Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Barking in reaction to exciting stimuli

Synonym(s): Excitement barking

Contributor(s): Karen Overall

Introduction

  • It has been estimated that a third of noise complaints to the Public Health departments concern noise pollution by dogs.
  • There are many reasons why dogs bark; in this situation it reflects an increased level of arousal.
  • Control can be difficult.
    Print off the owner factsheet Behavioural problems: barking Behavioural problems: barking to give to your client.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • This is an exaggeration of a normal behavior pattern in most breeds, but not all.
  • The exaggeration may be the result of:
    • Inherent tendency within the individual to react vocally.
    • Owner reinforcement of behavior during puppyhood.
    • Animal has developed in an environment with either qualitatively or quantitatively different stimuli.
    • Failure or inability of owner to control the problem during its initial development. This may be because the owner does not know how to control the problem or believes the behavior is necessary for the dog to function normally, eg as a guard dog, or owner not at home.
    • May be increased by social facilitation of other dogs.

Predisposing factors

General
  • Owner indifference to the problem, or lack of knowledge.
  • Low level of owner control/obedience training.
  • Owner may inadvertently reinforce the behavior by reacting to the dog's behavior so as to increase its arousal further.
  • Owner tends to restrict or isolate the dog excessively.
  • Inadequate habitutation.
  • Frequent learning opportunities.
  • Behavior has developed into a way of eliciting an owner response.
  • Social facilitation if more than 1 dog kept together.

Pathophysiology

  • This is a normal behavior occurring at an unacceptably low threshold.
  • Presentation of a relevant stimulus against a background of little arousal, or presentation of stimulus to a dog which is easily aroused → alarm or territorial response.
  • Problem often relates to owner indifference, or reinforcement, or lack of correction of barking when behavior first appears at 4-6 months of age.
  • Dogs which are not well habituated when young to a variety of arousing stimuli, may have a lower reactive threshold to exciting stimuli later in life. This is not normal behavior.
  • Some dogs appear inherently predisposed to react in a vocal way to any stimulation.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Overall K L (1997)Clinical behavioral medicine for small animals.pp 43, 73-75, 140, 261-262.
  • Askew H (1996)Treatment of behavior problems in dogs and cats.pp 258, 263.

Organisation(s)

  • Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, PO Box 46, Worcester WR8 9YS, UK. Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1386 751151; Email: apbc@petbcent.demon.co.uk; Website: http://www.apbc.co.uk.


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