!
Conduct “play training” whereby the training tasks are made into fun games and your dog’s play drive is used as motivation. There are a lot of really good books available for this type of training.
Intelligent dogs can also be stubborn, so you may have to outwit them!
While training your dog, you have to make him want to do what you want him to. You can’t make him do stuff unless it is fun. Otherwise, you are wasting both your time and his.
Try to make your dog’s training so fun that it becomes his or her favorite activity. This will make learning much easier and more enjoyable.
Most dogs love to play! You can make your dog the happiest just by spending some time with them, giving your undivided attention each day. Without this, your dog will feel ignored, bored, or think they’re in trouble. When this happens, they’re more likely to chew, tear things up, and not listen to you.
Here are some tried and true tactics you can use to make your dogs listen to you more:
When playing with your puppy, play at his level. If the play is encouraged at ground level, this builds your role as the dominant, or “top dog”, when you are standing and training your puppy. If the puppy is allowed to jump up and initiate play, then this can lead to unwanted jumping up as your dog gets older.
From the very beginning, make sure your dogs know you are the master. This is usually accomplished with simple tasks such as teaching the dog to raise its paw for a handshake; kissing your hand; or rolling over on command to show submission.
There is no need for extreme measures to prove you are the boss. Obedience training should be both fun and rewarding for you and your dog.
Make sure your dog always eats after you do. This is one of the easiest ways to show your dog who is the boss. This is especially important if you share your food with your dog because if you let them eat while you are, they could develop the habit of taking food right off your – or someone else’s – plate. You may need to train your family to follow this rule too… and that could be harder than training the dog 😉
Very active young dogs have a short attention span, and some breeds are worse than others. So it’s best to have several short 5-10 minute training lessons instead of one long one.
Start the training in quiet places familiar to your dog, and be sure there are very few things and people around to distract him. Gradually move the training to places with more and more distractions so he will learn to obey your commands despite those distractions.
Speak to your dog strongly but not in an angry voice. Be kind but be firm while training and never give in to what they want. It seems cruel, but in the long run, you will have a much better relationship with your dog.
Celebrate after every training session for a good job done. Have a big play by running and throwing his favorite toys. If you give them a lot of playtime with yourself, they’ll listen to you more.
Don’t confuse your dog by trying to use different words for one command. One word commands work best, and they should always be consistent. For example, when your dog gets on the lounge with you, say “sit,” and he should sit. Then if you want him to lay down, say “lay,” and he should do so.
Also, note how well your dog seems to understand your command words. Some dogs may not be able to distinguish between two words that sound the same. For instance: “lay” and “stay” sound very similar. With one of my own dogs, I’ve had to use the word “sleep” in place of lay, in order for him to understand me fully.
To keep your dog from charging the front door each time it opens, try putting up a door or gate that he can’t see through or hop over. Have him wait until people enter and come up the stairs. Then give him a treat for waiting.
No matter how well trained you think your dog is, he usually has an attention span of seconds. So be careful not to let him run away because some dogs will simply keep going and going as they find new things to chase.
Always keep your dog leashed securely when they’re outdoors unless you have a secure fence. Beware though: Some dogs can actually jump fences, even when you think they’re high enough, and some even climb trees too. And most dogs run much faster than any human can so if your dog gets loose, it could be quite dangerous for him.
A well-trained dog will feel much more secure in your home when it knows its boundaries. Even in the wild, a dog will have some sort of enforced boundaries of behavior by the pack structure and hierarchy that exists. At the end of the day, your dog is part of your ‘pack.’
A very important point to note about dog training is that any form of training should be approached from the perspective of ‘positive reinforcement.’ This simply means that you should reward your dog with praise, a treat or even better, both for any positive behavior that she exhibits. Success will come quickly to anybody who praises a dog for good behavior. The same cannot be said for somebody who punishes a dog for NOT exhibiting good behavior.
For example – If you ask your beagle dog to sit and she does, you give her a treat. In the dog’s mind sitting when told equals to treat. Simple.
Now, what if you tell the dog to sit and she doesn’t, and then you punish her? In the dog’s mind, you have just dished out a random punishment for nothing. This will only serve to confuse your dog and lead her to mistrust you.
Positive reinforcement is key.
One of the most common mistakes that dog owners make is to train their dog… into bad habits inadvertently. Typical examples include barking, face licking, jumping up. Let’s look at each of these.
Barking – Most dogs’ bark, that’s a fact. It’s WHEN a dog barks that determines whether it’s normal behavior or a bad habit. If your dog only barks when somebody comes to the door – fine. This is normal territorial behavior. Your dog is warning you – as a member of its pack – that there’s potential danger at the door.
If your beagle spends the best part of its waking life barking at just about anything including you, then it’s formed into a bad habit – but one that is easy to cure.
The first mistake that people make is to shout “Quiet” or “Shut up” at their barking dog. The main reason why this will not work is simple. Your dog barks, then you ‘bark’. From your perspective you are shouting at your dog to shut up. From your dogs’ perspective, you are barking along and enjoying the noise.
A more effective method is to wait for a pause in your dogs barking then heap lots of praise and a treat upon your dog. As soon as the barking starts again, ignore your dog, walk-off – anything but DO NOT pay your dog any attention. Then, when the barking stops its treat time again. It won’t be long before your dog puts two and two together.
Face Licking – Face licking is an overthrow from your dog’s puppy days. Face licking is a way for a puppy to get its mother to regurgitate food for them. You will often see this in the wild. Also wild dogs will lick the face of a higher member of the pack to express and accept their submissive status in the pack. Unfortunately, because you and your family members are higher in the pack, you get the licks!
At first sight face licking is not a problem but should still be avoided due to health concerns. Never let a dog lick a baby or toddlers face. This is likely to expose the infant to germs that its immune system may not be able to handle. Similarly if your dog has worms or has been investigating other dogs’ faeces or even grooming itself, the last thing you want is for your dog to come and lick your face. Try and discourage this behavior using positive reinforcement.
When your dog approaches your face firmly – but not shouting – say “No!” If the dog doesn’t back off push her away from your face. When the dog first responds to the “No” phrase, it’s time for a treat. Keep this up consistently, and the dog will realize face licking is unacceptable.
Jumping Up – Jumping up may not seem such a bad habit, but if there are young children about it can be quite dangerous. Your dog will not know that jumping on you is o.k. but jumping on the children isn’t. This will just confuse the dog. Try to discourage this behavior by telling the dog “Down!” every time she jumps up. Give her a treat when she first responds and every time after until you just need to use the words.
There are lots of simple ways that you can train your dog. These are just a few. There’s no need to tolerate bad habits in your dog as they can be so easily remedied. Oh, and never pay heed to the phrase “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, you can – it’s never too late.