Rex’s barking is driving everyone mad. Why won’t he stop?
“… boredom is one of the most common reasons why dogs bark excessively.”
ou’re young, you’re energetic, you love being around others. So what do you do when you’ve been left by yourself while ‘the humans’ go to work for what seems like an eternity or when they’re somewhere else in the house instead of playing with you? This is a question you’ve got to ask yourself as a pet owner, says Dr Chris.
‘Try looking at the situation from your dog’s perspective. Just like children, many dogs crave attention, and boredom is one of the most common reasons why dogs bark excessively. As pet owners, we have a responsibility – and, hopefully, a real desire – to provide a loving, comfortable environment that fulfils all of their needs. This includes not only shelter and food, but physical and mental stimulation as well.’
Dr Chris says that giving dogs plenty of opportunity to exercise, especially for more active breeds, is critical. ‘Dogs such as Border Collies, Cattle Dogs, Kelpies, Jack Russell Terriers, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds all require lots of physical exercise – the more the better, but a 30-minute walk or run at least once a day would be the absolute minimum.
However, environmental enrichment is just as important as exercise, adds Dr Chris. ‘This means providing toys or activities around the house or yard to stimulate your dog mentally. One of the best examples of this is food toys like KONGs or Aussie Dog balls. The idea is to hide food inside these toys so that your pet is kept occupied while trying to get the food out. You can start by putting in food that’s easier to get out, like small dog biscuits, and then ‘graduate’ to bigger pieces and finally to something that will keep them entertained for hours – for example, a smear of peanut butter or meat paste on the inside.’
When selecting a food toy, it’s important to choose one that’s specifically designed for animals, well-built and constructed only from high-quality components, he says. ‘If you think about it, these toys have to withstand the repeated pressure of a dog’s bite. Cheap and poorly-made versions break easily and can then become a potential foreign body if ingested.’
Of course, there are a number of other causes of barking in dogs, such as fear, being protective or territorial, separation anxiety and compulsive behaviours. ‘Some of these behaviours can become entrenched or learned over time, meaning that the barking continues even though the initial cause has disappeared. As with any behavioural problem, the quicker you seek advice, the more likely it is that you will have a positive outcome.’