Good question. One I hear enough to concern and interest me. So I did a little research, especially seeking the opinion of Dr. Marc Bekoff. Dr. Bekoff is probably the country’s leading ethologist, and somewhat of a hero to me.
The answer to the question is simple: Why even stop a barking dog? Unless you can get inside the dog’s mind and heart and know why she is barking.
Dogs are incredible beings. They see the world in ways we never will. Their intelligence, social structure, emotional life, and amazing, almost unbelievable, sense of smell puts them in a world far different, and probably far beyond, ours.
You may not know why the dog is barking. You see no reason why she should be. She knows, though... and now what?
Dr. Bekoff cautions people to be very careful about saying that a dog didn’t really have to bark, or do something else we deem unnecessary or excessive, because what we may think is “unnecessary or excessive” may truly be necessary from the dog’s point of view.
The bottom line is this: we must consider what’s happening in a dog’s head and heart, and take their perspective on the matters at hand. Dogs will bark in situations in which it seems to us that barking is unnecessary or over the top. They may be smelling, hearing, or seeing something of which we are totally unaware. Or simply feeling down and out. Or afraid.
Perhaps, Bekoff suggests, they had a bad dream, or perhaps they’re hallucinating and having trouble figuring out what’s happening and they’re scared out of their minds. So stripping them of their emotions, ignoring why they’re doing something and what they’re trying to tell us, is the wrong way to go. And mishandling the situation won’t end well for the dog or for us.
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