Q & A: Attention seeking?

Q: Why does my dog bark when I’m on the phone? She doesn’t bark when I talk with her or to other people present. What can I do about it?

A: There are many possible reasons why your dog may be doing this. Perhaps she wants your attention when you’re focused on a call; the phone may predict something, such as a visitor arriving; she may not like the sound of your ringtone; or you may behave in such a way when you’re on the phone that she finds exciting or confusing. And that’s just a short list of possible causes. Without knowing the exact cause, it’s difficult to make any recommendations.

There are a few simple things you can do that would apply regardless of the motivation. Firstly, don’t try and get her to stop barking by scolding – that is likely to increase her barking in the long run. Trying to stop barking with something a dog finds unpleasant can be ineffective and may also cause your dog distress. Secondly, keep a few treats handy for when you’re on the phone. Give her a treat any time she is quiet – let her know that being quiet is rewarding, while barking doesn’t get much of a response. If she likes toys, you could also try tossing a toy when she’s quiet. Focusing on the behaviour you want and making it valuable to her will make a big difference! If going into a room while on the phone and separating yourself from her makes a difference, then I would recommend that as a very simple solution. If she doesn’t respond to any of these suggestions, then I would highly recommend contacting the Animal Behaviour Consultants of SA for a referral to a qualified behaviourist who can assist you more thoroughly.

Katherine Brown, behaviourist

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