(PET CARE/DOGS) Dogs aren’t just pets. To a loving guardian, a dog is part of the family. Fido isn’t just a smiling face and wagging tail; he’s a second son, another child. But like any child–no matter how cute or good-natured–dogs can get on one’s nerves.

Their protective personalities can rub some people the wrong way, and jumping on knees might get old after a while. Worst of all is the near-constant barking of some pups that drives neighbors up the wall.

While it’s our job to love and protect our animals, it’s also important to see that they’re happy and healthy and well-behaved little monsters, much like children. In order to ensure this, we must understand the meaning of certain undesirable behaviors before we can gently put them to an end.

Gaining a better understanding of why your dog barks will help you find the best solution to put an end to the annoying habit. Photo Credit: cesarsway.com

Dogs bark for a multitude of reasons. Most helpfully, they bark as a warning. When danger approaches or a stranger strays too close, a dog’s bark may be your only clue. Being pack animals, dogs may also bark to signal other nearby canines or even out of boredom. Dogs can also bark when anxious, especially during long periods of their guardian’s absence, which is exactly the kind of barking that drives neighbors nuts.

A well-trained and properly attended adult dog should not bark out of boredom or anxiety. One way to counter this is to make sure to provide your beloved pet with clean and fresh water, food, and at least a chew toy. Your dog should also have a shady spot for the summer and a warm place for the winter, ideally an insulated dog house.

While it may sometimes be necessary to keep your dog tied up, it is not ideal as a dog with plenty of room to run around is less likely to bark for entertainment. Dogs with too much pent-up energy are often jumpy and over-excitable. The best way to deal with this particular problem is to make sure your dog gets enough exercise—and love!

Photo Credit: HowToStopTips.com

Strangers also present a constant danger to the ever-watchful canine. Postal workers and visitors alike are often growled at and scared off by a dog with a bark worse than his or her bite.

Don’t make excuses for your over-protective pet and don’t let your friends (or those poor, undervalued mail deliverers) feel unwelcome. Allow visitors to give your pet a snack upon arrival as, Pavlov would surely tell you, this will eventually have your pet positively drooling at visitors rather than frightening them away.

Dogs, much like children, know how to get what they want. When feeling under-loved or particularly needy, dogs will bark for your attention, negative or otherwise. It is not wise to yell or shout, as it may even encourage your dog to continue barking. A better idea is to distract your dog with a loud whistle and redirect his or her attention to something else.

It’s important never to reward your pup after barking; this will likely be taken as positive reinforcement for bad behavior.

With love, care, and a firm hand, there won’t be any need to resort to cruelties such a shock collars or painful and unnecessary de-barking surgeries. With a little basic training (such as shaking a noisemaker at puppies to warn them away from barking at every passing car or telephone ring), the reasons for losing your temper at your furry friend will be scant. Following a few simple rules can lead to a happier, quieter home for you and your pet.

— Bianca M. Caraza, exclusive to Global Animal