Ep #20 (transcript): Why is your dog barking? What they might be telling you and how to help them stop- with guest Linda Michaels

Does your dog's barking drive you crazy? If you want some peace and quiet, listen to this episode to understand how to tell what they might be telling you and how to help them stop.

This episode answers questions like:

  • How to understand dog barking
  • Why is my dog barking for no reason?
  • How much barking is normal for a dog?
  • Are bark collars (citronella, vibrating, or shock) good for stopping excessive dog barking?
  • Are squirt bottles or coins in a can good for stopping dog barking?
  • Should dogs bark all the time?
  • Will a dog eventually stop barking?

My guest and the author of Do No Harm Dog Training & Behavior Manual and The Hierarchy of Dog Needs®, Linda Michaels, uses her advanced training in psychology and neuroscience to help us do better for our doodles. On this final and part three of our interview, she lends her expertise to help bring you some relief from barking. 

If you want to bring your Doodle parenting to the next level, sign up for The Doodle Pro™ Society waitlist now! Members get exclusive access to The Doodle Pro™, Doodle training modules, and live Q&A's with world renowned guest experts (that would usually charge $100's each to book a virtual session). Visit thedoodlepro.com/waitlist to be the first to know when doors open again!

Read transcript:


Linda Michaels: Barking is, such a frustrating and annoying problem for pet parents.

Yes. That it's important, if I may say, first, to understand that this is one of the only ways that your dog has to communicate with you with the world is vocally, so we wanna pay attention and to figure out what the underlying cause of the barking is. Yes. So let me first dispel a myth, if I could, that, people think that if you use food with a barking issue, that you're rewarding the barking.

I hear this all the time. No, If your dog's bark is coming from an emotional place deep inside of them. That is not the same as teaching your dog to speak. Teaching your dog to speak is operant behavior. That's the easy stuff. The emotions. Again, we want to decrease the stress and by throwing down food, for example, when your dog is faced with a perceived or real threat will help calm and de-stress your dog.

Corinne Gearhart- The Doodle Pro™: Just the act of eating and it's creating a more positive situation. Yeah, both.

Linda Michaels: Exactly. There are so many different nuances. To what's actually occurring here. Like a lot of different kinds of learning are, happening. first you wanna figure out why is my dog barking? Some pet parents are very good at, differentiating between different types of barks.

Often not very easy. But yes, if you look at the context it general really helps. So there are different motivations that may driving your dog triggering your dog to bark. So alarm barking. To repel real or perceived intruders. That is territorial, protective, barking.

And that's very, normal and, commonly occurs so your dog can be barking because your dog has an unmet need, a request bark asking for attention. So you wanna make sure that your dog's needs are being met in some way. Your dog can bark from boredom. Cause if you're not providing enrichment for your dog and giving your dog something to do, the barking draws attention to the lack of stimulation.

And it could be self-reinforcing.

So just ignoring a bark for something else, you might be able to ignore it . But barking in itself can feel rewarding to a dog. So ignoring by itself usually doesn't do it.

So that's like the happy bark. Yeah. So yeah, dogs bark. When you look at the continuum of the different reasons your dog will bark, as said, they have one way of communicating it. And it'll be all these different reasons. There are cognitive deficit barks, for example, as a result, but particularly in senior dogs.

Where it's really idiosyncratic and idiopathic. That is a neurological condition. So if your dog is ill your dog may bark from pain or from parasites, can you imagine? Putting ourselves in our dog's moccasins, imagine what it feels like to have all these bugs crawling all over you.

So I talk a lot about, by the way, in the hierarchy about indoor shelter. Yes. And the dangers, the hazards of having a dog unattended outdoors there things that I learned in doing research for this book that I had never considered before, but that we should think about. You dog and can bark out of loneliness.

The separation anxiety. So your dog is like pleading for interaction and of course your dog can bark for aggression. And then like the joy barks. The play barks. Yeah. So to decrease barking, you first identifying why they're barking and then address each trigger separately.

And by the way, if you live in a multiple dog home, there's usually an instigator. Yes.

I , can name them. . When we have different groups of dogs.

