Bark Management 101

Dogs bark. That’s how they communicate. But what if your dog barks incessantly? What if your dog is waking the baby up all the time or driving the neighbors crazy? Don’t call the doggie psychologist quite yet. Sometimes, you simply need to correctly diagnose the problem, and then teach your dog to stop the behavior. Here are some strategies:

Figure out What Your Dog Needs
Your dog barks because it wants your attention. Instead of ignoring the barks or hushing your dog, step back and try to figure out what your pal is trying to tell you. Ask yourself: Is your dog bored? Sad? Anxious? Afraid? Lonely? Most of these conditions can be fixed by spending more productive time together. Here’s what you can do to help:

Engage your dog. Instead of sitting on your patio and reading a book with your dog nearby, play a game of fetch or teach a new command         

Burn energy. Your dog might need more stimulation in the way of longer walks or jogs to feel part of the greater world. Moreover, exercise will zap excess energy that your dog will otherwise burn by barking.

Hire help. If you find you’re short on time, hire a dog walker or neighborhood kid who can entertain your pooch.

Be good company. Keep your dog inside with you, if possible, so that your best friend can at least feel your presence.

Behavior Modification
If you know your dog is perfectly self-actualized, perhaps you’ve unknowingly taught your dog to bark. For example, the owner who opens the door when the dog “speaks” reinforces the dog’s notion that you will respond to vocal commands. If this is the case, you’ll have to try behavior modification.

Teach your dog the command “Be quiet”: First, ask your dog to bark. Then, hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose. Your dog will immediately stop barking to sniff, at which point you say, “Be quiet.” When your dog complies, reward it with verbal encouragement and strokes. After three seconds of quiet, give your dog a treat. If your dog makes a mistake (and your pal will), clap your hands to provide a distraction and repeat the exercise.

Dogs With Barking in the DNA
Several breeds are known for barking, and unless you aim to purchase a watchdog, you may want to take this into consideration when you select a dog. These breeds include:

  • Chihuahua
  • Cairn Terrier
  • German Shepherd
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Rottweiler
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Dogs that bark too much can be completely irritating. Make sure your pet minds its manners and barks only when necessary -- such as when your football team scores a touchdown.


First Dogs: True Stories of Presidential Dogs

Our first president, George Washington, and our current commander in chief, Barack Obama, are just two of our 30 presidents who have owned dogs. Over the last 200-plus years, canines have often been in the spotlight as much as their famous “pack leaders.”

The First Presidential Dogs
Everyone knows George Washington was our first president, but did you know he was also an avid foxhunter and sportsman? He owned several hunting hounds, including seven Staghounds given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat and American Revolutionary War general. Staghounds find prey with their keen eyesight, but Washington also owned Black and Tan Coonhounds, which rely on their noses to find quarry. Although today we think of Poodles as pampered, well-groomed house pets, in Washington’s day, they were valued as agile hunting dogs. The president’s diary includes references to Pilot, a Poodle that was Washington’s waterfowl hunting partner.

The First Celebrity Presidential Dog
Warren Harding’s
Airedale Terrier was possibly the first “first dog” to be in the public eye. “Laddie Boy was the president’s constant companion and had his own chair to sit in during cabinet meetings,” says Kate Kelly, a historian who has written numerous stories about American dogs. People found the relationship between Harding and his dog captivating, says Kelly, and media coverage demonstrates that by the 20th century, dogs were family members. Indeed, Harding left a cabinet meeting the day after his inauguration in 1921 to greet his new puppy upon the dog’s arrival at the White House. “The papers reported on everything Laddie Boy did, from fetching the morning newspaper to enjoying his dog biscuit birthday cake,” says Kelly.

Kelly considers Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Fala, a Scottish Terrier, the most famous presidential dog. “He was beloved by FDR, who would sometimes delay state dinners to go into the kitchen to feed Fala himself,” she says. Fala became an integral part of FDR’s politics, as evidenced by this excerpt from a 1944 campaign speech. “Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. As soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress had concocted a story [about it costing millions of taxpayer dollars to rescue the dog from an Aleutian Islands presidential visit] his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since.” Kelly says Americans loved the speech.

Bo, the Hypoallergenic Presidential Dog
The Obamas chose to add a Portuguese Water Dog to their family because first daughters Sasha and Malia have allergies. The breed was not as well-known as Beagles, Labrador Retrievers or Springer Spaniels (Presidents Johnson, Clinton and Bush, respectively), but media coverage thrust Bo and PWDs into the mainstream. “They needed a hypoallergenic dog, and the relationship between Ted Kennedy -- who owned Portuguese Water Dogs -- and the Obamas allowed for the family to meet Bo. And the rest is history,” says Julie Parker, who bred Bo’s sire. “I think this new popularity is good for the breed because now more people are familiar with them. They’re smart and high-energy, but for the experienced dog owner who leads an active lifestyle, these are great companion dogs.” Parker says this breed expects to be part of the family and that’s where it’s happiest.

The United States From a Dog’s-eye View
Presidential dogs give us a glimpse into our country’s history from a cultural perspective. Their residency in the White House provides insights about our changing lifestyles and politics. From hunter to companion to media darling, they’ve shared our presidents’ lives and confirm we are a nation of dog lovers.

Photo: Getty Images