Bark. Bark. Bark. Repeat. What’s the reason for that racket? Who cultivated those darn canine barking tendencies? Whoops. It’s us. Humans, after all, intentionally developed barking in many dog breeds. Maybe it’s time to give some of these Best Barkers the floor for their vocal justification.
1. New Zealand Huntaway
I was bred to bark to muster large flocks of sheep in New Zealand. I love telling our history because basically I get to say we’re tougher than the British Isles herding breeds. The breeds brought here by settlers weren’t well-matched to our country’s rough conditions and steep terrain. Ranchers bred us for heat-tolerance, endurance, and for a bark they could hear from long distances. So today, if we bark to tell you something’s up or to herd you all together, keep in mind that barking is characteristic of our working heritage.
And we sure are hard workers. We’re far from the typical sit-around-the-house family dog (no offense to dogs sitting around; I’m sure you have some reason for all that sitting). If you want to train us not to bark, be patient and persistent; you’re working against our genes. Luckily for you, like most herding breeds, we’re rather biddable. That’s code for we work to please our owners.
Well, the Huntaway has his reasons for bragging about his biddability, but we Beagles are proud independent hound dogs. We adore our families, but we’ll probably bark if it suits us, even if it doesn’t suit you. We were developed in Britain to hunt prey such as rabbits. We’re renowned for our bark and howl. Today, we still tend to follow a scent when we catch it; you humans find that trait useful as we search for illegal drugs in airports.
If we bark at home, we may be trying to tell you there’s a squirrel in a tree or a man walking by the window. Don’t roll your eyes at our natural behavior. Many a dog saved the day with barking. You can, however, possibly teach me that the mailman, delivery man, or neighbor is a friend, not a trespasser. Try asking me to sit and give me a reward (I recommend a full-flavored, expensive treat!) when they come by the house. Better yet, let newcomer give me the treat.
3. Shetland Sheepdog
We were developed in the Shetland Islands to work with man, herding livestock and watching over sheep. Yes, we’re inclined to bark, but we have good reasons. For example, sometimes we had to protect sheep on remote sections of the islands, so we’d bark at large predator birds trying to eat lamb. We also barked and herded unfenced livestock away from our family’s gardens. The Shetland Islands residents counted on us to watch over their property and didn’t complain about our vocal alarm systems.
Today, when a new person comes, I’m compelled to tell you. Now, as far as training goes, well, let’s just say you’re going to have to work on the “silent!” command more than if you were training a French Bulldog. Try interrupting my barking when you don’t want to hear it, redirecting me, and rewarding incompatible behavior. No guarantees, but if we’re lying down, focusing on you in a “watch me” exercise, we’re less inclined to bark at the approaching FedEx man.
We were bred by Captain Max Von Stephanitz to guard and work side by side with man. We shine in protection, service, and police and military work. Oftentimes our barking is useful, warning you of strangers and even scaring ill-wishers away. But yes, there are times when we must be quiet. Those of us who are police, military, or therapy dogs quickly learn the value of silence.
Want to teach me to stop barking? Well, fortunately for you, I’m one of the most trainable breeds in the world. We certainly can learn to cease barking when you request peace. But even with the best of training, keeping us from barking (at least initially) when we believe you’re in danger is challenging. We’re hardwired to protect.
So, we were bred not only to hunt with tons of energy and speed in England, but also to work on the side watching out for you. These days, I bet not even a butterfly will pass your door undetected (what do you mean you don’t care about butterflies? Even the smallest threat is worth mentioning, isn’t it?).
I’m a Terrier, so I’m intelligent but independent. That’s code for: Motivate me with lots of treats and positive energy. If you simply fuss at me, I may bark just a little bit more. Heck, I have unlimited energy for entertaining (i.e., disobeying!) you. Therefore, your best bet is to take me to a basic obedience class, where I’ll easily learn the “no” command and love the rewards I get for listening.
Now, wait just a minute. I’m not a classic working breed. I can’t say I bark to herd sheep or serve the military. You people bred me primarily for serving sacred purposes in (what is now) Mexico, and offering friendship. But you may have bred me small, but you sure developed me with spirit to spare. I bark to warn off newcomers from my house because I passionately care about my beloved family — not to mention I don’t usually take to strangers indiscriminately.
The only obstacle to teaching me not to bark is you thinking I’m too small for training. Use the same techniques you would use on my bigger cousins above, taking special note of the Beagle’s request for tasty treats for redirecting my barking.