Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 1:48 am | Fair 57º


Inquisitive Canine: Is This Dog the Next ‘American Idol’?

Treat your pooch to the most effective way to deal with barking time.

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 [email protected]

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >