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Barking

Poodle Barking

Overview

While small dogs such as the Toy Poodle and Miniature Poodle have a "bad" reputation for being barkers, this is simply not true. All dogs bark and they all have a reason for doing so.

The key to stop unwanted barking is to understand why your Poodle is barking and then to take steps to resolve that issue. 

Let's take a look at the reasons a Poodle will bark and what you can do to help both your dog and your ears! 
Triggered Barking

One of the most common reasons for a Poodle to bark is "Trigger Barking". This simply means that something, whether it is a situation or a noise is causing your dog to bark. 

The most common reason for Triggered Barking are:
  • Being left home alone
  • Guests entering the home
  • Cars or people walking by
  • Weather - especially thunder storms
In these cases, training and socialization can resolve the issue. 
When a dog has a hard time coping with being left home alone, this is called Separation Anxiety. We have a separate section just for this and you can find much more information here regarding: Separation Anxiety.
White Poodle near water
Barking at guests, at people/cars going by, barking when the doorbell rings and other similar barking episodes happens when a Poodle needs socialization training. Socializing a dog is very necessary to help a dog gain self esteem and to behave properly in many situations...and it is not as complicated as you may think.

The method of socializing a dog to the above situations or other similar ones is to offer slow exposure to the triggers that causes the barking. However, it must be done in a particular way. 

Two important keys to remember is that in order for this training and socializing to work, an owner must:
1) Be committed to the goal - one must not give up after just a day or 2 and training must be consistent.

2) Praise must be given whenever your Poodle is behaving as you wish, this is often referred to as "Positive Reinforcement"...and just as important is to not offer "Negative Reinforcement". It is human instinct to want to say "No" or to vocally reprimand a dog when they are behaving in a way that is not wanted...however the key to successful training, especially when it comes to socialization, is to ignore your Poodle when they are barking....or barking and jumping....any negative behavior must ignored. Why? When a Poodle, or any other dog for that matter, is given attention, even negative attention, they will not fully understand what is expected. Dogs, particularly Poodles thrive on human companionship and interaction. When that is taken away, even briefly...the Poodle understands the message must faster than if you were to say "No".
Barking in response to thunder and lightening storms is completely different than barking at cars or people. The majority of dogs have a heightened sense of awareness during storms. There are 5 very valid reasons why a dog barks in response to loud noises...and this does not just refer to thunder storms.. fireworks, sirens and car alarms just a few example of noises which can cause valid barking. In regard to storms, your Poodle will be reacting to:
  • The flashes of light – This can be quite disturbing to a dog and cause them to lose their feeling of security and control over their normal environment
  • The noise of the thunder – This is loud for you and I…can you imagine how this sounds to a dog who’s hearing is 1000s of times more sensitive than a human’s?
  • High winds - These sometimes produce high pitched sounds that only your dog will hear and can cause them to panic
  • The sound of the rain hitting the roof of your home – With a dog’s heightened sense of hearing, the continual pounding of rain can be quite aggravating to a dog
  • The air pressure – Surely you know of that “feeling” you get when a storm is on its way. You can actually “sense” when a storm is coming, you “feel it in the air”. Your dog, with heightened senses, feels this 100 times stronger than you do!
While you cannot control or train for all of the above reasons, a Poodle can do well with a slow and steady socialization to the noise and flashing lights. Obtaining a recording of thunder storms and exposing your Poodle to the noises, very softly and for short time periods at first, has shown promising results to help a Poodle cope. These tapes can be purchased at books stores and other locations, most often used to help humans sleep.  
Other Reasons Your Poodle Barks

Protecting You:  Your Poodle, no matter which sized Poodle you have, will often be very protective. Barking at guests, cars and passing people is actually your dog's way of protection you from what they perceive to be a threat. The important element to remember is that even though there is no threat... to your Poodle it is very logical that these triggers are potential threats. The key to stopping this type of barking is to show your dog that there is no threat. The best way to do this, is by your actions and your words. Poodles are very aware of their owners actions and words and will look to them to validate what they are doing...in this case barking. If an owner remains calm, this is the best method to show your Poodle that they also can be calm. 

Very often, when a dog barks in these situations, owners pay quite a bit of attention to their dog. They may make actions to try to stop their dog from jumping, they may raise their voice to say "No!", visitors to the home may feel uncomfortable and begin moving around. These are cues that essentially tell a dog that they just may be right in barking "warnings".

