Dear Barb—Canine Conundrum

Dear Barb:

My boyfriend and I moved in together a few months ago and bought a puppy.  The dog is a year old now, it’s a husky/border collie mix.  We love him, but he barks a lot!  We have a small yard, and he likes to be outside, but the entire time he is outside he barks.  I know my neighbors are getting tired of it.  When we yell at him to stop, he just looks at us until we are gone, then he starts again.  We both work, so Joey is left alone most of the day and from what I hear he barks at home as well.  We have a friend that comes in and lets him out at lunch time and she said when she goes to the door she can hear him barking.  We bought a bark collar so that when he barks he get a spray in the face with citronella.  It doesn’t work, he loves the citronella.  We don’t want to have to get rid of him.  A lot of friends have made suggestions, but none of them seem to work.  My sister is taking courses at AU and she suggested I write in to see if you would be able to suggest anything to help our dog to stop barking.  Thanks so much, Rebecca. 

Hi Rebecca:

Thanks for taking the time to email Dear Barb.  A dog that barks all the time can be very stressful not only for you, but for your neighbors.  No one wants to have problems with their neighbors, so it’s admirable that you want to get this resolved as soon as possible.  Traditionally Huskies are not barkers, but Border Collies are known for barking excessively.  Your guy seems to have a lot of the Border Collie genes.  First, you need to determine why your dog is barking.  A barking dog is usually trying to communicate something.  For example, he wants to play, he’s hungry, he doesn’t want to be left alone, someone is knocking at your door etc.

Once you find out what your dog is barking about, do what he’s asking, but only after he stops barking.  This will teach him that barking will not get him what he wants.  Have him sit calmly, give him a rub, then take him for a walk, or feed him.  You cannot just ignore his barking, because it will only get worse.  Another option which may help to curb the barking when Joey is home alone, is to leave on music or the tv, that way he will not feel he is alone.  Most dogs simply do not get enough exercise which results in frustration and unwanted behaviour.  Make sure you have your dog on a schedule.  Walk him at certain times of the day and play with him as well.  These are activities which will stimulate your dog and result in him being generally calmer.  Another suggestion would be to enroll him in a dog training course, which also results in a more well-behaved dog.  Owning a dog requires commitment and it appears you and your boyfriend are willing to put in the time and patience.  Best of luck Rebecca.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.