Many dogs bark at children playing outside, and for sure the behavior can be frustrating, especially when you have neighbors nearby who risk knocking at your dog asking for some quiet.
Not only, must you deal with the noisy kids playing, but your dog's barking at the top of the lungs, on top of that.
Prolonged dog barking is considered a nuisance in many communities and can lead to inspections by animal control if the excessive barking is not tackled.
Yet, it's not like you can stop children from playing, and you can't just press the "mute button" on your dog, so what's left to do? There are several things you can do fortunately, and they require less drastic measures.
A Matter of Frustration
If your dog is in the house when she barks and she's seeing children outside playing, most likely you're dealing with some type of barrier frustration.
Barrier frustration is just that, dogs getting frustrated when they cannot interact with others due to something physically preventing them (think fence, gate leash).
Ideally, we don't want them to practice this behavior because it has a tendency to establish since the dog has a deep need to vent. Often times, the dogs see children playing with balls and they want to join in the fun and become frustrated because they cannot.
Ideally, we don't want them to practice this behavior because it has a tendency to establish since the dog has a deep need to vent.
Barking acts in this case as a form of release from the frustration, and therefore, this behavior tends to strengthen and repeat.
It soon becomes habit-forming and will automatically start taking place contingent upon the children playing.
A Matter of Stress/Anxiety
In some cases, more than barrier frustration, the dog is somewhat stressed/anxious, either because he/she wasn't socialized much around kids or isn't used to the normal sounds children make when playing.
In some cases, the a dog may be also barking because of some concern about the children's play behavior, misinterpreting their vocalizations and behaviors for distress.
A Matter of Territorial Barking
Some dogs may bark to send intruders away from their perceived territory. This often happens when strangers pass by a property line or a dog's perceived territory.
This form of barking, may too become established as the dog is manifesting his emotions and, if the children happen to move away, even temporarily out of view, the dog may come to believe that it's thanks to his barking that the children have left the scene, and therefore the barking will persist in hopes of sending them away again.
Soon, you're soon stuck in a loop with a dog repeatedly barking due to the children's coming-and-going behaviors.
Now That You Know...
As seen, dogs may bark at children playing outside for a variety of reasons. Addressing this type of barking is important considering that it can annoying to hear a dog's relentless barking and neighbors can start complaining.
Following are several options to tackle this form of barking.
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Walk Your Dog
If children start playing at specific times, you can save yourself and your neighbors from a lot of trouble by taking your dog for a nice walk.
Just coordinate your walks with the onset of the children playing. This works out great as it provides an outlet for your dog's need for exercise and mental stimulation allowing him a productive way to vent.
On top of this, walking is great for humans too!
Block Visual Access
Blocking access to the windows that allow your dog to see outside can often be the simplest solution.
In other words, you can spend time with your dog in a room that is farthest from the windows.
Another option is to confine the dog to an area away from the window with a baby-gate installed or keeping the dog in an exercise pen or crate with a stuffed Kong to keep him occupied. As the saying goes, "out of sight, out of mind!"
Apply Window Film
Sometimes, dog owners have homes that have windows in most rooms or perhaps moving to another room may be impractical.
In such a case, you may find it helpful to apply some opaque window film to prevent the dog from seeing outside.
If this is not feasible, you can use heavy curtains or closed blinds or you can place bulky furniture to block your dog's access to the window area.
Buffer the Sound
Often, dogs bark as well in response to the sounds children make when playing. So if blocking visual access doesn't cut it, you will likely find it helpful to buffer sounds.
You can do this by turning on the radio or the TV to cover the sounds of children playing or you can create some white noise using a fan or a white noise machine.
Encourage Alternate Behaviors
For mild to moderate cases, where your dog is responsive to you, you can create a new routine.
Right when the kids start playing, you can toss him treats around the home or you invite your dog to lie on his mat and you give him a long-lasting chew to enjoy.
With time, your dog should start looking forward to his new routine!
Catch Your Dog Before He Starts Barking
If you're asking your dog to chase treats or engage in alternate behaviors, it's important catching him *before* he gets to the point of staring intently and then barking.
Important is to familiarize with a dog's pre-barking body language.
Often, the dog will orient towards something (twitching the ears, turning the head), close the mouth, stare intently and then bark although some just go straight to barking, in which case we need to catch them before they reach that state.
Record Your Dog Barking
Recording your dog barking and then playing it back slowly with the mute button on, before the first bark is emitted, can help you identify some subtle "pre-bark "body language that you may have missed otherwise.
Consult with a Behavior Professional
Cases of stress/anxiety may benefit from the intervention of a dog behavior professional. Such dogs may need pharmaceutical intervention and/or behavior modification using desensitization and counterconditioning.