spcaLA: Friends for Life

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, since 1877

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spcaLA Dog Training » Ask the Trainer

Behavior & Training Questions About Dogs

Debarking a Dog

Questions: What are your views with respect to debarking or devocalizing? Is it a complicated procedure? Does it harm the dogs in any way? Does spcaLA have any objections to debarking of dogs?

Answer: Debarking is accomplished by cutting into the voice box to remove the vocal chords and is thought to be permanent, but often barking returns. Most dogs continue to bark after the surgery because the behavior is not modified. As with any surgery one assumes there is discomfort. Some of the side effects may be infection, scare tissue and the need for additional surgery.

The best way to address chronic and disruptive barking is to contact a professional trainer and identify the cause. In a multiple dog household, identify the dog or dogs that are the biggest culprits. Often it is one or two dogs that set off the entire pack. Behavior Modification is the most effective and humane way to deal with problem barking. spcaLA absolutely denounces debarking surgery.

Question: My family lives next door to a barking dog. We have tried to make our neighbors understand that we DO NOT enjoy hearing a barking dog all day long. Unfortunately they don’t feel compelled to do anything about it. Is there anything I can do without entering their yard? Are there electronic devices that I can install in my yard that would either calm or aggravate the dog so it won't bark? I appreciate any advice you can give on this matter.

Answer: Of all dog behavior problems, perhaps the most distressing is non-stop barking. Local ordinances dictate that dog owners are responsible for control of their pets. The spcaLA offers the following tips for residents who are enduring non-stop yips and woofs from neighborhood dogs:

If your dog is the problem barker, try to find out why. If your dog is barking whenever you leave him alone, he may be suffering from separation anxiety or be over-stimulated by passers by and small animals. Consider contacting a canine behavior specialist. If you are at home and your dog is barking, enroll in a good dog training class tol help you learn the skills necessary to teach your pooch proper manners. Remember, your pet relies on you for everything, even entertainment and socialization so if your dog is bored and under-exercised he may start a barking habit. Some dogs bark when they’ve missed their daily walk!

A good trainer and/or behavior specialist can be of immense help in diagnosing a dog’s barking problem and in determining the appropriate training. If it is severe separation anxiety help from a veterinary behaviorist may be required.

Question: My neighbor’s dog is driving me crazy. I like my neighbor a lot, and I like the dog even more (I love animals), but I work at home and my office is next to the neighbor’s fence. The dog starts barking on the other side of the fence during the day when he’s alone and he goes on for hours, making it impossible for me to concentrate. I’ve talked to my neighbor, and he nods and smiles and seems very sympathetic, but nothing gets done. When he's home, the dog doesn’t bark. I think he thinks I’m a nut. What’s my next step?

Answer: Convince your neighbor that this is in fact a real problem by video taping or tape recording his dog in action. Visit a local veterinarian and obtain business cards or phone numbers of animal trainers in your area. Then, visit your neighbor and present your evidence and suggestions for animal behaviorists. Also, let your neighbor know that it is not your intention to cause discord, but if his dog’s barking does not eventually stop you will, as a last resort, contact the authorities.

Urinating in the House

Question: My un-neutered 3 year-old dog, which had been house trained has recently begun urinating in several places of the house. He’s never done this before. My friend tells me that un-neutered dogs will do this. What should I do to correct this behavior?

Answer: There are many reasons why a house trained dog will urinate in the home: male-related urine marking, reaction to fear or excitement, separation anxiety or submissive urination.

Start with a trip to the veterinarian to rule out a medical or physical cause. If there is no medical reason, contact a good trainer and/or behavior specialist. They can help diagnose your dog’s inappropriate urination problem and determine the appropriate training program to implement. It may be necessary to re-potty train your dog.

A good starting point is to keep a log to see if there is a pattern for the inappropriate urination. If you see the dog is about to eliminate, you can interrupt the behavior with a loud “NO” or a clap of your hands. Immediately take the dog to the correct potty area and reward the dog for eliminating in the correct location. Never hit or physically punish your dog. This can damage your relationship with your dog and make housetraining more difficult.

If it is determined that the urinating in the house is male-related, neutering can help reduce the level of testosterone which contributes to the dog’s drive to mark.

Introducing A New Baby To The Family Dog

Question: I am eight months pregnant and am wondering if you can suggest ways of introducing my new baby to our family dog? This is our first child.

Answer: Many animals come to our shelter because of a new baby in the home. 99% of the time, this is unnecessary. With a little advanced planning your home will be a wonderful place for both child and dog.

First, take your pet and a stool sample to your veterinarian for a thorough examination to ensure your dog is healthy before your new baby comes home. Next, begin preparing your dog for the baby’s arrival. DO NOT wait until baby comes home to start working with your dog. There are many good books available on the topic or work with a professional. Enroll your dog in a training class if he’s never attended or needs a refresher. This will enable your dog to listen and respond to commands immediately.

Dogs become stressed with added competition in the house, so reinforce the baby’s presence as positive by providing praise and treats to the dog when the baby is around. It is important that dog believes that the baby’s presence in the home increases his resources and does not deplete them. This includes toys, food and most importantly your attention. Keep as many of your pet-oriented routines as possible. For example, keep the evening walk and the morning game of fetch. By keeping the dog’s life consistent your dog will be more accepting to the other changes that occur with the arrival of a new baby.

If your dog growls around toys or food or is possessive of you or your partner, address these problems immediately. Contact a professional, don’t wait until issues progress to the point of no return. No matter how confident you are, never leave a child unsupervised with a dog.

What you should know about outside dogs

If your dog spends his whole day barking and whining for no apparent reason, you may need to rethink your pooch’s living situation. Dogs that spend the majority of their lives outside have a higher rate of behavior problems, including aggression towards people and other animals. Dogs that have lived outside with minimal training are at higher risk of ending up in the shelter.

Chaining, or tethering, refers to the practice of fastening a dog to a stationary object, such as a doghouse or pole, as a means of keeping him or her under control. Animal behaviorists agree that constant chaining makes dogs aggressive and therefore more likely to bite.

Tips for the Inside Dog

Reducing the risk of aggression