Thank you for this mornings topic Bonnie.
Barking dogs; don't ya just love when the neighbors dog starts barking at 5:00 am in the morning? You are sound asleep, enjoying the fact that you can have the windows open and suddenly you are awake. There is no way you are getting back to sleep because not only is the neighbors dog barking but now your dog is barking too. I am always amazed when I hear dogs barking in the middle of the night. There are regulars who bark throughout the night so I know that these are the guys that are left out. This is a horrible idea, especially for your neighbors.
We have a very large patio door off of our bedroom and I often wake up to see Elsa watching. She is getting better about just watching and listening and not barking. In humans, being a good listener is a wonderful thing, in dogs too. Some people never shut up and some dogs just never shut up. Elsa tends to bark when she is excited or a little afraid. If we run into a new object she will often give a sound off alarm bark but she doesn't go on and on. She is learning. Dogs need a great deal of guidance to learn not to bark their faces off. We can help or hinder in that department.
Many dogs receive frustrated yelling, yanking, waving arms or perhaps a slap for barking. All of this only fuels the barking. Our behavior is a tip off to our dogs about how they should act. So when your dog starts barking it is essential that you go into "surfer dude chill mode." I am constantly telling Elsa"we don't care about that," as we work through all the new things in life to bark at. Thankfully she also has Luke to learn from, he is not a barker, never has been. If Luke barks we listen because he does not bark for nothing. Although he is now enjoying a good puff your chest up "this is my yard" bark every so often. Just on the weekend he did one of these little displays. Of course Steve and I smile as we watch, he has a senior muffled type bark now; still tough enough but not annoying. He gets on his toes, makes sure that Elsa is watching and lets the neighborhood know that there is a tough guy on guard. It slowly dwindles to a closed mouth grumbling as he wanders the perimeter of his domain. I love it.
When you have dogs in your neighborhood that bark there is not a whole lot you can do. Of course you can let them know politely that their dog is barking a lot. Maybe they don't know, but then again maybe they do and feel like they can't do anything about it. So you must teach your dog to ignore. Your own ignoring behavior shows them what they need to worry about and not worry about as far as barking.
Leaving your dog outside while you are not around is a very bad idea. They can get into some horribly bad habits. Feedback is by far the most important thing in training. If you are not around to give feedback then you cannot control a behavior. If a behavior continues it can become problematic. Often bored dogs bark, there is nothing else to do, why not? No one ever told them not to bark or gave them an alternative behavior so they bark away.
Barking is a behavior that is fairly easy to get rid of or control but we humans tend to just yell and show our dogs that we will join in with their barking. "Ah Mom is freaking out and barking too, must be something we should be barking at." The next time your dog starts barking, take a moment and think about what your next step should be. Will you be barking out orders or slipping into the "chill out dude mode?"