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Why your dog is barking and how to stop it

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Man’s best friend -dog- cannot speak and so they use nonverbal cues to pass a message to their handler or other dogs. You should be keen to understand this communication lest you miss the intended message and put the dog or yourself in danger.

Many times, dog behaviour problems are misunderstood or mishandled by dog owners. But as a dog owner, it is beneficial to understand what the dog is saying through its behaviour.

Dogs communicate through barking, howling, whining and more. However, excessive barking is considered a behaviour problem. Here is how to tell what each behaviour communicates.

Barking

Before you can correct excessive barking, determine why your dog is vocalising in the first place. The most common types of barking are: warning or alert, anxiety, playfulness and excitement, attention-seeking, boredom and responding to other dogs.

Learn to control excessive barking. Consider teaching them bark/quiet commands. Be consistent and patient. Address any underlying causes of barking. Dedication and attention to detail can go a long way to stop a dog from barking.

Chewing

Chewing is a natural action for all dogs. In fact, chewing is an important activity for most dogs; it's just part of the way they are wired. However, excessive chewing can quickly become a behaviour problem if your dog causes destruction. The most common reasons dogs chew includes: puppy teething, boredom or excess energy, anxiety and curiosity especially in puppies.

Encourage your dog to chew on the right things by providing plenty of appropriate chew toys. Keep personal items away from your dog. When you are not home, keep your dog crated or confined to an area where less destruction can be caused.

Whenever you catch your dog chewing something wrong, quickly distract it with a sharp noise. Then, replace the item with a chew toy. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so it can wear off energy and be stimulated in that way rather than turning to chewing.

Begging

Begging is a bad habit, which can lead to digestive problems and obesity. Dogs beg because they love food. However, table scraps are not treats, and food is not love. Yes, it is hard to resist that longing look, but giving in "just this once" creates a problem in the long run. When you teach your dog that begging is permitted, you are sending the wrong message.

Before you sit down to eat, tell your dog to go to its place, preferably where it will not be able to stare at you. If necessary, confine your dog to another room. If it behaves, give it a special treat only after you and your family are done eating.

Inappropriate Elimination

It is annoying when a dog has inappropriate urination and defecation habits. Discuss this behaviour with your vet first to rule out health problems. The reason for this behaviour, comes down to: submissive or excitement urination, territorial marking, anxiety and lack of proper housebreaking.

This behaviour is unavoidable in puppies, especially before 12 weeks of age.

Jumping Up

Jumping up is a common and natural tendency in dogs. Puppies jump up to reach and greet their mothers and people. Dogs may also jump up when excited or seeking an item in the person's hands. A jumping dog can be annoying and even dangerous.

Jumping up is often attention-seeking behaviour, so any acknowledgment of your dog's actions provide an instant reward, reinforcing the jumping.

Finally, understanding the most common dog behaviour problems is the first step to solving and preventing them. A solid foundation of obedience training will help you prevent or better control many of these issues.

[Dr Paul Kangethe is a Veterinary Surgeon and the Resident Vet at FarmKenya]