By Alyssa Gautieri
You’ve recently moved to a condo and your dog is having difficulty adjusting to community association living. There are many more people around than when you lived in a regular single-family home. There are also many more dogs around. Your dog starts barking like crazy. Maybe you’ve received complaints about your dog barking while you were at work or out running errands.
Or possibly, you’ve been living in an association, but you decided to adopt a dog and the dog just barks like crazy. What can you do?
According to Jason Aft, a canine training and behavior specialist and the owner of K9 State of Mind in Charleston, South Carolina, there are a few different reasons that dogs bark. Most commonly, dogs will bark to alert their owner about what the dog may perceive as danger, or to express happiness or excitement. “But this isn’t the type of barking that an association will have an issue with,” according to Aft. “It is excessive barking that is neurotic or obsessive compulsive, which often stems from separation anxiety, that will cause issues,” said Aft.
If a barking issue has evolved into various complaints from neighbors, it is likely because the dog has an anxiety issue and the owner is leaving the dog home alone for long periods of time, according to Aft.
“Usually when a dog is barking because he is happy, wants something, or is alerting the owner, it is short spurts and it stops very quickly. It is not going to continue, as long as you’ve acknowledged the dog,” explained Aft. “But it becomes an issue when you start to see a dog panting a lot, pacing a lot, chewing on themselves, running around in circles, or exhibiting psychologically unhealthy behaviors.”
If a dog is barking neurotically or excessively, Aft recommended a few techniques for owners.
“My biggest tip is to try to get your dog crate trained,” said Aft, who emphasized that it is important for owners to leave the house quietly during the process of crate training. “Do not acknowledge the dog, do not say goodbye, and do not raise your voice. The quickest way to a separation anxiety riddled dog is by making a huge deal every time you leave them alone.”
In the case that your dog is barking, even if it is only occasionally, Aft added “the only way you can really address barking to affect it positively is to show no emotion.”
Aft explained that a dog’s brain has different logic than that of a human. “If you get mad at a dog, the dog will not interpret that as ‘I need to be quiet.’ Reprimanding a dog serves no purposes, it is completely unproductive.” he explained. “An owner is better off being calm and ignoring the barking until it stops. When there is a break from the barking, that is when you may throw in a little reward or praise,” he said.
Other techniques include hiring a dog trainer, getting an E-collar, or leaving the dog alone for shorter periods of time.
Aft noted it may be time to hire a professional at “the first sign of distress in your dog or yourself,” or “when you start losing your own ability to control your emotions in front of your dog.”
Aft also noted that some dogs do tend to make more noise, as some dogs have been historically bred to make more noise — such as beagless and basset hounds. “It is hard to bring home a very energetic hunting dog and not get more noise out of them than a dog bred to be a companion” — such as golden retrievers, pugs, or poodles.
Regardless of breed, dog owners can help their dogs adjust to living in a high-rise condominium. “You have to really be comfortable with your dog and trust that your dog is going to be calm,” according to Aft. “Teaching your dog to be calm is so important. A calm dog is never going to misbehave or cause a problem.”
Aft noted that there are differences between training a puppy and an older dog that has come from a rescue shelter. “When you rescue an animal, you don’t know what negative associations it has built up,” he explained. “You might find your dog barking at something, but you don’t know what they are barking at, because you weren’t there when it developed this negative association. When you are raising a puppy, it is a lot easier to avoid that. Rescue dogs are harder to train in the sense that you have to go back and do a lot of reversing of bad behavior rather than encouraging good behavior.”
When it comes to training a puppy, Aft said that “it is important to socialize and expose the dog to different sounds and things as they are growing up,” so less things scare or alert them later in life.
Finally, we asked Aft what an association can do in response to excessive complaints regarding a barking dog. “From an association’s point of view, it has got to be tough if it is getting a lot of complaints. The best thing it could do is recommend some of the tips I have shared,” he said.
Aft suggested using a warning system. The association may first choose to inform the owner with a letter, offering some options, partners, or nearby services.
“I assume that, after a fair amount of time and a respectful amount of warnings, an association would have the power to say, ‘it is either you or the dog,’” said Aft, who noted that a respectful amount of time should be about a month. “You have to respect the world around you and be considerate of everyone else, whether you are a dog lover or not.”