Barking is a completely normal part of dog communication. But if your dog is barking frequently or for long periods of time, this isn’t only annoying for you (and your neighbours) but could be a sign of stress.
Why dogs bark
- Boredom – This a common source of barking and can be solved with giving your dog more to do mentally, so looking at exercise levels, correct feeding, feeding using novel ways and puzzles and additional training/enrichment activities
- Warning – a dog will often alert bark to let you know someone is there, this is normal but then train a ‘thank you’ which is you moving your dog away from the door or window and rewarding in a quieter place with food treats to end the behaviour.
- Attention Seeking – A dog wanting your attention to play or feed them will bark at you, the best thing you can do is to have this behaviour having the opposite effect and so if your dog barks you give them no attention but just remove yourself from the room.
- Startled – A dog that gets scared or startled may bark, this sounds very different to the other barks and its best to just interrupt them and move them away from the scary thing, rewarding for coming with you.
- Playfulness – Playful dogs will bark at times to show their excitement. This is completely normal.
- Because its reinforcing- this is the most dangerous one as your dog enjoys the feel of barking and its fun! So this is a harder habit to break.
Tips and tricks
1. Don’t tell your dog off
Although their barking may be frustrating, never tell your dog off. Telling them off could make them anxious or confused and some dogs might even see you shouting as you joining in and making noise with them.
2. Avoid things your dog finds scary
If your dog is barking because they are scared, try to avoid the scary thing as much as possible. For example, if your dog barks at passers-by through a window, cover this up to block their view- window film is easy and non permanent way to do this.
If they bark when they’re left alone because they are scared, try to avoid leaving them as much as possible, until you can teach them it’s ok to be left alone. Consider using a pet sitter or dog-walker.
3. Teach your dog calmer ways of telling you what they want
If your dog is barking for something specific, like to make another dog go away, it’s useful to teach them that doing something quieter and safer will get them the same result. For example, your dog can’t bark and sniff at the same time. So, diverting their attention to the floor to sniff out tasty treats instead of barking can be very effective. Doing this consistently will teach them that quietly ignoring something, rather than barking, has a good outcome.
4. Keeping your dog mentally stimulated and physically fulfilled.
Your dog is more likely to bark if they’re bored and not getting enough mental or physical exercise. Make sure you spend quality time keeping your dog engaged and active, think about using feed times as activities and add some training into daily activities and mix up walk routes and locations too. The canine enrichment page on facebook has lots of good info on this.
5. Don’t reward your dog for barking
Reward them for staying quiet instead. If your dog barks to get you to play with them, ignore them. Turn away from your dog or even leave the room and do something else instead. When they are quiet, pick up a toy and invite them to play – a fun game is an excellent reward for being quiet. Dogs can learn that barking is great way of quickly getting our attention. Even us telling them to be quiet may be rewarding, because they enjoy being looked at and spoken to.
6. Barking when home alone
Dogs that are distressed about being left alone may howl or bark to try to get back to their owners. Dogs are naturally social animals, but most owners have commitments that mean their dogs might be left at home alone during the day. Some owners also prefer for their dogs to sleep in a separate area of the house. Unless your dog has been taught that being alone is an okay part of life, this can be scary or frustrating. Start by leaving them for short absences and build up slowly so they don’t get to the point that they are distressed.