The Shetland Sheepdog, better known as the Shelties, is an intelligent, energetic, and obedient herd dog.
Do they bark a lot?
Shelties are known to be vocal dogs and could bark quite a lot due to various reasons. This vocal personality ties to their breed as herders who have to control the flock. Outside the terrain of herding, only ill-bred dogs bark excessively.
This personality can be nurtured through training to make them become excellent watchdogs.
The Sheltie can also be trained to understand that he/she doesn’t have to bark excessively to communicate with you. However, certain factors could be responsible for a Shelties incessant barking.
In this article, I would be discussing the many reasons your Shelties could be barking a lot and how to curb it.
The objective is to help you get control of the situation, understand what their barks could signify and what to do.
Why your Shelties may be barking constantly
Your Sheltie, just like any dog breed, communicates through barking. However, you might be wondering if your Sheltie has gone crazy because he/she is barking constantly.
You have to remember that excessive barking could be tied to their genetic makeup and breeding as they are herd dogs trained to guard flocks on the Shetland island for generations, hence the name Shetland sheepdog.
The reasons for your shelties constant barking could be any of the following:
1. Sounding an alert
It is in the nature of your Shelties to be good watchdogs and would take it upon himself/herself to warn you about incoming danger or what they perceive as danger.
It might include barking in a situation where kids are playing noisily on the street to alerting you about a visitor at the door. Or even at the sight of a neighbor’s cat.
Understand that your Sheltie isn’t barking simply to annoy you in this case. It just stems from his/her breeding as watchdogs and the desire to warn you about potential intruders.
However, this could be gotten under control as no one wants a dog that barks incessantly anytime the doorbell rings.
Shelties are very energetic dogs. That is why you need to keep them busy lest they become restless from boredom.
Sometimes your Sheltie might be barking out of excitement and would want to play a game.
You need to indulge him/her if this is the case.
Just like kids, dogs can experience separation anxiety. A Sheltie that wasn’t properly trained to stay alone could experience separation anxiety and subsequently bark as a result.
If this feeling of anxiety is left unchecked and unresolved, it could lead to a behavioral issue. This behavioral issue could manifest in your dog barking simply because you stepped out, or left him/her alone for a second amongst other things.
The Shetland Sheepdog is not known to be an aggressive dog breed. One of their outstanding personalities is that they are very obedient and friendly.
They are also known to be very gentle and affectionate dogs. However, because they are herders, they might bark at strangers they consider as potential threats, whether humans or other pets.
This barking might come off very aggressive to you and the stranger. It does not, in any way, indicate that the Sheltie wants to hurt them.
Aggressive Shelties only bark to ward off unknown humans or pets as is in their nature as herd dogs.
Understanding What Your Sheltie Barks Means
To understand your dog and come to their help, you would need to be able to pay attention to his/her barking to decipher what it could mean.
You would have to listen out for the tone, pitch, and frequency of the individual barks. It would help you understand what to do in the situation.
Here are some examples of barking sounds and what they could mean:
Raising an alarm
When your pet wants to alert you to something, it can communicate this with a mid-range bark with intermittent breaks.
Communicating a dislike
When your dog wants you to know it does not like what you are doing or offering, it would be through a low growl that slowly becomes a short low-pitched bark.
When your dog wants your attention, you might find the barking long and high-pitched with brief intervals.
To say hello
When the bark is a greeting, it will be one or two sharp, midrange barks.
Anxiety or Nervousness
In communicating this, the bark would usually be high-pitched with short intervals of growling.
How to Stop Your Shelties From Barking Excessively
Even though we have seen that in most cases, your Sheltie is only barking based on their personality, there are still ways to stop it if it ever gets excessive.
Here are some techniques you can use to stop your Sheltie’s excessive barking:
1. Distract and interrupt
This technique aims to disrupt your dogs barking by drawing his/her attention to you and away from whatever triggers the barking.
There many ways you can do this, but an effective method would be to put some coins in an empty can so that it becomes a type of rattle.
When your dog starts barking unnecessarily, rattle the coins in the can. The noise will distract your dog for a while and would shift attention to you.
At this point, you can instruct the dog to stop or tell it, “No bark!”
You’d need to do this repeatedly so the dog can understand. Rattle the can whenever the dog is barking unnecessarily. The noise would quickly stop your Sheltie.
You should commend your dog and give him/her a treat for being quiet. You must start administering this training as early as possible.
It is also necessary that you are firm while training as it would help the dog understand your leadership position as its owner.
2. The “SHHH” Command
Another technique you could use in stopping your dog from barking is to stop him/ her immediately with the short and sharp “Shhh!” command.
You must assert yourself as the boss in this situation, standing upright and exuding calm confidence.
Make eye contact when the dog looks at you and convey to him/her that you are displeased with the behavior.
You can also snap your fingers at your pet to make it very clear that you dislike the behavior.
If your Sheltie continues barking, it only means that you have not fully positioned yourself as the leader and owner. While a sensitive sheltie would try hard not offend you, a dominant one will.
If he/she disobeys you and is still barking, gently hold his/her muzzle and repeat the command.
What you must not do is make the all too common mistake of yelling at your pet. It would only excite your dog and make it bark even more.
Once your dog learns that you are the boss, he/she would be submissive to you and would readily heed your command.
If the dog obeys you immediately and stops barking, praise him/her, and you could also offer a treat.
2. Give your dog mental and physical exercises
Just as I had earlier mentioned, your Shetland Sheepdog could be barking because he/she could be bored. One way to stop your dog from barking is to keep him/her busy.
Shelties are energetic and so can become restless when they are unoccupied. Here are a few physical and mental challenges that can keep them busy and stop him/her from barking:
1. Hide treats around your home and let your pet find them.
2. Cut tiny holes in a small bottle and fill them with kibble or treats
3. Have your pet’s toys or healthy treat frozen into a block and let your dog nibble on it during hot days
4. You should also take your Sheltie for daily walks or jogs to help them expel their pent-up energy.
3. Trigger Elimination
From what we know about a Shelties personality, another reason your dog could be barking is that it is bothered by something he/she considers a potential threat.
To you, it is just the doorbell or the car horn or the mailman. But to your dog, it might as well be a dangerous robber about to attack.
You surely cannot stop visitors from coming to your home because you own a pet, but there are certain things you could do to make your home more comfortable for your dog.
Rather than trying to make your pet adjust to the new environment, adjust your home for the dog.
Here are certain things you could do to make your home more comfortable for your pet:
l Place shades that block your his/her view from outside or anything that keeps movement from outside out.
l Try leaving the radio on a station that plays soothing music. It would calm the dog and drain out noise from outside that could make him/her bark.
Can Your Sheltie’s Excessive Barking Hurt Him or Her?
You are not wrong to be bothered that your Sheltie’s constant barking could hurt it. Your pet’s incessant barking is more than a nuisance.
If your dog barks a lot, over time, it could be detrimental to his/her larynx, in cases where your Sheltie is unhealthy. A common symptom of this is, your Sheltie’s voice becoming hoarse in nature.
If you notice this, take your dog to the vet immediately. The vet would be able to determine if it has become serious.
In extreme cases, your dog could develop canine hoarseness such as kennel cough or throat cancer.
Understanding your Sheltie and training him/her to stop needlessly barking is not going to be a difficult task. You might find it challenging, but that does not mean you can’t succeed.
You must work at following the techniques mentioned in this article. Equally worthy of note is remembering that just as there are great ways to treat the dog, there are also wrong ways to treat the dog.
Do remember not to yell or shout at your Sheltie. Always try to speak to your dog calmly. And ensure not to let your anger get the best of the situation.