Solutions For Dog Barking

Solutions For Dog Barking

by Sandra Murphy

Does your dog explode into barking whenever someone knocks at the door or rings the bell? Here are 6 ways to help him simmer down.

Ding dong! Chaos erupts as Molly skids barking down the hallway to get to the door before her human, Pat. “She’s such a sweet dog, but why does she act like we’re under attack when someone comes to the door?” asks Pat.

To answer that question, Pat needs to think like a canine, says Eileen Proctor, dog lifestyle expert and author of Relief for the Latchkey Dog. “When a dog sees people walk down the sidewalk, he barks and the people go away. The mail carrier comes to the door, rattles the mail slot, the dog barks and he goes away. It’s a dog’s job to protect the pack. When intruders leave, he’s successful.”

“The doorway is a high intensity location,” adds dog psychologist Linda Michaels. “There’s an unseen person on the other side, a human who needs protection on this side, and often, it’s a cramped space. This is the line a stranger crosses that can increase the dog’s desire to protect.”

In other words, when your dog is barking at the door, he’s only following his natural instincts. That doesn’t make it any less nerve-wracking for you, though. Luckily, there are ways you can help train him to stop treating the doorbell or a knock as a trigger for hysterical or aggressive behavior.

1. Acknowledge his efforts

Since a dog believes barking is in his job description, praise him for doing it – but set limits. A warning bark or two is fine to let you know someone’s at the door. Extended barking is not. Retool his job description to “alert” rather than “make the stranger go away”. It’s easier than you think…read on.

2. Choose a command, and don’t shout

Yelling doesn’t help. Already in a frenzy, the dog may hear “Save me, save me!” instead of “Knock it off” or “Quiet!” when you raise your voice. Choose a verbal cue like “That’s enough” or “No bark”. Use a firm voice rather than a loud one. Eileen uses a simple, “Thank you, good dog.” That says to the dog, “Stand down while I check the threat level.” He then knows the two of you are working as a team and the responsibility is not all on him.

“Consistency is the key,” adds Eileen. “Make sure all the people in the house use the same phrase. Practice makes perfect for both the human and the dog.” Have everyone in the family work with the dog so he doesn’t think the lesson applies to only one of his humans.

3. Make it more satisfying not to bark

Barking turns into its own reward because it gets attention, good or bad. To make it more rewarding for the dog to alert and then be quiet, pick a high value treat or toy that stays by the door. Its only use is as a reward for alert/quiet. The goal is to change the meaning of the doorbell or knock from “Danger!” to “Somebody’s here! Gimme a treat.” Linda concurs: “Teach the dog: ‘I can bark at the door, or I can get cookies.’

“Safety first is always a good rule,” she adds. “To diffuse the dog’s heightened emotions, have him move away from the door to a spot where he can see what’s happening but not be between his person and the visitor.” A baby gate works well as you train for calm behavior. “A handful of tiny treats scattered over the floor will distract him from territorial guarding,” says Linda. “His guarding instincts won’t disappear. He’ll just have better control.”

4. Do some practice runs

Friends who have the willingness and patience to stand on your porch and ring the doorbell while you train are priceless. Another option could be a neighborhood kid with time on his hands. If all else fails, knock on the inside of the door yourself. When the dog rushes to see what’s going on, show the reward, use the verbal cue and take him to the chosen location where he has more space to move around and time to calm himself.

Several ten or 15-minute sessions are better than 30 minutes of continuous training. End on a successful note. If you or your dog begin to get frustrated, have him do something different, such as a few sits and downs, then reward him and take a break.

5. Open the door

Once he knows the routine – alert, move to the calm spot, get the reward – it’s time to let the person come into the house. If your dog remembers the new division of labor – he alerts, you check it out – the visitor can talk to him from a distance.

If it’s still peaceful, bring the dog closer while he’s leashed. A leash gives you control over sudden jumps, inappropriate sniffs, or a body slam greeting. If he walks nicely, let him approach the visitor. If he gets excited or pulls on the leash, stop where you are to see if he remembers that only good behavior gets a reward. Is he still overly excited? Go back and start again from the calm spot.

Watch for a wagging tail. Give your guest tiny treats too. Your dog needs to see company as a good thing. If he’s relaxed, sit down and talk to your visitor for a few minutes. Take the dog back to his calm spot, scatter treats and then escort your visitor back to the door.

