The calm before the barking storm

I’m going to answer a Frequently Barked Question (FBQ) this week. A few people have asked me the same question: Why doesn’t my Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Great Pyrenees) bark?

The subject of barking often comes up in connection with Pyrenean Mountain Dogs. At first I was a little surprised to be asked why they are not barking, I’m more often asked how to stop a Great Pyrenees from barking!

In each case, the dog I was asked about is still an adolescent. We are not considered mature until we are about two, or even three, years of age. We don’t generally bark very much, if at all, until we are approaching maturity. This is because our main reason for barking is when we perceive danger – something that doesn’t worry us at all until we start to feel protective of our families.

Once we do start barking, many of us are quite enthusiastic about it – some would say too enthusiastic! We discover that we like the sound of our voices and barking can be fun. I was more than a year old when I began to bark regularly, but other Pyrs may start earlier or later than I did.

Before I tell you about ways to prepare for the barking phase, I’d like you to watch this educational video. It contains a message for bipeds and for dogs. There may be a test later!

Bipeds, I’m sure you noticed that the dogs did have a very good reason for barking, even though the humans with them didn’t understand what it was.

Doggies, where do I begin? Many of you will already know that humans tend to think we’re just making a noise, but this may surprise you younger dogs. Barking louder and longer really doesn’t get our message across to them!

All is not lost, we need to learn to listen to each other better. This brings me to my advice to adolescent Pyrs and their bipeds, but these things could be useful for other dogs.

When we are barking it can be difficult to get our attention, so training with us to get and hold our attention will be helpful. This can be done by attracting our attention with a click of the fingers or a word such as “look” and giving us a treat, or use a clicker if you train together that way. When we are used to the idea of getting the treat for giving our attention, gradually make us wait a moment. This can be very useful to take our focus from whatever we’re barking at.

A Pyr who is barking at full volume may not hear you – we can be quite loud! My bipeds found it useful to get my attention by touching me, but I was already relaxed about them touching me when I wasn’t expecting it. This is fun to train, keep some treats handy and at odd times just touch the dog and then give a treat.

Socialisation is extremely important. The more experiences that a Pyr has had, the less things there will be that worry him, or her. Although he’ll probably bark at everything when he discovers his bark, with patience and consistency the barking can be reduced and this is a lot easier if the dog is confident and well socialised.

Training together and positive experiences through socialisation build a strong bond between dog and biped, which means we will trust you when you tell us there’s nothing to worry about.

I wrote about some techniques for when the barking begins in “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question“.

I have also written about reducing barking at night – “Why barking at night can be a good thing

See you next Wednesday!