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Excessive Barking: Habit, Behavior or Training Issue?

Corgi barking behavior, Corgi with mouth open

We recently heard from a reader who has a dog with a barking problem:

I have a Corgi that barks. A LOT.  He barks at the doorbell, he barks at people walking by our house, he barks at leaves. Why does he bark at literally everything? How can I stop this? I’m okay if he barks when he’s warning us of a valid threat, but leaves?? How do I selectively curb his urge to bark without shutting him up entirely? I don’t want him to feel like he’s done something wrong.

We sent the question to Linda Wagner, owner of Linda’s Pet Care Services and got the following response:

“I would need more information about the Corgi—his age, how long the owner has had him, his background including if he’s adopted, for what length of time has his Corgi had barking issues (the longer he’s been uncontrollably barking, the more ingrained and reinforced the unwanted behavior has become), what methods the owner currently uses to try to reduce his barking, does the owner live alone, does he have children or neighbors, how is his dog able to see people walking by the house, how long has the Corgi been engaging in the behavior, etc.”

Herding Dogs are Often Barking Dogs

“Corgis are herding dogs so they are barkers by nature. Some of this is pure genetics; the rest is unwanted behavior that has likely been going on for some time and it has now become a learned behavior. You can modify their barking significantly but it really involves working with a certified animal behaviorist because this isn’t a training or obedience issue. It’s become an ingrained behavior.  I know that’s a frustrating answer, but any other response I would give you or your reader would be dishonest.”

Changing Behavior

“I strongly suggest that the owner find an animal behaviorist to work with his Corgi.  A lot of behavior stems from a common error we all make as owners, including me—we reward behavior we don’t like by giving it the wrong kind of attention. Not because we are trying to make the situation worse but simply because we don’t know a better way to work with our pets and we end up feeding the very behavior we are trying to starve, so to speak. The goal is to wean out unwanted behavior by learning to modify and then reward behavior we prefer. The sooner the owner addresses the problem with a consistent strategy on how to approach the situations he finds are setting off the barking, the less ingrained the behavior becomes and the quicker he will see positive results.”

*After getting our response from Linda, we asked her if she could give us some more information about the difference between behavioral issues and training issues in dogs. Look for her article next week, when she’ll go into more detail about when pet owners need a trainer, when they need to work with an animal behaviorist and the importance of both.



35 Comments

  1. Cathy Armato

    October 25, 2017 2:36 pm

    I’ll be interested to see the outcome of this next week. I’m thinking about how I would address the barking myself, definitely not easy! It’s an interesting point that herding dogs are naturally barkers because they use that to help control the livestock they’re herding.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. Shayla

    October 25, 2017 4:02 pm

    That is some sound advice below! I work with clients that swear their dog was “born that way”, and the fact of the matter is personality is real, BUT so is human error and inadvertent reinforcement! Getting assistance from someone educated in behavior is excellent advice!

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 3:10 pm

      We humans can make mistakes in spite of (and sometimes because of) how much we love our pets. Sometimes it takes a stern approach and some help from an expert.

  3. Michelle

    October 25, 2017 4:28 pm

    We have the same problem with one of our dogs barking a lot, I have started going up to her and giving her a high value treat when she stops barking, will see how it goes and if it works! Looking forward to reading your next instalment.

  4. Lola The Rescued Cat

    October 25, 2017 5:54 pm

    I’m looking forward to the next installme t. I enjoy learning more about dog behavior so I can pass this knowledge on to family and friends.

  5. Debbie

    October 25, 2017 6:11 pm

    Looking forward to the next post. Roxie has recently started barking when people approach us on the trails, even though she loves people and other dogs. I try to correct the behavior, but could very well be inadvertently making it worse by “rewarding” her with attention..

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 3:04 pm

      Sometimes it’s hard to know when we’re rewarding a behavior and when we’re extinguishing it. It can be difficult to ignore barking when you’re on the trails, particularly when others are around.

  6. Paroma Chakravarty

    October 25, 2017 6:38 pm

    That is some sound advice! Barking if gone unchecked for a long time does become an annoying ingrained behavior! An animal behaviorist is definitely a good idea in that case.

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 2:51 pm

      Paroma, please check in next week, when we’ll have additional information on training and working with an animal behaviorist. Thanks for reading!

  7. Ruth Epstein

    October 25, 2017 7:23 pm

    Great advice and I really wish people in the park would train their dogs not to bark non stop like some do, it actually becomes unbearable to be there sometimes. My fear is Layla will learn from them so I sit as far away as possible from it.

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 2:49 pm

      I agree. Some barking during playful moments at the dog park is fine, but a chorus of non-stop barking is uncomfortable to listen to and it can frighten more timid dogs who may shy away from playing at the dog park.

  8. Tenacious Little Terrier

    October 25, 2017 8:48 pm

    Mr. N is not a big barker indoors. He alert barks at the door and that’s about it. He does tend to bark when playing with other dogs. He knows an “enough” cue for when we need him to stop!

