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Pet watch.

It's quite natural to hear dogs barking and often they bark through sheer excitement when playing or out walking. But when barking is incessant, it can be problematic for the owner and neighbours, and can indicate an underlying behavioural problem.

Most dogs display happiness, anger and excitement through barking. Often, excited dogs will jump and run around a lot as well as making a noise. If this sounds familiar, then it might be a case of exercising your dog for longer periods, combined with firm obedience training to try to ease the problem. Perhaps your dog is frustrated. Excitable dogs are often very intelligent and need mental stimulation when they are exercising. A walk is not enough so take along something safe to throw or play with.

Sometimes a dog will want to alert the family to a passer-by or will bark excessively when greeting a visitor. In these situations, owners should try to teach their dog to pick up a toy and sit in a designated quiet area, only being acknowledged and rewarded by visitors when calm.

Dogs that bark through boredom are often destructive. They are usually young, active and need lots of controlled play, training and long walks.

Attention-seeking dogs will always stop when someone gives them the attention they crave. Try to ignore the barking in these cases! Stick to this rule and the problem may well decrease over time, although it may worsen initially.

Some dogs will bark when they are fearful and will stand away from the object they are scared of. Removal of or desensitising the pet to the 'trigger' that you know causes your dog distress will help reduce or even eliminate this type of barking.

For example, when a dog has had a road accident, they may very well be fearful of cars. The aim of desensitisation is to teach a dog to be calm in the presence of the arousing stimulus. Owners can begin a desensitising process using the following tips:

NPut your dog on an extending lead

NStart the treatment by walking with the traffic in the distance

NBring your dog towards the stimulus, get him to sit, praise him and feed him a treat (as long as he remains calm)

NRepeat this, gradually increasing the 'excitement level'. This can include getting nearer to the road or seeing an increased number of cars or bikes, such as in a car park, or on a cycle track

NIf at any point your dog gets excited, sharply tell him 'no' and stop any reward

NWhile you are doing this programme, make sure your dog does not come into contact with traffic as part of his everyday life. You should therefore not take him out for walks while this desensitisation programme is going on

If a dog is of an anxious nature, it will usually start barking very soon after being left alone and will be very stressed when the owners come back. Playing soothing music, leaving a comfort blanket with an owner's scent on it or favourite toy may help reduce the stress.

There are many reasons why dogs bark. It's just a matter of determining why. However, you cannot hope to change your dog's personality completely. You can just alleviate it and many barking disorders are partly a result of learned or instinctive reactions to a specific stimuli.

NFounded in 1917, PDSA is Britain's leading veterinary charity, providing free veterinary care to the sick and injured pets of those unable to afford private veterinary fees, through a network of 46 PetAid hospitals and some 287 associated private practices (known as PetAid practices).

PDSA PetAid hospitals provide more than one million free treatments each year, equivalent to more than 4,500 sick and injured pets being treated by PDSA vets and nurses every working day.

This year, PDSA PetAid services will cost around pounds 33m. They are funded entirely by public support, mainly through donations and gifts in wills.

To be eligible for free PDSA treatment, a pet owner must live within the designated postcode area of a PetAid hospital or PetAid practice and be in receipt of either housing benefit or council tax benefit.

More information on PDSA PetAid services is available by calling freephone 0800 731 2502.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 25, 2004
Words:708
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