Self Protection: Poodles can be very territorial..and this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is important for a dog to know that certain items are their belongings. However, over protecting those items can induce unwanted barking. The most common reason for self protection is when a Poodle feels the needs to "guard" their food and water dishes (even if they are empty at the time) and to protect their toys.

Always keeping their dishes in a quiet corner of a room is important. When your Poodle eats, have all family members keep a distance. Owners are not even aware that they cause a Poodle to be protective of food dishes because this behavior is often mistakenly instilled when a Poodle is just a small puppy. New owners want to be close and take pleasure watching their puppy eat. Many take photographs. However, over time, this causes a puppy to feel as if they need to protect what is most important to them: their food. 

A dog can live without many things, but they know that they need food for survival. For this reason, all family members should be sure to allow a dog to eat in peace...this means no picture taking and no giving praise for eating. Also be sure that even if their food dishes are in a corner of the kitchen, that their meals are not given when the kitchen is filled with people. This can be during dinner time when owners may not realize just how noisy the kitchen becomes or when an owner has arrived home after food shopping and the room is filled with bustling noise.

A Poodle may also be very protective of their toys. Many dogs enter phases of nesting and this includes male dogs. They may become very attached to a certain toy or even a group of toys....some dog owners are surprised to see even male Poodles take care of certain toys as if they are a "pretend litter". This is a behavioral issue and is often resolved simply by time and by allowing your dog to nest with their toys if they wish. However, it is not acceptable if a Poodle nips at people in their protective state.

Toys should be cleaned every 2 weeks and you may find it helpful to do so when another family member has taken your Poodle for a walk, or perhaps when your dog is sleeping. At other times, it works well to have a special area for your dog's toys, such as a canine toy box, basket or other. Family members, particularly children, should be taught that those toys belong to your Poodle. When you wish to implement certain toys such for playing fetch or playing games, it is suggested to keep those training toys separate from the "regular" toys.

Boredom: Another reason why a Poodle barks is boredom. Dogs may bark incessantly if they are not socialized at a young age and if they are not supplied with a variety of dog toys. Giving your Poodle lots of different toys is not spoiling them....Toys are very important to dogs of all ages. It works well to have 2 groups of toys, although always keeping any dog toys that your Poodle has become very attached to. In this way, you can switch toy collections every week or every 2 weeks, this essentially offers your dog "new" toys, without having to constantly buy new ones.

Toys should be colorful, have interesting textures and be interactive. 

Excitement: Many Poodles bark due to excitement. This is very common with puppies...and some can get so excited that they loose control of the bladder. This is not a house training issue, it is a behavioral issue and will ebb away as your puppy grows older. Older Poodles can become very excited when left home alone during the day...excitement over their owner's return can cause some Poodles to almost enter a stage of frenzied excitement.

For both situations, of a puppy or older Poodle, the way in which you enter the home can make a big difference. The action of you opening the door and entering is the trigger. The best treatment for this is to expose your dog to the stimulus that excites them, over and over until it no longer excites them.

This is achieved by ignoring your Poodle for a few minutes whenever you arrive home. While this is not easy and goes against the instinct you have to greet them, you will be doing your dog a great favor by helping them control their behavior. Arrive home and ignore your Poodle. Read your mail, check your messages, tidy up the living room...anything to keep yourself busy and pay no attention to your Poodle for at least 3 minutes, no matter how much your dog barks.  

Keep doing this until you can see that your dog is not only unexcited, but is actually getting bored with the whole thing. When your dog has calmed down and is no longer barking and/or jumping around, then very quietly and gently say hello. Once your Poodle has calmed down, you can then give hugs, take them for a walk or whatever it is that fits your daily routine.

Night Time Barking

One of the most frustrating barking issues is night time barking. You and the entire neighborhood wants to sleep and a barking dog can be very upsetting. A dog must learn, through the actions and words of their owner, that barking for attention does not work. If your Poodle was taken outside for bathroom duties before bedtime and you are sure that they do not need to go outside again, if they have access to water and have a few of their favorite toys...the best way to deal with this is to repeat the word "Quiet" in a soft, calm tone...and then ignore the barking. 

If barking is severe it is best to have your Poodle in the same room as you... and within their line of sight. A dog will eventually mimic their owners behavior. As you lie and rest (just waiting for that barking to stop), your Poodle will eventually calm down as well.
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