Yeah. And most pet parents can identify the instigators, , the other ones wake up. Whoa. What are we looking at? Chime in. You're gonna work with the instigator first, and then like management, the problem will probably be resolved if you can get the handle on the instigator there.

So again, decreasing the overall stress in your dog's life. if, you work all day, that might involve hiring a, force free dog walker to break up your dog's boredom. The lack of activity with natural activities that your dog enjoys. Removing the trigger by rearranging the environment so that we call that antecedent rearrangement.

Providing enrichment. This is, again, giving your dog something to do. There's so many great food delivery toys out now that are so popular. The snuffle mats, the licky mats. In, the book I talk about sensory gardens. People like create gardens. For their dog's enjoyment.

Corinne Gearhart- The Doodle Pro™: And it's fun And all of this goes back to when you're looking at these reasons why they're barking, it all goes back to your hierarchy of dog needs.

Like going down that pyramid and seeing where are the gaps? What, do

Linda Michaels: we need to address? Yes, exactly. This fits together. You know what I created the hierarchy of dog needs first. And then I wrote the book it all really does fit together like a puzzle. And once you realize that meeting needs can resolve so many problems.

Yeah. It's like a no brainer. Sensory, gardens are so cool and if, you're relandscaping your, backyard Considered creating a, dog friendly environment. They you can go online and find some and beautiful like tracks around the fence so your dog can do the zus when waterfalls and little bridges and like tree stumps and hay bales and there's, so many cool things that you could do to make it a a yard, which is a confined space, but to make it a happy place and, use grazing games to just like they do in the zoo with enrichment.

I had a intern who was a gorilla trainer at the San Diego Zoo, and her, one of her, main activities was providing enrichment for the gorillas. So she came to me knowing quite a bit about operant conditioning, which was great. But now she wanted to transfer this to dog training. But she really understood the value of enrichment.

Again, if we look at our own lives and what we are willing to do, what we're driven to do to enrich our lives we need to provide that for our dogs because your dog cannot go online, right? Listen to a podcast, .

Corinne Gearhart- The Doodle Pro™: Just think of March, 2020 when all of us became as captive as our dogs are every day.

They don't have thumbs, they can't leave. And we all needed to stay home. And how so many of these needs were not met. We were trying to take walks with masks and distance from everyone just to get a little exercise, but we didn't get any of our social needs met. And we still had Netflix to watch Tiger King and like internet to socialize and zoom and just how hard that was for us.

Linda Michaels: Exactly. And this is really when we can empathize with our dogs condition, like we, we have domesticated them, we have taken them into our homes. They are completely dependent upon our good graces that we can become more giving, more understanding, more kind And this will in turn make our lives better.

Yes. And make our family's lives more. Enjoy. Include your dog when you run errands. Try to provide your dog with, novelty. And we seek novelty. And that's on the cognitive needs. Novelty is very important for all of us. Dogs like consistency and they like routines just like we do, but they also like novelty just like we do.

Let me just talk a minute about alarm barking. If, your dog is perpetually on patrol, can you imagine how stressful that is if you felt the need to protect your house at all hours in and day out? That is really stressful and exhausting. So that chronic stress and anxiety is going to create barking problems.

In so many cases. You want your job to be able to fully relax. And fully relax in their yard, not have to worry about the dog next door or the unkind neighbor or the kids teasing them, or whatever it may be. But for alarm barking, it often occurs with the doorbell and at the door. When I came to a client's house she was following directions.

I love my clients, they like take notes and then I come back and they like did stuff. I, come back to her house the next day and there's a sign at the door that says, Please feed the animals. Oh. She had treats out there so that when someone came to the door, that visitor, instead of predicting scary thing happening here, comes the mailman to kill us all.

And your dog doing their job By protecting the territory. The doorbell and the guest now predicts good things are going to happen to your dog when they hear the knock on the door or the doorbell ring because that person got the treats right there is gonna come in and throw those treats, move the dog away from the door.

Anyway, it's all, Yeah. Yeah. And so, you just said it's

Corinne Gearhart- The Doodle Pro™: key on the throw because it's giving the dog the choice to retreat. They don't need to approach this human that they're already feeling anxious about and receive the treat from the thing they're scared of. I, That's really important,

Linda Michaels: the multifaceted aspect, again, so many different nuances in learning are being accomplished by doing something that just seems so simple.

