Our question this week was:
Dr. Debra – I have two beagles that bark (a lot!). They seem to even wind each other up. One will start then the other one will jump in and get louder and louder. I can't control them. I live in the city and the neighbors have complained. What can I do? I have a doggie door that allows them to go in and out at their will – at which they will bark at different people. One is 3 years old and the other is 6 years. They have been barking for years but now it seems they are getting on the neighbors nerves. What do you think of the bark collars?
Danielle B, Columbus Ohio
Hi – thanks for your email. You wrote that you have two beagle dogs that do a lot of barking that you can't control. There is not prefect remedy for this situation. It is difficult. Figure out why your dog is barking and remove the stimulus. For example, if it is because people are walking by – restrict access to the window where they see people. If it is for attention, ignore you dog when he barks, etc. Read the article links below for more information on this.
In my experience, beagles tend to do that – bark and wind each other up and bark more. Beagles are dogs that often need to be kept busy and a lot of situation (walks and structured play time).
By structured play time, I mean time that you actually put aside to play toss, Frisbee or whatever with your dog. Ideally this should be 30 minutes twice a day. Many people get beagles because they are small and cute (especially as puppies) and don't realize that they get bored and need stimulation.
Back to the barking, what can you do? Your options are:
Behavioral training. You can do some clicker training or positive behavioral modification to help you deal with this problem. Basically this means when your dog is quiet – you positively reward them with praise or a treat. When the begin barking, ignore them or use the clicker. This will be a hard behavior to break if they have been doing it for years but you can try. It is important that everyone in your home be consistent.
Bark collars can be used. There are types that shock a dog when they begin to bark, let of a citronella mist and others that let off a high-pitched sound when they bark. Some believe the shock device is inhumane. I don't advocate them but understand their use in some dogs and in some situations (especially when others are complaining).
Sedation. This is not a good idea to deal with barking. You would have to almost give 24/7 sedation to both dogs, which is not appropriate.
Muzzles. This is inhumane and not recommend.
Debarking procedures. There are surgical procedures that can remove a portion of the vocal cord. There are substantial side effects to this procedure. These procedures are not recommended.
In addition to these possibilities, you should also spend some dedicated playtime with your dogs. Wear them out. If possible, take them to a park where they can have unrestricted running and play time (assuming they are training to "come" on command). Or you can use a retractable leash to give them more freedom.
In your saturation, your best options may be the behavioral or clicker training to start and move to a sound-based collar if that doesn't work.
A couple articles that might be helpful to you are Barking
and Excessive Barking. These articles walk you through the options and even through some of the steps to behavior modifications that might really be useful.
Best of luck!
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