Many are the requests for help from ethologists by owners who can not control the barking of their dog: they bark at passers-by, they bark to say hello, to ask for food and we have the dogs “bell”: when someone rings the doorbell they bark like crazy … The repeated question is why and how to control it.
Why does my dog bark then?
As Aristotle would say, there is a first cause and a final cause:
The first cause is the selection made by humans of Canis lupus to turn it into Canis lupus familiaris. We have been selecting the puppies of more docile mothers.
Docility is related to a more childish character: the need for attachment to the owner (as if it were the parents) sometimes insatiable playability, and barking to get attention. This we call neoteny. Canids that are less docile, that is, less domesticated, no longer bark as adults. This happens in wolves and dog races called primitives: Husky, Alaska, Basenji …
The ultimate cause is our dog’s need to get our attention. They bark to ask for company, to ask for food and to complain about how rough their littermate is playing. If we stop perpetuating this behavior, it is when they bark more than what is desired for a good coexistence between the dog and its owner and, of course, the neighbors.
Is it possible to avoid barking? How?
Reflecting on the causes we can clearly detect how to avoid barking: not positively reinforce the bark. This requires dedication and patience. We must avoid that our beloved pet sends us by force of barks. Which means, do not reward when you bark by giving him what he asks:
Barking when you want food: Do not pay attention and do not give food until you stop barking. The first days are terrible, but in the long run we made it.
It barks when the bell rings: do not go to open. This is better done by preparing a little theater every day, otherwise, we will have the annoying visitors because we do not open them.
Bark to play with other dogs. Let him play if he does not bark. It should also be prepared and with the help of a trainer. It is a little more complicated.
How can we prevent barking?
As a puppy, we must not reinforce this behavior. We are very funny when it starts with its first barking because we must NEVER respond to the barking of our puppy. Who said that educating a dog was easy?