6. Praise good behavior!

Whether it’s a practice run or the real thing, remember to always praise or treat your dog when he does what you want him to. “The best way is to use positive reinforcement for wanted behavior,” says Eileen. “Don’t punish bad behavior.” Friends, relatives, the UPS driver or mail carrier – the number of people who have occasion to come to your door can be legion. And each one can be a learning experience for a happy human and a well-mannered dog!

Canine Skin Issues

Canine Skin Issues

By Dr. Becker


Today I’m here with my model , Rosco, a Boston terrier who is one of my pack. He’s going to help me demonstrate how to deal with minor skin abrasions, cuts, infections and hot spots.

Rosco swims in a small body of water in front of our house. It’s a pond in the spring, and more like a swamp during the summer months.

Rosco swims and splashes around out there every day during warm weather, and as a result, he gets an impressive collection of bacteria on his skin.

When Regular Bathing Isn’t Enough

Even though Rosco and our other dogs get regular baths, all of them still wind up with localized skin infections on their bellies. It happens every summer without fail. I don’t panic about it, but I do know I need to address the situation as soon as I see it or the bacteria will continue to spread.

If a localized skin infection is left untreated, your dog could wind up on antibiotics, which is something we want to avoid.

I’ve never had to resort to antibiotics to treat my dogs’ bacterial skin infections, because I do two things as soon as I notice a problem:

·     Clean the skin and keep it clean

·     Disinfect the area regularly to stay ahead of the infection

Rosco’s Bumpy Belly

Rosco and our other dogs started getting these acne-like bumps on their bellies a couple weeks ago.

What’s interesting about these infections is one pimple will appear while another is healing. There’s a cycle of eruption and healing – as one pimple is erupting, another is slowly disappearing.

You can think of these bumps as similar to human acne. It’s not a life-threatening condition, but if you don’t address and control it, it can get much worse and may ultimately require medication.

As you can see when I stand Rosco up here that his infection is on his sternum. We can see healing eruptions, and we can also see a few lesions below those. They’re not bothering Rosco, but they bother me because I don’t want them to spread.

So, it’s time for another treatment.

Treating with Povidone Iodine

For skin infections like Rosco’s, and also hot spots, minor abrasions, and any other skin problem that either is infected or could become infected, we want to disinfect with a gentle solution.

The solution I’m about to use will take care of staph, yeast, and pretty much any common bacteria, but doesn’t sting or irritate the dog’s skin at all. And it’s safe if dogs lick the area after cleaning.

It’s povidone iodine, and I use it here at Natural Pet and also at home. You can buy it at any pharmacy.

For the purpose of disinfecting skin, you want to dilute the povidone iodine until it’s the color of iced-tea. I’ll pour a little of the iodine in a dish and add some warm water to dilute it.

The Disinfecting Process

Now I take a clean washcloth and soak it in the diluted povidone iodine solution.

My helper is going to hold Rosco up so I can access his belly and disinfect his sores. I’m just wiping the iodine-soaked washcloth over his sores, which removes the bacteria around the eruptions.

All animals, including humans, have normal levels of flora (bacteria) on the skin, as does Rosco. The goal isn’t to rub the skin raw of all bacteria, but just gently disinfect the whole belly, paying special attention to the areas where there are lesions and eruptions that could evolve into a more serious, secondary skin infection.

Now I’ll rinse out the washcloth, do one more swipe across Rosco’s tummy, and pat him dry.

The great thing about povidone iodine is it’s completely harmless if ingested. So Rosco can lick his belly with no problem.

I recommend you do this disinfecting process twice a day if your dog has a minor skin infection or other problem. It has effectively resolved all the skin infections my dogs have acquired and prevented the need for antibiotics.


Skin Problems in Dogs

by Marc Abraham BVM&S MRCVS

Article courtesy of Barking Heads Meowing Heads

One of the most common reasons for clients bringing their poorly pets in to my clinic is skin problems. Your dog’s skin, including coat and ear canals, is an extremely good indication of overall health. When skin problems occur, your pooch will often tell you by scratching excessively, and if it can reach, chewing and/or licking affected areas.

