Barking while Crated

Here’s a note from A. & E.:

We were wondering if you had any advice in regards to barking in the crate. Scooby sleeps in his crate at night and the first 3 weeks he made it thru the night without barking. But recently he has started waking up between 2-5 AM barking. Because we live in a townhome this cannot be something that the neighbors enjoy.

Do we ignore him and hope he stops when we ignore it? Or should we be doing something else?

Barking is one of those things that can be reinforced inadvertently… you don’t think you’re reinforcing it but you are. Any attention to a bark will reinforce it – telling the dog to quiet, trying to soothe the dog and letting it out to see if it has to potty are all ways we can reinforce a dog’s barking. There are things you can do to stop the behavior – first of all make sure the dog is sufficiently exercised prior to crating – imagine how terrible it is for a dog to be confined in a space only large enough to sleep in when they are coming out of their skin with energy. And don’t assume that just because you think the dog is sufficiently exercised it is – most dogs have a much higher need for exercise than their owners realize. For most people I recommend adding a second walk to their daily 1 hour walk. If you are walking much less than this that may be the problem. If the dog is exercised, make sure you are stopping food intake early enough so the dog has a chance to eliminate prior to crating. I usually recommend the last meal of the day be the smallest and to be given around 5pm for a 10 pm bedtime. (I feed twice a day). If there is someone in the home that gets up early, that may be causing the barking – maybe that person can potty the dog and return him to his crate. There are so many possibilities you really need to think about the whole situation from the dog’s perspective to identify the cause of the barking.

PetSafe No-Bark CollarBut one thing is certain – dogs do what works and if barking either doesn’t work or is aversive (the reason no-bark collars work) then the behavior will stop. But the behavior must always be aversive or always not work. If it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, the behavior will continue and be even harder to stop (think of the people who pull the bar on the slot machines for hours with little payoff – that’s intermittent reinforcement at work).

So, if the neighbors and you can take it, ignoring the behavior is a good solution. Depending on how you feel about such a product, the no-bark collars will give you the fastest results but you must be certain the dog isn’t indicating a need with the barking, otherwise it is just cruel to collar them.

I wish you luck!

Let me know how it turns out.


November 11, 2009 • Tags: , , • Posted in: advice, behavior, dog ownership, recommended products, work your dog

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