I decided to post this here after countless websites and pamphlets proved to be unhelpful in my situation.
I live with my 9 month old puppy named Rocky (pictured in avatar). He's an Australian Cattledog/Rottweiler mix, and I have had him since he was 8 weeks old. As far as I'm concerned, he's my best friend and I love him to bits. I could not ask for a better friend than him and so I am naturally concerned by the issue facing us.
I adopted him a few days after he arrived at the shelter - he came from a family who loved their dogs but simply could not look after the litter. He didn't experience any hardship prior to his adoption that could cause behavioral issues. He is a well-tempered dog who loves to play.
At about 6-7 months, he began to have issues with his barking. The reason other websites about stopping barking have been unhelpful is because of the unique situation in which he barks. As I said before, he loves to play and is very active - however, this is causes issues because we live next door to a family with 3 very small children who love to play in the yard adjacent to our fence.
Of course, like every dog, Rocky wants to go and join in and when he realizes he can't, begins to bark through the fence repeatedly until I physically take him from the yard and sit with him in the house. That was alright for a while, but he is a big dog now and I simply can't have him inside all the time.
I am at home most days of the week, as a professional wildlife photographer. However, sometimes I am out all day for a few days on trips. I have had to cut down on the time I can spend out in the field due to his barking.
The main causes of his barking are the next-door-neighbors playing in their yard or pool and when rubbish bins are being wheeled out to the curb for collection day. The second is not so bad, since it only occurs once a week, but nevertheless it can be an issue.
Another time he barks, and probably the worst time, is at night - we have several possums that inhabit the trees overhanging our fences and as you might imagine, this doesn't sit well with him at all. He will bark at them repeatedly. I tried to curb this by having him sleep up on our balcony instead of in the yard at night, but he soon figured out that he could see the possums from there as well. It has come down to having him sleep inside at night and now, this is becoming too difficult due to his size. I also believe that it isn't helping in deterring him from barking.
So far I have tried being stern with him when he barks and trying to reinforce that he shouldn't bark. I will not try smacking or hitting him in any way, with or without a newspaper etc, because I believe it to be cruel and ineffective.
I am really looking for some kind of "positive reinforcement" which teaches him not to bark, but doesn't do so through fear or anything like that. I have considered a citronella spray collar - has anyone used these and would they be effective in this situation? Other than that, I'm really appealing to anyone out there who might have some tips or techniques.
I have owned two dogs in the past, neither of which had barking issues so I'm really in new waters here. I regularly exercise him, and play his favorite game - chasing tennis balls - every day or two to make sure he gets some exercise and fun. He does have plenty of toys but I believe the issue to be more based on the activities which cause him to bark, and not his own boredom.
Sorry for the massive post! I really wanted to ensure anyone who might read this would have all the details.
I appreciate any tips or suggestions and please ask questions if I haven't provided some info here.