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Should Owners Be Punished For Barking Dogs?

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A 77-year-old Buffalo woman was sentenced to jail because of her dogs' excessive barking. Barbara Creighton was ordered to serve 24 hours in jail after she was found guilty of violating a section of the town's dog ordinance that addresses habitual loud howling, barking, crying or whining.
 
The sentence came after repeated fines that finally reached the $250 maximum. The most severe penalty she could have faced as a 15-day jail sentence.
However due to a glitch in court procedure -- she never went behind bars. Paperwork stated that Creighton had been arrested on March 23 and July 4 -- but she was never actually arrested or taken into police custody.

As for why a normal canine behavior became a police issue? One neighbor said that the barking occurs at all hours of the night and has been going on for years. "To me, it's not about the dogs; it's about the person at this point," said one local resident. "The human is responsible to manage the dogs properly. It's a quality-of-life issue."
 
How do you deal with excessive barking?
 
Most barking problems can be successfully treated to some degree, although it can indeed be difficult to control all inappropriate barking.  Treatment programs for excessive barking in dogs should be specifically targeted at the type of problem, the specifics of your household, the immediacy of the situation, and the type and level of control that is required.  A good behavioral history is important to determine cause, motivation, and possible triggers that reinforce barking behavior.

Socialization and training are essential to prevent excessive barking.  Getting puppies used to as many new people, animals, situations, and noises as possible can help prevent barking later in life.  Crate training is an excellent way to decrease a dog’s anxiety when it is left alone.  Specific training techniques, such as remote punishment or use of a “quiet” command, may be effective in reducing barking problems that do develop.
 
Q&A

Why do dogs bark so much?

Barking is a natural response to a variety of situations.  Dogs often bark as a territorial response, or during times of indecision, anxiety, or frustration.  Medical problems can also contribute to vocalization, especially in older dogs.

How can I stop my dog from barking so much?

Most inappropriate barking can be controlled to some degree, but this requires a consistent program of behavioral modification, with the goal of rewarding your dog for being quiet and settled, rather than trying to teach it not to bark.  However, control of excessive barking can be challenging and may require the guidance of a behaviorist or professional trainer.

Can I use punishments or rewards to get my dog to quiet down?

Such approaches are often not effective and can actually make the problem worse by unintentionally rewarding the barking with increased attention or treats.
 
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