It is the Christmas season when we advocate good will toward our fellow man. Thus it seems a perfect time to address the issue of barking dogs.
Several verbal and written communications have come my way recently regarding this problem in Payson. Dogs are barking day and night and it is disturbing sleep, outdoor activities and peace and quiet in neighborhoods. Who has the right to allow this disturbance? One wonders how owners of these constantly barking dogs tolerate the noise.
It has been reported to me that the number one call to the Payson Police Department regards barking dogs. For the neighbors, the only recourse seems to be calling the police constantly when these dogs are barking. At first it might seem that nothing is being done. But all these calls to the police department have to be logged and if enough calls come in, it will be noted that it is a serious and annoying problem.
Rule number one: Anyone who does not want a dog and will not commit to giving it a loving home and being a responsible pet owner should not have one. Whether a person has one dog or 10, if those dogs bark to the point of being annoying to the neighbors, that owner is not being a responsible pet owner. Payson appears to have a problem with irresponsible and inconsiderate pet owners.
Barking is one way that dogs communicate. Excessive barking is a bad habit. Bad habits develop because they have been permitted. Dogs bark because they are allowed to bark. They also bark because they are lonely and bored. A dog lying with the family in front of the fireplace in the evening will not be a problem barker. A dog whose owner takes him for walks, throws the ball and spends time with him is much less likely to be a barker. And if that dog should become a barker, he would be much more likely to listen when the master of the house says "no bark".
Dogs like to bark. They need to bark once in a while just like people need to talk. They bark when they are excited, nervous, frightened, happy, playing, when a large truck goes by the house and for lots of other reasons. A dog who barks when he hears an unfamiliar noise in the night or when someone unknown comes to the door is doing his job. We welcome those barks. Many dogs have saved their owner's home and family.
Excessive barking should not have to be tolerated by anyone. Alienating the neighbors is not a good thing. For the owners of these barking dogs, there are solutions.
Barking is a habit and any habit can be changed with persistence. Rolled up newspapers are a great tool for changing unwanted behavior. During the behavior changing phase, have these newspapers everywhere. One section of the paper rolled up with a rubber band on each end is perfect. When your dogs bark, check to see what they are barking about. Is there a legitimate reason for the barking? If there seems to be no obvious reason, say -- in a firm voice -- "no bark." If they have not heard these words before, they will stare at you and wonder what has come over you. And then they will resume barking. Yell it again and slap the paper against your leg or a tree or a wall or something so that it makes a pretty good crack. Always use the words -- "No bark."
This approach might sound far too simple. It works, but only if you are consistent. If you do not want your dog to bark, then do not let him bark -- other than at play or as a warning. They know the difference and you will recognize the difference when you really pay attention. No matter what you are doing, if you hear your dogs barking, you must grab the rolled newspaper and go to them and repeat the words -- "no bark" while slapping the newspaper against something.
Rarely is it necessary to use the newspaper directly on the dog. But if he is not listening, give him a smack on the rear. (Never on the head.) If he is clever, he will not let you catch him to smack him which is one of the reasons for the newspaper in the first place. The loud noise that it makes when slamming against something is usually enough.
Our dogs do not like to have us mad at them. They normally want to please us. The more time we spend with our dogs, the more they want to please and the easier it is to change unwanted behavior like barking. A dog who is alone in the yard all the time with no or very little human contact has not learned the value of pleasing his owner. And this is the owner who should not have a dog.
Dogs should never be allowed to bark merely for the sake of barking. It is just a bad habit and with consistency and perseverance, this behavior can be changed. When they listen and are quiet, never forget the most important words -- said in a very upbeat happy voice -- "Good no bark."
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry AZ 85544.