I find myself saying this to many clients, “your dog is barking because he is frustrated.” Many young pups and adolescent dogs become spoiled and then frustrated when they are not able to get to something or someone all the time. You might think we could be discussing children, this emotion is very similar and difficult not to reward.
What about when a new dog enters the room? Many dogs will bark and pull towards the new dog as if to say “I want to say hello.” If during the first 5 months of your puppies life you always let him pull you to new dogs you encounter, then your dog will be incredibly frustrated when you decide it is not a good idea to let him drag you around. When a behavior has been rewarded repeatedly, then the reward is removed for the same behavior, frustration will certainly follow.
Picture a puppy that jumps on his owner then sits and is reward multiple times in his first few months of life. When the puppy is about 45 lbs and is no longer rewarded for this jumping, the puppy will often jump higher or with more force, if this intense jumping does not work, then barking usually follows. These puppies do not understand why their behavior suddenly is not working? “I always get my owners attention by jumping and then get a cookie for sitting!”
Frustration enters the picture when punishment is applied or when he finds himself in a no win situation. Asking any alternative behavior and rewarding it is so much better than just saying “no” which only increases the frustration. Dogs can learn to cope with change and avoid frustration if they are rewarded for another behavior.
Helping your dog learn to live in a human world without becoming frustrated is a process, one that should begin the day you bring him home!