|Pet World: Adopter says she was told her dog 'did not bark'
Sunday, March 7, 2021
By Cathy M. Rosenthal
I adopted a 10-year-old Chihuahua mix earlier this year. I was told she "did not bark." When she first arrived, she did not bark very much, but now she doesn't stop. We live on a somewhat busy street. She barks at everything and everyone. I have tried using noise spray cans, telling her to be quiet, shaking cans of coins and anti-bark machines. I had the opportunity to move into a senior housing complex but refused because one of their rules is no barking dogs.
I thought she may be bored, but she does not play with toys or chew on them because she only has five teeth. This is her third home. I do not want her to go through any more trauma, but she needs to stop the incessant barking. I am at my wit's end. Any other suggestions? -- Regla, New York, New York
No adopting agency should tell you that a dog won't bark or make much noise. All dogs bark or make some sort of vocal noise like yowling. I am sorry you were misled to think otherwise.
For centuries, we have trained dogs to alert us to potential threats or intruders. This works well if you live in rural areas and want to know if someone is approaching your home from a half a mile away. In suburbia or the city, however, a dog is bombarded by noise and likely to alert you all day long.
The things you have tried so far are intended to interrupt the barking, which is great, but you must ask her to do something else afterward to distract her. When using interrupting techniques, call her to you, ask her to sit and then give her some treats. Then give her something to do or ask her to sit on the couch with you or follow you into the kitchen. Be consistent with your training, and you should see a reduction in this behavior in a few months.
You also can block outside noise with a white noise machine. When you leave the house, turn on the TV or music for her as well. Blocking the noise will help reduce her need to alert you.
Where did this crazy idea of crating dogs originate? Whatever happened to old-fashion training? Laziness is the term that comes to mind. I find crating abusive. How would you feel confined? This is not training. It's engaging in cruelty. I wouldn't seek your advice regarding any animal. -- Rita, via email
For my readers, please note that Rita is referring to a recent column where I gave housetraining advice to a family with a small dog who kept having accidents in the home. They had a crate, so I discussed ways they could use the crate to housetrain their dog. While proper crate training is a humane way to train dogs, there is one caveat: Dogs are not meant to be closed up in their crates all the time or for long periods of time, and I believe this is what Rita felt I neglected to say. So, I need to rectify that oversight.
Keeping a dog in a crate all the time would be cruel. They wouldn't get enough exercise and could become anxious, destructive or depressed. One should never use a crate to punish a dog or to put a dog in while you go to work for eight hours. It's a training tool and should not be used in place of supervision and other training.
So, what does humane crate-training look like? Use the crate sparingly, like when you have to leave the house for short periods of time or during housetraining. When home, leave the crate door open and feed your dog his meal and special treats inside the crate, so he learns his crate is a special place where good things happen. Once a dog is housetrained, leave the crate door open when you leave home, so your dog can go in and out. You will be surprised at how much time your dog wants to sleep in his crate, especially if there is a comfy bed inside.
I used crate-training to housetrain three of my five dogs. The crates are not hidden but in the main living area so they can enjoy their crates whenever they want while still hanging out with the family. For more information, the Humane Society of the United States has a step-by-step guide on how to crate-train a dog.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.