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Dear Dish-It: My Dog Keeps Barking!

Dear Dish-It,

My dog just won’t stop barking! Ever since I got my 2010 calendar with dogs on each month, my dog keeps growling and crying and yelping at every single poster or picture in the house. What do I do?


Dear Jenny,

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Some dogs naturally like to bark more than others – it sounds like your dog is a big fan of barking! Luckily, it’s totally normal. Dogs are known not only to bark and make noises when they see another dog in real life, but also when they see or hear a dog on TV or in a photo. The other good news is you can train your dog not to bark by following these steps.

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The first thing to know is that when dogs bark excessively (that means a lot or too much) at other dogs, whether in real life or dogs they see on TV or in photos, it’s probably for a reason. Most dog experts will tell you that either your dog is not getting enough social time or he’s trying to protect you. The trick is to figure out which of these two things – socialization or protection – your dog is trying to tell you about when he barks.

Barking To Protect You

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Dogs mostly bark when they see something strange or new, like another dog, and want to let everyone around them know that this could possibly be a problem. Basically, he is trying to protect you by warning you through his bark. This type of barking is easy to identify: listen for two or three quick barks in a row. If that’s what you hear, then you’re dog is trying to protect you from a new dog he thinks is a threat (because he doesn’t know the dog is just in a picture).

The worst thing you can do if this is the case is to respond to your dog by saying something like “No! Stop that! Bad dog!” To a dog, those short, quick, loud words sound the same as his own short, quick, two or three barks in a row, and therefore they mean “Quick! There’s a problem! Strange dog!” rather than “No! Stop that! Bad dog!” (Remember, dogs don’t speak English. They don’t hear the words you say to them, just the sounds.) Basically, by yelling, you’re just making your dog feel like he’s right, because you just repeated what he was telling you!

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Basically, when your dog gives two or three quick, short, loud barks in a row (so you know he’s trying to protect you), the right thing to do is to hear his message (even though you know it’s just a poster and nothing is really wrong) and show him you understand what he’s saying and barking at. Walk over to him, look at the poster or picture, make sure he’s watching you, and, with a soft and normal voice, say something like, “Good guarding, nothing is wrong, everything is OK.” Then walk him away from the picture to a quiet area and have him lie down. Keep repeating this until your dog understands that everything is safe and he doesn’t need to bark at the pictures of dogs in your house anymore.

Barking For Socialization

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If the barking you hear isn’t two or three short barks in a row, then your dog isn’t trying to protect you from the dog he sees in the picture – he’s trying to tell you he wants to play with that dog! Make sure you walk your dog two or three times a day. A great way to socialize your dog is to find a dog park close to your home and take your dog there as often as you can to run around and play with other dogs. If there’s no park nearby, find out if there are other dogs in your neighborhood who would like to meet from time to time to play together. Or, just walk with your dog regularly and, when you see another dog being walked at the same time, ask its owner if you can introduce your dog to the other dog.

Remember, dogs are very social animals and they like being with you and with other dogs. The other thing they love more than anything in the world is to be outside, running and playing and rolling around in the grass. Make sure you’re giving your dog enough exercise and play time outside and you’ll probably find that he won’t bark as much when he’s indoors.

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