Let's face it - dogs bark!
A dog barking is a natural canine behaviour - it's how they communicate.
A bark can mean anything from 'Let's play!', 'I'm hungry', or 'I'm bored', to 'Danger - beware!'.
On the other hand, excessive dog barking can be a real nuisance and needs to be controlled quickly, but before doing so, you need to understand why he's barking.
There are many other reasons why dogs bark.
For example, he may be lonely, he may be able to hear intruders lurking outside, or the children may be teasing him.
You may be able to stop your dog barking simply by removing the problem, like so:
In the above examples, it was the causes of the dog barking that needed to be addressed - not the barking itself!
Where the cause can't be removed, we need to find other ways to address it.
It may be necessary to adopt a different approach to such a vocal problem, depending on why he's doing it in the first place.
That's why it's important to identify correctly what's causing your dog to bark before you go on to address the problem.
A dog barking for a prolonged period usually means that there's something wrong and your dog is trying to communicate with you.
If you can't work out why he's being so vocal, and you're confident he's not ill or injured, it's possible that he may have developed the unsociable and annoying habit of barking simply for the sake of it.
Any continued barking is excessive and unnecessary and is exactly the type of dog barking that we want to discourage, particularly before it develops into a habit.
As we mentioned earlier, different situations may require different methods to stop your dog barking, so it's important to understand the reason(s) before you can decide which is the most suitable method to use.
One of the best and easiest methods is to 'teach' your dog to bark and then teach him to stop.
You can teach him to stop barking by using the "Be Quiet" command.
This exercise is easily taught to a puppy, and can also be taught to an older dog, although it may take slightly longer.
Where you have a puppy with an excessive problem, you may also find this article on how to stop your puppy barking, very useful.
Sometimes our dogs bark at visitors, either because they're over-excited, or because they believe the visitor is a threat to his pack. If your dog is barking at visitors, or at the postman, we recommend you follow the link and try the training exercises.
Most Cockers enjoy being outside in the garden but, unfortunately, some turn into barking demons when they're let into the garden.
Vocal pets can sometimes drive you (and your neighbours) to distraction, barking at everything from birds and rustling leaves, to their own shadow!
Our article, Barking Mad In The Garden, will help you to remedy this. In no time at all, you and your neighbours will be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of your own garden.
There are many owners who recommend using a barking correction collar to stop excessive and unreasonable barking.
This is a device which triggers a spray or a mild current each time your pet barks.
The aim is to teach him that each time he barks something unpleasant will happen. This 'unpleasant experience' will deter him from barking and eventually he will stop completely.
A simple, and cheap, alternative to the correction collar is a water spray - you can use an ordinary toy water pistol or garden spray bottle.
The methods listed below follow a punishment based approach (and/or are a last resort) to prevent a dog barking. We believe that they're harsh and rather drastic - judge for yourself.
"Reward based training is much more effective
and is much kinder to your dog"
Personally, we believe some, if not all, of these methods to be a little over the top as they are too aggressive and we don't recommend them. Apart from being harsh (and in some cases, downright cruel) they're also only short-term 'solutions' as they will only work when the owner is near enough to the animal to administer the 'correction'.
Wherever possible, we recommend you avoid negative, punishment based approaches and use more positive, reward-based training methods instead.
If you regularly use punishment based training methods you may be creating other behavioural problems in your Cocker, for example, biting or aggression, particularly towards the person giving the punishment.
Our dogs learn by association - that's why if you're going to give your pet a correction you must 'catch him in the act' to allow him to understand why he's being corrected.
Imagine he gets yelled at, or feels pain, each time the postman, or a visitor comes to the door. He'll soon begin to associate these 'punishments' with visitors to your home and may become aggressive to all visitors as a result.
Always let your Cocker see that you have been alerted to the 'problem' that he's just brought to your attention.
If he's barking at the door or window, for example, go and check. If there's nothing to be alarmed about, tell him.
Use the "Be Quiet" command and add something like, It's okay', or We're safe' - use whatever words you feel comfortable with, but use them consistently.
As you are reassuring your dog, take hold of his collar and gently guide him back to where you were sitting and give him a pat.
In your dog's eyes, he's alerted you to a potential problem and you (as his pack leader) have investigated, have decided that there was no danger, and have responded appropriately.
If you don't investigate the problem, he may continue to bark until he's confident that you have taken 'control' of the situation.
If he sees that you're not in control (ie, not dealing with the problem) he may feel pressured to take over the role of pack-leader and his barking will continue - probably even louder!
You may be fuelling this problem by giving your Cocker Spaniel attention when he barks. Think about it - do you shout at him, or grab hold of his collar?
Yes? That's attention!
The worse thing you can do to try to stop your dog barking is to shout at him.
Unfortunately, as frustrated Cocker owners, this is sometimes exactly what we do!
To your pet, shouting simply sounds like you too are barking thus, in his eyes, you're reinforcing his decision to bark in the first place. Shouting will only encourage him all the more - perhaps more loudly and with more determination!
If your pet is always trying to get your attention, question whether or not you're spending enough time with him. Do you give him enough exercise? Do you play with him?
We recommend you give your Spaniel at least a 1-hour walk and 15-20 minutes play each day to burn off his energy; more if you have the time - wear him out!
Remember to give him attention, praise, and reward, only when he's quiet and well-behaved to reinforce his good behaviour.
Read more about attention seeking behaviour in dogs and how to deal with it.
If, after trying some of the above methods you still haven't managed to stop your dog barking, we recommend you consult your vet.
If your vet gives him the all clear, then we recommend you contact a professional trainer, or animal behavioural therapist for advice.
They may recommend that your Cocker boards with them for a few days to allow them to monitor his behaviour for themselves to help them to determine suitable therapy.
Alternatively, they may prefer to work directly with you and your Cocker to come up with a strategy to stop your dog barking.
Photo Credits - In order of viewing:
1. Web author's own photograph
2. Miss Happiness at Flickr.com