With our dogs exposed to so many environmental factors 24/7 it’s no surprise that there’s a wide range of skin problem causes, from external parasites (e.g. fleas, ticks), infections, various allergies, metabolic problems, even stress, or indeed any combination of these.

It’s also worth noting that because of this wide range of causes, dogs of all ages and breeds are susceptible to issues involving skin; but young, elderly, immunocompromised, or dogs living in crowded, stressful environments may be more prone than others.


As well as general signs of irritation e.g. scratching, licking or chewing, there can be so many indications – some more obvious than others – that your dog is suffering from skin disease. Scabs, infections, wounds, redness or inflammation, all depend on not only how active is the problem, but also if these signs are secondary to an original (primary) problem, e.g. Golden Retriever ‘hot spots’ (one particular area where itching is intense) found on their necks (below).

All parts of your dog’s skin can be affected; from round, scaly patches on the face and paws, to dry, flaky or otherwise irritated skin elsewhere. Hair loss and bald patches can often be tell-tale signs of allergies, self-mutilation, even hormonal imbalances, with angry rashes on your dog’s underside commonly indicating a reaction to something they’ve come into contact with, e.g. certain grasses, nettles, etc.

The word ‘lesion’ is commonly used by vets when we assess your dog’s skin, and it means that region in a tissue that’s suffered damage through injury or disease. This can mean anything from an abscess draining pus, to any number of variations of swellings, lumps, bumps, even changes in skin color.

Your dog rubbing its face against furniture or carpet can also be a sign so best get anything abnormal checked out ASAP as these conditions can prove extremely challenging to diagnose, expensive to treat, sometimes requiring long courses of antibiotics, washes, etc.


With so many potential causes of skin disease any of the following may be enough to cause abnormalities with your dog’s skin and should always be thoroughly investigated. Top of the list – and especially when winter central heating’s turned on – must be fleas; bites and droppings from these pesky insects irritate dog’s skin, with some having an allergic response to flea saliva following a bite.


This ‘flea bite hypersensitivity’ is common with affected dogs (above) displaying itchy lesions on the lower back, tail base, and inner thighs – but can also be more generalized – distribution alone is never diagnostic. Always buy flea treatments from your vet, worm your dog regularly, and in severe cases treat your house with a special spray. Seasonal weather changes may also contribute, like with people, to dry, flaky skin as well.

Other parasites, such as ear mites, can also cause irritation resulting in severe ear infections, accompanied by smelly discharge and intense discomfort. Another burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabei causes sarcoptic mange, resulting in extreme itching and inflammation similar to an allergic response. All require immediate treatment to alleviate symptoms.

Seasonal allergies are common, characterized by all-over scratching, and maybe due to sensitivity to allergens (allergy trigger factors) like pollen, weeds, dust, mites, trees, mold, or grasses. Particularly affected are specific at-risk dogs with defective skin barriers (allowing increased water loss and allergen penetration), and abnormal immune responses. However, some patients may even be genetically predisposed to inflammatory and itchy allergic skin disease e.g. West Highland White Terriers (below), Labradors, German Shepherds, and Shar Peis.

Another cause of skin disease can be food allergies, developed from a range of common ingredients found in dog foods, such as beef, chicken, wheat, corn, or soy. Even fillers and colorings are seen as ‘foreign’ by your dog’s immune system leading to itching and rashes. Adverse food reactions can invite a response from your dog’s immune system (hypersensitivity) or no response (food intolerances, which can include toxins/histamine release).

Frustratingly, hypersensitivity to food allergens is often indistinguishable from hypersensitivity to other (airborne or contact) allergens. So working out which is the cause – from reactions to food or parasites – is often tricky, and requires careful diagnostic work, including ruling out all other diseases causing itching.

And if all that’s not bad enough for your dog, it’s not uncommon for secondary skin infections to accompany skin allergies, usually bacteria or yeast (e.g. Malassezia), taking full advantage of damaged skin, and totally complicating the picture. Multiple treatments to manage both allergy and infection are often now required.

Another condition affecting dogs is ringworm, a highly contagious fungal infection resulting in inflammation, scaly patches, and hair loss. Due to its high potential for spread ringworm also needs to be treated immediately to avoid other pets and people in the household from becoming victims.