It's actually scientifically correct and there's been a lot of research.

I have to say what not to do. Citronella, bark colors. No electric bark colors, no debarking surgeries, no spray bottles, shaking cans of marbles near your tongue.

Delicate ear structures can cause hearing loss. That's, this is a, popular and wrong thing to teach pet parents shouting. So these often have undesirable and, sometimes serious medical and emotional effects. So never punish your dog for growling or barking because as I said the next time, because your dog is smart and you are teaching them everything that we do your dog is, taking note of and learning from it.

So if you punish the bark, and your dog feels threatened, your dog may just bite next time. And this is where people often say, Oh, my dog. The dog just bit out of the blue now. It's never out of the blue. There are always underlying drives and there are always signs. Dogs don't want to bite if we don't listen to them.

That's all that's left. They can't speak to us and try to talk sense to us. Please don't come over here and grab me by the ears, . Put your face in my face. Because that's like a threat in the wild when someone looks you directly into the eye and now your face is in mine and I'm just need to move it away.

So I only have one tool, so I. Punishment can backfire and cause aggression, fearfulness and damage to the relationship.

Corinne Gearhart- The Doodle Pro™: And Linda, one of our members, her name is Elaine, and she has a mini bernadoodle tie who can hear the gardeners outside and will alert bark. And she's been trying to use treats and just really counter condition.

But she was wondering if it would be helpful for her to walk tie out to see the gardeners, to know that they're not a threat and maybe use treats while he's looking at them. What is your advice for Elaine on this?

Linda Michaels: I would do all of those things. I believe in in many cases like we're gonna use, all of the tools.

I once got a case with dog that was very aggressive to the pool cleaner. These, guys were afraid to come on this property. And it was not pretty , but the dog was just doing this job and and his dog is doing, the job of being the wolf that's protecting the campfire from the predators or the other tribe.

Yeah. So if the gardener is willing the combination of things that are triggering the dog, the stranger entering the property, that territorial aggression the noise of the equipment. But if the gardener is willing and very slowly and very carefully, again, not approaching your dog, just have, bringing the dog out, unleash and having to garden toss treats.

Yeah. To the high value meat, like little chunks of chicken or something that's gonna impress your dog. Hey, this is a good dude. You want your dog to think, I wish that dude would come over more often. Yes, , that's exactly the switch. That we want to make to change an aversive trigger into using that counter conditioning into something.

You're pairing it with something that your dog really likes. But also if, you can just remove your dog from the whole situation. Have, that dog walker just come over and Okay. One's that three o'clock just. Come and take dog for a walk. decrease

Corinne Gearhart- The Doodle Pro™: their stress overall.

Linda Michaels: Yes. Yeah.

Yeah. Or provide enrichment in a different room for your dog, so your dog is not worried and feels that patrolling is required. That you are distracting as well, and changing emotions as well, and providing species enjoyable activities as well. But getting distance from the stranger and from the noise using audio blockers get a CD of the ocean or whatever you like, or play reggae music.

They found dogs really like reggae. There are many things that she can do. But again, like management would just be the easiest and the safest. . So having that protective barrier between her dog and, the dog's natural inclination to guard.

But this dog that was very aggressive toward it wasn't just the pool person, it was me coming in the house. it was frightening. The dog was eating out of my hand and it took about, about three, four visits and it was another one of those miraculous, Oh my God, this stuff was, Yeah.

And this client sends me video of, the gardener out at the pool and the dog so we use the pool for exercise then. And the gardeners helping toss, tossing the ball into the pool for the dog. Oh, , thank you. If you're sending me that I

Corinne Gearhart- The Doodle Pro™: love it.

Linda Michaels: What a victory. Yeah. Yeah. Tru, it truly is. It, truly is. Dogs are very smart and so if we can just learn how to train smart, our worlds will get so much happier. Wonderful.

Corinne Gearhart- The Doodle Pro™: Thank you Linda, so much

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I’m Corinne, The Doodle Pro™


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