Dear Poncho,

I get so excited that I bark enthusiastically, very very loudly, over and over. I do it at many different times: in the morning when my owner comes to take me out, when she comes home from being away, or when we are getting home from a car ride. I bark very loudly, and sometimes in the car, right in her ear!

Joan Mayer and her sidekick, Poncho

Joan Mayer and her sidekick, Poncho

I really don’t like the habit, and my owner doesn’t know how to stop me. She tells me “No,” but I generally give it at least two to four more loud barks.

Do you have any suggestions other than muzzling me?

–– TJ

Dear TJ,

You are totally barking up the right tree! Barking is one of my very own favorite activities –– you can ask my mom, who’s a dog trainer. She’s probably heard every type of barking out there and says that my barks could “crack plaster.’’ I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

It sounds like you bark for a variety of reasons –– like all of us dogs. It’s similar to humans talking, yelling and screaming for a variety of reasons. Personally, I appreciate your enthusiasm and zest for life.

I think we need to remind our humans what barking is:

» A normal dog behavior: We’re dogs, we bark. We don’t meow.

» A major form of dog communication: We need to tell them when we want to play, go potty or when the mail has arrived; if we’re upset or we’re really happy to see them!

» Something that comes in handy! They don’t call us “watchdogs” for nothin’! Frankly, I don’t think goldfish make the best security guards (sorry, no offense to fish or fish owners). Whether it’s the mail-person, friends or an unwanted intruder, it’s part of our job to let our family members know when someone is approaching. After all, it is one reason they brought us home. Could you imagine if some undesirable happened onto your property and you remained quiet? You’d probably be fired!

Regarding your situation, it seems your owner needs to be clear on when it’s OK for you to express your dogginess, and when she wants you to shut your kibble hole. This is what my mom has done with me, and what I will pass along to you.

» Your owner needs to reward what she wants! In your case, it’s any time you are quiet: when she greets you, when you’re riding in the car, and whenever else she wants. Humans often forget to let us know when we’re doing what they want. Any time you are quiet, especially during the more exciting times, then she should give you a yummy treat –– and I mean steak or chicken, not kibble. Suppressing enthusiasm can be very difficult for us pooches, therefore she needs to make the reward more motivating than the reason you want to bark.

» During those times when she is letting you out in the morning, or when she is coming home, then she should say “good morning” or come in the house only if you are quiet. If you bark, then she doesn’t come in! I know this lack of attention can be kind of punishing, but trust me, if you’re quiet she’ll pay attention to you, and the time you have to wait will decrease. If you can maintain your composure, and you’re quiet right outta the gate, then she should throw a steak party!

» As for the car, it’s pretty simple. When you’re quiet in the car, your owner needs to reward you twofold: with freedom of riding in the car and some yummy treats. If you start in with yapping, she can either take you back home, or if you’re too far from home she can pull over and send you into a crate for a time-out! (Yes, this means she has to have a crate in the car). Believe me, being “sent to your room” stinks! She should probably arrange some dress rehearsals during a time when she’s not rushed to get somewhere. She can even practice while parked in your driveway, sitting in the car, making it really easy for you (and possibly less frustrating for her).

Regarding the muzzle, hmm; how would that work? You can still make noise with those things on. Plus, they’re uncomfortable, which means you would most likely be thinking about trying to get the darn thing off (and possibly making more noise), versus thinking about being quiet.

As for her telling you “No,” why is she barking back at you? I think it’s funny when humans yell at us to be quiet, it’s as if they’re joining in on the barking party … Hmm, that gives me another idea; how about forming a singing duo! Or auditioning for American Idol?

Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail

Joan Hunter Mayer is a certified canine behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and founder of The Inquisitive Canine. She and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Joan offers training and behavior consulting services both in person and online, dedicated to strengthening the human-canine bond. If you are feeling inquisitive and have dog training questions, email and click here for more training tips. The opinions expressed are her own.