Stress or boredom can cause skin disease too. Your dog may lick their skin (especially legs – above) excessively for many reasons. Some will lick as a coping strategy for stress, as well as when not given adequate opportunity for physical or mental stimulation. Metabolic or hormonal problems can also cause changes in skin color, coat consistency, thickness, even distribution.

Finally, certain grooming products e.g. shampoos, can irritate your dog’s skin. Be sure to only use dog-friendly grooming products, and ask your vet if you suspect any products are responsible.


Identifying the many underlying causes of skin disease is not always straightforward, so visit your vet as soon as you notice any abnormality in your dog’s skin or hair, or if they begin to excessively scratch, lick and/or bite areas on their fur.

Your vet will obtain a detailed history and perform a thorough physical examination, perhaps even some diagnostic tests in order to identify the cause of symptoms. Tests may include a skin biopsy, skin scrapes, hair plucks and/or coat brushings for flea dirt (feces of fleas – below) or ringworm, microscopic examination of hair and skin for presence of parasites or infection, allergy testing (may recommend diet change), even blood tests to assess your dog’s overall health.

Food allergy diagnosis can usually only be made by response to a novel or ‘hydrolyzed’ protein diet, with treatment by avoiding offending allergens. Diagnosis is based on history, clinical signs, and response to treatment, but other concurrent allergic skin diseases may also need to be addressed as multiple allergies co-existing in one patient is not uncommon.

Once diagnosis is certain, some owners may want to pursue specific testing (intradermal allergy/serological testing) to reveal which allergens are responsible; and is also required for owners wanting to pursue allergen-specific immunotherapy – but is not mandatory – as many forms of treatment are symptomatic and don’t require identification of allergens concerned.


As expected with so many causes, there is a wide range of treatments available, including antibiotics, antifungals or anti-itching topical products/medications e.g. shampoos, dips, creams, or spot-on products (to prevent and treat parasites). Shampoos are useful in many cases, and also help treat specific secondary infections, reduce allergen load in the coat, and improve skin barrier function.

Like all disease prevention, a healthy balanced diet is important to help maintain healthy skin and coat e.g. Barking Heads Bad Hair Day. Dietary supplements containing essential fatty acids are extremely useful, reducing skin inflammation, enhancing skin’s role as a barrier; hence very useful in chronic treatment of skin allergies, but can often take a couple of months before positive effects are noticed.

Steroids (e.g. prednisolone) are useful drugs for the short-term management of allergic disease in animals that have seasonal disease or for acute flare ups, producing rapid reductions in itching; with short acting courses being more favorable than long term. Steroids may be dispensed as tablet or topical treatments e.g. ear drops, eye drops, creams, ointments, and sprays.

Most steroids, both ingested orally or absorbed through the skin when applied topically, can lead to side effects, such as eating/drinking more, leading to weight gain. Longer term, every other day tapering therapy is recommended only in patients that cannot be managed using other drugs, with fewer side effects which may include diabetes mellitus, skin thinning, and liver changes.

Sadly, safer antihistamines e.g. piriton, aren’t nearly as potent as steroids, with some animals only responding when multiple drug combinations are trialed – if any response at all. On a positive note side effects from antihistamines are rare, although drowsiness may be seen (which in itself can reduce scratching at night).

Preventiondog scratching

Good management of canine skin disease may involve regular visits to your vet, and is generally divided between treatment of acute flare-ups and managing the chronic disease. All dog owners should try to use natural, dog-friendly hypoallergenic soaps, and shampoos. Regular brushing prevents matting of hair, carefully checking skin, paws, and ears at every grooming session.

Feed a healthy, balanced diet e.g. Barking Heads Bad Hair Day, without fillers or artificial ingredients. Vets may also recommend dietary supplements. Treat for fleas and worms, as well as regularly cleaning and vacuuming your home (remembering to always throw away the bag!) Reduce likelihood of stress try by providing calm living conditions for your dog using artificial pheromone or oral calming natural products if indicated.

Some forms of skin disease can be extremely difficult to cure, with pets often requiring lifelong medication. Despite treatment, most patients still suffer from occasional flare-ups of disease and often have secondary infections which need treatment in addition to allergy management. Occasionally referral to a veterinary skin specialist may be of benefit to discuss multiple treatment options and better control.