What are more humane options to debarking a dog?

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Reasons for excessive barking may include poor training, boredom, social isolation, response to external stimuli, territorial protection, anxiety, compulsive disorder and separation anxiety. Devocalization reduces the noise associated with barking, but not the motivation or behavior.

Identification of the underlying cause of excessive barking is essential so that targeted therapies can be used and requires a carefully taken behavioral history. Corrective techniques may include environmental manipulation, behavioral modification, medication or combinations of these therapies.

Some techniques to try:

• Basic training: There are five basic obedience commands, including “sit,” “sit/stay” “down,” “heel” and “come.” The dog will have to concentrate intently, hence calming her down and alleviating boredom. Since training is a bonding experience for you both, it just may help with any social isolation issues.
• Advance training: Things like rally obedience, musical freestyle, or agility can really boost a shy dog’s overall confidence, and might help if the excessive barking is a fear-based response to external stimuli.
• Various anti-barking devices such as collars that emit loud or high-pitched sounds or electric shock collars (activated by the dog or remotely by the owner). There are also citronella spray collars that, sometimes considered a form of punishment, are still frequently more acceptable to many people. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association website (www.avma.org), one study showed the citronella spray collar was more effective than an electric shock collar at reducing barking (88.9 versus 44.4% decrease, respectively) and was perceived as more humane by owners.
• Consult an animal behaviorist: One can be recommended by your veterinarian.

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