Barking and driving : don’t mix together


We all love our poodly-poodle pooches…but sometimes even our well-mannered canine annoy us. And the most common annoying habit is incessant bark, while you are driving…at cars, other people, shadows…just at anything…it’s all bark…bark…bark! Though barking is natural, aggressive barking needs to be controlled. Woof! Here’s how you can tame the bark while taking your pooch on a car ride.

Barking is the natural way of communication for our pooches. But, when they get hysteric, it creates a lot of fuss…not only for the owners, but also for neighbours and passers-by. Most dogs bark to grab attention – mostly of their parents, but also of the people around… reasons are many, but problem is one. The problem aggravates if your pooch starts barking incessantly in the car, which can even cause accidents. Sometimes even a well-behaved dog goes wild on a car ride. Such an unruly behaviour calls for immediate attention. This is why it is imperative that a dog be trained at the onset of how he should conduct himself in a car. A dog views a car like a hunt from where he can view all activities outside in a flash – a lot of excitement.

Two of the most common reasons for dog’s barking include:
Keep away…will you?
Some dogs can be territorial about the car. They bark at passing people or vehicles in an attempt to guard it. Every time he feels that his car is being threatened, he flashes his ferocious teeth and tries to scare ‘]people away. Yes… that’s the wolf, protecting what he thinks is his mobile patch. “Keep Away,” he’s saying.
Fear aggression based dogs seem to be particularly active in car aggression – of course. As pedestrians approach the car – the dog barks – the pedestrian then walk away again. The fear/guarding dog has won and seen off the intruder. What an exciting winning formula for a wolf in canine clothing.
Don’t ever leave me alone!
There are some dogs who suffer from separation anxiety when left in the car. Don’t ever leave a dog unattended in car. More so in India, where the temperature is generally high during most of the months, which may cause severe health problems.

Remember! It is natural for dogs to bark, but as owners we often unwittingly reinforce the ehaviour by reacting to it or giving attention and that is why dogs learn to bark excessively in the first place.

Handling tips

1. Direct action : This sometimes works with more sensitive dogs or with those dogs, who are caught in the developing stages of the habit. Prior to the action, which stimulates your dog to bark, equip yourself with a water pistol or a Bitter Apple spray. When your dog starts to bark, squirt the water in his face and command ‘No’ in a firm voice. Alternatively spray the bitter apple in the air. It’s difficult for a dog to bark whilst tasting such foul bitter particles. By the way, you won’t like the taste either! Do not stroke your dog it he stops barking; just say ‘good dog’ softly when he’s silent so as not to re-excite him.
2. Using an assistant inside the car : For safety reasons and where possible, it’s best to have a friend sit next to you on car journeys for the first two weeks and occasionally thereafter. They too can use a water pistol or Bitter Apple spray as outlined earlier. If you are consistent, most dogs will find the experience distracting and unpleasant. As soon as you have 30 seconds of silence, quietly praise your dog verbally in a low-key voice. Your dog should learn that silence brings pleasant praise as a reward and that barking means trouble. Placing a Kong stuffed with meat in the car also acts as pleasant distraction for the less serious cases.

Active methods against noise stimulated barking :

  • Stuff a Kong with meat
  • Water pistol / squeegee bottle – squirted at dog
  • Bitter Apple sprayed in the air near dog’s head

3. Halti and Dog Alter : a head collar called the Dog Alter or Halti are also available internationally to train dogs not to bark profusely. These have a calming and controlling effect on most dogs and fit most breeds. Initially, dogs dislike wearing them (as with all muzzles and collars). Make sure that you fit the Dog Alter daily for a few minutes; make your dog sit, using a lead attached to the Dog Alter, then immediately praise and reward the dog with food. Repeat this four times daily for a week. In the second week, begin to walk the dog around your garden or living room on a lead and Dog Alter. During the third week, start walking your dog short distances to and from the car and again use food rewards.

Finally, place the dog in the car fitted with the Dog Alter and lead. The lead should be about 4 feet long and made of nylon or leather. Connect it to a fixture in the car or jam it in a door leaving the dog enough room to sit and lie down only. This way, your dog will not be able to bark or jump about wildly and will become calmer. This method has proved successful with many dogs. All these tips can be effectively used to control your pooch when he barks incessantly.

Dogs bark and people talk – often to excess, while you cannot stop the person babbling next to you but at least you now know how to stop your pooch when the barking goes loud and frantic. So, go ahead and have fun with your new long-drive companion…just drive away!
(Colin Tennant is Britain’s leading media expert in dog, cat and general pet behavior, and the first to make 21 videos and television series on pet care. He runs Icknield Animal Behaviour Centre and also provides Dog Detectives (canine behaviour) Service in Central London. He is also a behavioural advisor of the Behaviour Division of the British Institute of Professional Dog Training.)