Usually loud and sharp, barking is a natural sound that dogs make. Dogs bark to verbally communicate with others or to express their feelings in different scenarios. When a dog barks frequently, excessively, or during unwanted times, his owner must find the cause of the barking and search for ways to stop the behaviour. In this article, we’ll discuss the:
- Possible reasons why dogs bark
- General tips to stop a dog from barking
- Specific ways to stop a dog from barking in different scenarios
Why do dogs bark?
There are many reasons why your dog barks. PetMD shares the common reasons for barking: excitement; attention or food seeking; boredom; fear, anxiety, or territorial behaviour; pain; reactivity or surprise; and canine dementia. Aside from these, breed and genetics also play a role in a dog’s inclination to bark.
This kind of bark is usually displayed when you come home, when your dog is greeting another animal, or when he is about to be let outside. It is accompanied by perked ears, an alert body, a wagging tail, and even jumping. The intermittent barking subsides once he has relaxed.
Attention or food seeking
This type of bark is done to catch a dog owner’s attention, asking you to walk, feed, or give your dog a treat. When he barks for attention or food, the sound tends to be a long string of single barks with pauses in between them. His body language is generally relaxed, but his tail may be wagging and his ears may be standing at attention.
When left alone for a period of time, a bored dog may bark to get your attention or to invite you to play with him. The barking sound he makes is at a lower pitch, and sounds like a “harrr-ruff.” He does this in a neutral pose or a play bow, with his front legs outstretched and leaning down on his elbows while his rear is up in the air.
Fear, anxiety, or territorial
Expect your dog to bark in a deep, continuous way when he is exposed to an unknown stimuli, such as a stranger or an unfamiliar cat. This kind of bark can be complemented with growling, with your dog’s entire body in a tense state.
Dogs exhibiting separation anxiety are known to bark excessively when they are left all alone. They accompany their barking with destructiveness, repetitive pacing, and/or inappropriate elimination.
When your dog is attacked by another animal, gets accidentally hit while playing, or is experiencing pain in a particular body part, he may produce high-pitched, staccato yelps to verbalise his discomfort.
Reactive or surprise
Whether he suffers from poor hearing, does not pay attention, or suddenly sees something strange, a dog caught off guard can make a singular, high-pitched bark to convey his shock.
Older dogs who incessantly bark in the corner or at a wall (without anything appearing to be there) during the night may be suffering from cognitive dysfunction.
Genetics and breed
In an interview with PetMD, veterinary behaviourist Dr. Stefanie Schwartz shared that genetics and breeding are also factors to consider. Barking was emphasised in particular breeds by our human ancestors to help protect and defend past settlements. Dog breeds that are known to bark more include terriers, huskies, and Nordic breeds.
How can I stop my dog from barking?
Barking is completely normal for dogs. Once he faces the physical, emotional, or external stimulus, he should calm down and stop barking. However, if you notice that your dog barks frequently with the slightest provocation, you should figure out the triggers and take the necessary steps to correct his action. Ignoring the problem will only make matters worse. To be successful in breaking your dog’s barking habit, you’ll need to equip yourself with the proper techniques and execute them patiently.
- If you get a chance to foster or adopt a puppy, try to expose him to a variety of stimuli and environments so that he gets used to them as early as possible. Exposure to these different factors will help desensitise him and make him less likely to bark at novel experiences.
- Shouting at your dog when he is barking won’t solve the problem. It will make him think you’re joining him. Instead of yelling at him, speak calmly and firmly.
- Keep your training positive and consistent. Make sure the entire household applies the same training methods, so your dog doesn’t end up getting confused.
- Teach your dog how to stop barking with the command “hush” or “quiet.” The next time he barks at something, walk up to him while holding a treat in your hand. Let him smell it in your hand, and as he grows quiet to sniff it, say the command and toss the treat away from him. Don’t give him the treat if he continues to bark. Keep repeating this technique until he learns not to rely on the hand prompt or the treat.
- If you suspect that the barking is caused by a health-related problem, take your dog to the veterinarian to be assessed immediately. If your pooch is experiencing high levels of anxiety, your vet might prescribe him anti-anxiety medication.
What to do in different scenarios?
Scenario: Your dog barks when you get home
It’s common for your pooch to bark an excited greeting to welcome you home. But if he does it too much that it drives you (or even your neighbours) crazy, teach him this quick trick: Just before the door opens, train him to go to an area and stay there. Pick a spot that allows him to see who’s entering, but not too close to the door that he can run out or excitedly jump on the person. Practise getting him to stay calm in that particular area whenever the door opens. When he keeps quiet and sits still, call him and reward him with praise and treats. Stop yourself from petting him or making eye contact with him if he barks at you the moment you get home.
Scenario: Your dog barks when someone or something is at the door
Dogs bark when they are afraid or feel the need to protect their territory. You can minimise this kind of barking by limiting what your dog sees. When he’s indoors, close the curtains or cover the windows with an opaque film so he doesn’t see what’s happening outside. You can also situate him in a different room that’s far from your entryway. When he’s outdoors, block his view of unfamiliar elements by containing him within a solid wood fence instead of a chain-link fence. Don’t leave him outside by himself.
Scenario: Your dog barks when he wants something
Ignore your pooch whenever he barks to ask for something, whether it’s attention, food, toys, or to go outside. Look away from him or leave the room to show him that barking won’t result in anything. Wait for him to become quiet or sit still before granting what he wants. You can also teach your dog other ways to communicate his needs, such as training him to ring a bell if he needs to go out for a potty break, or nudging the water dish with his nose so you could refill it.
Scenario: Your dog barks when he’s all alone
Boredom, loneliness, and separation anxiety can all lead to excessive barking. Provide your dog with enough attention, playtime, and exercise to put him in a relaxed state before you leave him all by himself. Give him puzzle toys that dispense treats to keep him occupied (check out these suggested puzzle toys from our pet libary!). Hire a dog walker to play with him or take him out if you’ll be out for prolonged periods of time.
Barking is the easiest way for your dog to communicate with you. You must allow him a chance to express himself through this vocal manner. However, you must draw the line when his barking becomes uncontrolled and unnecessary. By ignoring him when he barks, determining the triggers, removing or lessening the triggers, and consistently teaching him the proper techniques, you can correct this unwanted behaviour.
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