  9. Talent Hounds

    October 25, 2017 11:37 pm

    So true and such good advice (but expensive and time-consuming to help). Kilo the Pug barks at anyone who comes near our front door, excessively. Pugs were originally prized for alerting to threats and strangers apparently so I am sure there are some genetics involved. He is a rescue we started fostering at 2 and there may have been some previous reinforcement we were told. We had so many things to work on this slid down the priorities. We had a behaviourist and I did make a bit of an effort to recondition but the territory defence got worse as he got more comfortable and devoted. He has become such a great little love bug and I know it is my fault he has not improved on this – maybe this winter.

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 2:47 pm

      We all have those times when life and love get in the way of discipline and training. I’m glad he’s devoted and that he has become comfortable enough in his new home to really be himself. Give him a hug for me!

  10. Jana Rade

    October 25, 2017 11:53 pm

    Different breeds have a different predisposition for barking. And then, of course, it depends on stimuli too. Cookie, actually, barks only for a good reason (whether we agree with that assessment or not)

  11. Sweet Purrfections

    October 26, 2017 12:23 am

    I’m interested in reading the follow up. My sister has an Australian Shepherd who barks a lot!

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 2:34 pm

      Perhaps you can forward a copy of the article to your sister when it comes out. But I’d include some praise for your sister as well – positive reinforcement is so important, LOL!

  12. Beth

    October 26, 2017 12:36 am

    I can see how a dog that barks a lot could be a real problem. I have 3 neighbor dogs that are next to our yard a Great Dane, a Newf, and a Shih Tzu. The Shih Tzu barks incessantly when he is outside, but we can’t hear him when we are inside. Fortunately, our dogs ignore him, whether they are inside or outside. I am looking forward to reading the next part.

  13. Robin

    October 26, 2017 1:21 am

    It is really interesting that herding dogs are barking dogs. I never thought about that. She is absolutely right that we often feed bad behaviors by the way we respond to them. Even with my cats, I have to remind myself that all attention can be seen as good attention. The fact that you stop what you are doing and pay attention to them lets your pet know how they can manipulate you.

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 2:29 pm

      I have to confess that I used to respond to Soldier with attention every time he barked (and he barked at everything from the UPS truck to the wind). It was a matter of training myself, not him, and sticking with it. It was one of the rare times I actually felt like I’d won the battle when he stopped barking so much!

  14. Happy-Go-Doodle

    October 26, 2017 1:57 am

    I really appreciate Linda’s response! It’s fascinating to think about what is ingrained and what is learned behavior. I’m looking forward to your next post!

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 2:23 pm

      Thanks! We’re very fortunate to have Linda’s input on issues involving animal care, behavior and socialization. Her experience and education make her an excellent resource.

  15. Jodi Clock

    October 26, 2017 2:12 am

    Great post! We had a corgi and sometimes its just nature!!!

  16. Stephanie Seger

    October 26, 2017 5:45 am

    This is sound advice. I read another article by my favorite Canine behaviorist about how to curb incessant barking on command. She has border collies who can be quite intense but, like Corgies, highly trainable. Her method has more to do with teaching an alternate behavior at the time when the dog is triggered to bark. For example, if someone comes to the door, the dog is asked to fetch a ball. Can’t exactly bark with a ball in your mouth. I’m interested in hearing more from Linda next week. I love hearing different perspectives on dog training, because every dog is unique and responds differently.

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 2:15 pm

      Stephanie, I’m so glad you’re looking forward to Linda’s article. She always has such great advice and she really understands dogs and their instinctual behaviors vs. learned habits. I’m looking forward to learning more from Linda myself. Your friend’s habit of offering a distraction is a great way to break the cycle of barking. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Kamira Gayle

    October 26, 2017 11:36 am

    I don’t have a dog however have friends with dogs. I just always assumed excessive dog barking had to do with home training and instinctual behavior. Interesting to read that some breeds or herding dogs are more apt to barking.

    • Lori

      October 26, 2017 2:12 pm

      Kamira Gayle, there are also some dogs who simply enjoy barking for the sheer pleasure of listening to themselves talk or because they are bored. With so many breeds of dogs, there are many reasons why they bark!

  18. Heather Wallace

    October 26, 2017 11:45 am

    I have a herding and guard dog (Anatolian Shepherd) and he is extremely talkative. It’s his go to method of communication and I’ve been able to identify at least four different types of barks. He is extremely predictable. The only time I do not like his barking is when we are on walks when he is warning away other dogs, so I distract with training and tricks and reward good behavior. He’s been amazing!

    I don’t mind when he barks at others from inside the house because he’s just doing his job. It’s instinct. If the corgi’s owner is unhappy she should limit his view of the front, or only allow it when she can work with him on how he reacts.

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