Howlin Wolf: Barkin Dog: Enuff Already

This dog is seriously disturbing my peace. And that of our new neighbors as well I’m sure (though I feel somewhat unapologetic about that after enduring months and months of chainsaws and logging trucks that their activities inflicted on us. I think that has left me permanently scarred for life in some way.)

We’ve never had barking dogs–ever. Our three labs only barked when there was a reason–not for recreation. Gandy stares off into the woods or over into the pasture barking every breath. I’ve had all I can tolerate. So what now? She barks whether she’s gotten plenty of exercise and attention or not.

In her defense, most of her barking that is not associated with her trying to get my attention is aimed at things we cannot see (and are not sure she does not just imagine) out the windows. Closing the curtains does not extinguish the barking once she’s started. One time there was a bear in the neighborhood, we learned later. Last week there was a strange dog I finally saw over in the pasture after a half hour of inexplicable barking. So at times, she’s barking out of agitation or alarm at a perceived threat or opportunity to chase something. That does not make it any easier to tolerate.

If anybody has had experience with muzzles or other training methods or devices, I’m in the market. It would not be to prevent biting but barking. The dog weights 60 pounds but I’d think it would be more length of the jaw and size of the neck that would dictate buying to fit.

I am so open to ideas—which I have many fewer of lately because I can’t hear myself think!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I had a shock collar for my barker, and it worked fine. It would give her a warning beep if she barked, and if she kept it up, it’d give her a little shock. (Uncomfortable but not painful – I tried it on myself before I put it on her.) If she kept barking after that, the unit would stop the warnings or shocks, figuring that she was barking at something legitimately. My beast would bark at clouds and trees and birds and …. You do need to test it periodically because mine malfunctioned after a while (a long while) and would shock her for no reason, which was counterproductive.

  2. A muzzle will be useless for preventing barking – they are meant to prevent biting. Any muzzle that fit tightly enough to even somehwat muffle barking would also impede very necessary things like drinking and panting.

    There are many different anti-barking devices on the market: shock collars, like kitten mentioned. There are citronella collars, where, in lieu of electrically shocking your dog, the collar sprays a puff of citronella in the dog’s face – harmless, but aversive to a being with such a powerful sense of smell. There is also the Dog Dazer, which is not a collar, but an area device that corrects the dog by emitting an uncomfortable high pitched sound that human ears can’t hear.

    Some caveats: if you use a shock collar or citronella collar, *always* be sure to remove it before allowing your dog to play with other dogs. I have seen many a dog that become fearful or agressive towards other dogs because they were repeatedly shocked while attempting to play (and barking playfully while doing so, as many dogs will.) Also realize that with a bark collar, your dog will receive a correction if they bark at an approaching houseguest, deliver person, etc, which could affect how they feel about and react towards new people. A caveat for devices like the dog dazer is that it will punish every dog in earshot, whether they are the ones barking or not. This probably won’t be an issue for you since you don’t live in the suburbs, but I have also seen dogs that have become terrified to go outdoors after receiving multiple, seemingly random auditory corrections from the neighbor’s dog dazer.

  3. We find that calming words, hugs and then distracting them works best. Start soothing her, just as she starts barking. Usually, dogs get more and more upset as they bark. But if you hug her and say, soothingly, “It’s OK, Gandy, it’s OK. Don’t worry…” etc, we find it tends to calm our terriers, and they don’t work themselves into a frenzy! Then, we try to distract them with a tiny treat, a toy or a trip to the garden.

  4. Before resorting to collars, sprays or whatever, consult a good trainer! Our dog loved the sound of her own voice, but we trained her with ” No, Quiet.” Said it calmly but firmly when she began barking for no acceptable reason, and she received a treat immediately when she stopped, together with “Good quiet, good girl!” said happily. Being highly receptive to food treats, as well as smart, she learned quickly what Quiet meant.

  5. I teach my dogs the command “That’s enough.” When they have barked long enough for the situation. I say “that’s enough” and then do some major distraction, treats, whatever that will move the dog from barking to something else, with lots of praise. I occupy the dog as long as it takes to forget about barking, again with lots of praise. They’ve learned to stop barking at “that’s enough” but will pick up the barking again if it’s really a threat. My dogs like to have “barkathons” with the neighbor’s dogs but now I can stop it with the command. I sometimes let them have some barking for fun for a few minutes before stopping them. I like my dogs to bark when someone approaches the house and the command is very useful for letting them bark until I want them to stop.

  6. As I’ve confessed, we are naive about barking, having had three labs since 1980, and this is our first very-other mixed breed oddity. Also odd is her indifference to food and treats–but especially food. She’ll turn her nose up at food offered at 7 am, sniff at it a time or two, and maybe not bother to eat it until 5 pm.

    So the treat-rewards are not the incentive to good behavior that they might have been with any of the labs, who inhaled their bowls of food in a single gulp, and licked the flowers off the plates.

    Gandy is a failure in the bowl-and-plate cleaning department. But we’ll consider other options than the muzzle, which appealed at first impulse just because it would have been quick and easy.

  7. dear Fred
    how about an accidental magic word. The magic word came about when our first dog was just a puppy. We had her out in the front yard exposing her to nature. During the course of my wife playing with the puppy, she got behind a Bush in the front yard, peeked around it, and said woo hoo. For some reason that frightened our dog beyond belief. From that day forward any time Jenny needed correction any of us could say woo hoo and she would stop whatever behavior she was doing.

    One of my neighbors had great success with a barking collar. He has a black and tan coonhound that has a beautiful voice but I’m sure the neighbors didn’t think it was so beautiful at times. I’m an old hunter who finds music in a dog’s voice so I didn’t mind much. That same neighbor has two other dogs besides the coonhound and when he releases them first thing in the morning, even on a Sunday morning, there is quite a din unleashed. however, it usually doesn’t last very long.

    Consider if you would ,having a 14 pound demon in your house. he loves to bark and bark he does, at just about anything and everything at the most inconvenient times. having said all that I would share with you that I have discovered a magic word that works with even this little demon most of the time. I can’t tell you how I first established that magic word. I learned that he was afraid of the water hose, so one day while I was out watering the plants I turned the stream of water in his direction and hollered “HOSE.” Now, when he is outside barking and doing one of his little zoomy spells, I only need to raise my voice getting his attention and then say firmly and distinctly “Sarge, HOSE.” he heads for the patio door immediately. When he does you had better make sure that the door is open, or the potential exists for him to break his neck when he impacts the door. He has collided with the screen door a time or two but never the glass. I guess we’ve been lucky in that respect.

    I’m sure you will figure it out. good luck!


  8. My dog is passionate about hunting squirrels. When one climbs up the crab apple tree in my front yard he goes crazy, trying to climb the tree and barking his head off. Using the DogTec bark collar stopped all that. It lets you adjust the settings for your particular dog.