I recently adopted a dog through a rescue and things are going well except for one thing: He barks at me all the time. If I'm watching television, working on the computer, talking on the phone or am otherwise occupied, he gets just out of my reach and barks and barks. I think it's an attention or dominance issue, but how do I get it to stop?
Most behavior issues are due to stress and/or boredom. Dogs will frequently follow us around, nudge for attention, drop toys in our laps or even bark because they are bored and looking for something to do.
Provide plenty of exercise through structured walks on a daily basis. Use a leash or a crate when you are unable to supervise your dog 100 percent of the time, such as when you are working on the computer or otherwise occupied. Dogs also need downtime, time to rest and regroup, especially if they are transitioning to a new home. Think of the crate as the dog's bedroom — a place he can relax and get away from the chaos of everyday life. Less freedom sets the dog up for success. It's easier to give privileges to a dog for good behavior rather than take them away after they have misbehaved.
An untrained dog living with a human has a certain level of built-in stress because the human is unable to communicate effectively and is often inconsistent in his communication. Coupled with a lack of mental stimulation in their daily lives, dogs get bored and find ways to entertain themselves, thereby relieving stress. Enroll in a dog training class as soon as possible. You have an opportunity to influence your dog's behavior and get your relationship off on the right paw.
This week's expert is Pauline Houliaras, certified professional trainer and behavioral consultant and president of B-More Dog. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.