Barriers such as fences can be extremely frustrating to dogs who can see, hear and smell what's on the other side, but cannot get to it. Consequently, many dogs bark constantly at the fence. Although this problem can be difficult to eliminate, with patient training, your dog can calm down.
Provide your dog with at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Simply putting your dog in the backyard is insufficient exercise. Instead, your dog needs a chance to smell and hear the sounds outside your yard. Time away from her own yard will decrease your dog's frustration at the fence. It also makes her much more trainable because well-exercised dogs are less anxious and better equipped to listen to their owners' commands.
Put your dog in a crate when you are not home rather than leaving her in the backyard. Spending all day alone in a backyard can be very frustrating to dogs. Further, every time a dog barks at the fence it makes the behavior a more permanent part of her personality. By placing your dog in a crate, you eliminate barking opportunities and give her a secure space to sleep and relax. If you must leave your dog alone for more than five or six hours, hire a dog walker to take her for a walk or ask a neighbor to go by and check on her. Too much time alone without exercise can cause a number of behavior problems.
Teach your dog the "quiet" command by rewarding her when she is spontaneously quiet. Go outside with your dog. Wait for her to start barking, and don't say anything to her when she does. When she stops barking -- even for a few seconds -- on her own, say, "quiet." Click the training clicker and give her the threat. This helps your dog to learn what the word means and helps her to begin to associate being quiet with getting attention and rewards.
Practice the "quiet" command with your dog. Start with low-stress situations such as when your dog only barks once or twice at nothing in particular. Say "quiet" and when your dog is quiet, click the training clicker and give her a treat. Practice this exercise as many times as you can each day for a week. Then gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise by asking her to be quiet when there is a distraction such as another dog on the other end of the fence. Continue practicing this exercise for several months. Your dog will gradually associate being quiet with getting a reward and spend less time barking at the fence. Over time, she may stop barking altogether, particularly if she's getting enough exercise and attention.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Barking
- Family Friendly Dog Training; Patricia B. McConnell et al.
- The Power of Positive Dog Training; Pat Miller
- Never yell at or punish your dog for barking. Your dog can interpret this as positive attention and bark more. Alternatively, yelling may increase anxiety and thus increase barking.
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.