Barking may sometimes be socially destructive but can be controlled. It is up to you to learn how effectively control barking. If your dog barks incessantly at everything and nothing, is particularly bad at night and your neighbors are complaining, legally speaking, you can be prosecuted if your dog is proved to be the cause of either a private or a public nuisance. If the nuisance is proven, an injunction can be sought against you to prevent the continuation of the nuisance with or without a claim for damages for the inconvenience caused. In any case, matters must not be allowed to reach this stage.
Persistent barking can often be cured, and it should never be endured. A dog barks because he is bored, hysterical, or nervous; because he is fierce; or because he is pining for affection, or because he is just plain stupid. Unfortunately, some dogs are really either fierce or stupid to the point of imbecility. These are the most difficult cases of all, and if such dogs bark persistently, nothing can usefully be done.
What Can Be Done
The first step must be for the owner to decide which category the dog belongs to before it is possible to diagnose the trouble and offer a solution for curing it. Bored, hysterical, or nervous dogs are often those that spend the major part of their lives chained up. Such dogs tend to bark to attract attention, and because their interests are so restricted, they are on edge with boredom, and the slightest noise sets them off.
Keeping a dog chained up like this is extremely unkind: if he is wanted as a watchdog, he can carry out that duty just as well from behind a large wire run, though even a dog penned in like this should be taken out and given a long run at least once a day. Plenty of exercise is the answer; for a tired dog will not bark. Apart from exercise, it also helps for this type of dog to mix a lot with human beings and occasionally also with other dogs; they become much more placid when they have been taken out and about.
The type of dog that causes the most trouble is the spoiled one belonging to an over-sentimental owner. Some cases follow a long span of serious illness when the owner is, sympathetically but quite mistakenly, doing everything he can to “make it up to the dog for all it has suffered.” Dogs don’t understand that kind of thing; they simply put it down to softness on the part of the owner. They lose all respect for him and consider they can play him up whenever they feel like it.
Instead of lying quietly in their beds as they are told when the owner leaves the room at night, they bark and whine and make everybody’s life a misery. It is your duty to stop that noise today. Whenever the dog barks in the course of the day, you should give him a really good shaking on the choke chain and tell him, in a voice that is unrelenting and authoritative, to lie down. If he is then good and quiet, you must be sure to praise him generously.
At night, by showing both firmness and love, you must get the dog to lie quietly in his basket when you leave the room. Should he get up and bark, you must rush back just once and scold him really hard. You must sound very angry, and once you have left the room for the second time, you must not come back, however much the dog may bark or whine.
Over-sentimental owners often fail in this treatment. They find it difficult to get a sufficiently stern note into their voice, and they also keep asking themselves: “Can there be something wrong with him? Should I go back to make sure?” when they ought to harden their hearts against the frustrated dog’s barking. In such cases, the help of a professional trainer should be sought.
Some owners think trainers maltreat dogs; what trainers do is simply to make the dog understand, where the owner seems incapable of doing this, that no-nonsense will be tolerated. The dog must learn that making noise will not bring the owner back. It sometimes takes two days for the lesson to sink in, but the owner will win in the end.
Most people imagine they are being very firm with their dogs and are really surprised when they are told that both their voices and their attitude to their dogs are rather more like blancmange than anything else. You should never be really angry. Just put on an act. Dogs understand. Besides, barking owners have sometimes to deal with other dog behavior problems.