The Bark-o-holic Apartment Dog. Owner Rehab Tips

ASK INGER/ Barking
Hi Inger,
 3 months ago, we rescued a 2 year old Great Dane who we affectionately named Shortie. (At two years, she’s only 75 pounds, but perfectly healthy and gorgeous. She’s the sweetest, smartest, most amazing dog.) When we first got her, she was afraid to bark. We have been training her every day, including how to “Speak!”
 
She has a beautiful voice and generally does not cause an issue with her barking. Lately, there are certain noises that cause her to bark and howl and become really protective. Examples include the sound of wire hangers, the metal drain plug and bottles of nail polish clinking together. I worry that something related to her unknown past really upsets her, and we’re trying to minimize her stress. Do you have any advice on how to assure her that the noises she hears are safe?
Thanks in advance,
 Lee & Jason
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Hi Lee and Jason,
Shortie doesn’t sound like a bark-o-holic yet. However, you’ve only had her 3 months! Best to nip the behavior in the bud now, so thanks for your question. She sure is gorgeous and fantastic that you rescued her! Here’s the scoop on barking…
To answer your specific question, fist I must say there are many reasons that dogs bark. In your case, it’s not a question of “safe” to bark for a dog it’s more about territory, age and dominance. I think it’s very important for all owners to understand the nature of the bark. It’s a communication thing and often a misunderstanding. A young puppy can bark out of separation anxiety whereas an older pup could have a barking problem due to a boredom issue.
The occasional communication mixed signal with dog and owner can be the same as dating. Men think one way and women another? Who knew that when he said, I like those jeans, she thought, does he thinks her butt looks fat? Get it? So the reason a dog barks may actually come from a completely different place then what the owner is predicting.
In your case, it sounds like a mixed signal. Barking at noises like hangers, nail polish bottle etc. is really just a lack of socialization not necessarily fear. The reaction con also be compounded by giving Shortie too much initial space in her new home, while you are not at home. This can give a new dog a sort edge to protect and well, not relax.
A great training exercise to do is a bit of leash training in the house. Only for 10 minutes or so a few times a week put Shortie on a leash in the house and walk her around. As she barks at simulated noises, redirect her to sit. The leash help create eye contact and allows you to praise her for sitting. This redirection onto a positive command helps emphasize your prominence as her owner and helps her to psychologically relax. In other words, it translates to… your house, your in charge and she can chill.
Lastly, make sure that when your not at home she does not have access to a front window. Often dogs spend hours looking out the front window and learn to bark at every noise and person. When your dog is home alone, no one is there to correct her behavior and it can become a problem. Music is a great barking reducer too. When you leave your dog at home, put music on to trigger your leaving. The mellow sound of love songs or what I call “spa” music will create a mellow environment to sleep until you come home.
Keep us posted on your progress!