It’s something we’ve all experienced, whether as the owner of a barking dog, the person being barked at, or the neighbor being thoroughly annoyed. There are some situations where we find it completely normal and even desirable for our dogs to bark. If an intruder is trying to break into my house, I want my dogs to let loose with their scariest roars. However, it becomes a nuisance if they decide to bark at every noise throughout the night, or during my dinner, or at every person we pass on our walk. Half the battle is discovering why dogs bark.
Five reasons why dogs bark:
Stress and anxiety are reasons why dogs bark. Some other signs of anxiety are panting when they aren’t hot, pacing, hyper-vigilance, and destructive behavior like chewing or digging. Anxiety can be caused for lots of different reasons—separation from their humans or animal friends, storms or loud noises, confinement in too small a space or for too long a period, physical pain, or a chemical imbalance. If you think that your dogs barking is caused by anxiety, make an appointment as soon as possible to see your veterinarian. They can make sure your dog doesn’t have a physical problem at the root of the issue, and they can discuss possible medication and behavior modification exercises that can help alleviate anxiety.
Have you ever been on a long trip with kids and the more bored they get, the louder they are? Our dogs tend to vocalize more when they are bored, too. These are usually the dogs that we think of as barking just to bark. In reality, they need something else to do. Too often, we think that a dog will find their way of occupying their time, whether in the house or out in the yard. They will… by barking, digging, killing small, furry creatures, and exhibiting other normal doggy behaviors that we find undesirable. Make sure you provide your dog with toys, games, and exercise so that they don’t feel the need to make their entertainment.
Fear is a common reason why dogs bark. It can even seem like aggression—a dog lunging at barking at strangers on a walk or visitors in your house. These dogs are barking in the hopes that the thing that scares them will leave them alone. Learn about dog body language and see if the posture that accompanies your dog’s barking is a sign of fear. Crouching, wide eyes, ears laid back, and tail tucking is some of the most common signs of fear in dogs. If you think your dog may be barking out of fear, seek professional help from a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or force-free trainer as soon as possible. Fearful dogs can move from vocalization to biting if they feel like they’re trapped in the frightening situation.
Dogs are territorial animals. It’s in their nature to protect their home turf, and the most common way for them to warn off potential invaders is by barking. If your dog barks at the mailman, when the doorbell rings, or when someone approaches the fence or walks by the yard, there’s a good chance he’s trying to make sure that everyone understands that he’s protecting his home. In some cases, this can also extend to him seeing you as an extension of his territory, even when you’re out in the world with him. If your dog is a territorial barker, some behavior modification using positive counter-conditioning is in order. It sounds complicated, but a reputable positive reinforcement-based trainer can help you develop a plan to help your dog learn better behaviors in situations where he feels insecure about maintaining his turf.
Our dogs have been bred for hundreds of years to be around humans. They crave our attention and interaction. When we ignore them, they learn to bark to attract our attention. When we scold or yell at our dog for barking, we are rewarding them for their barking behavior. So, what do you do when a dog barks for attention? You start by making sure that you give them attention when they’re behaving well. Give them pets, affection, treats, and playtime when they aren’t already barking. Make sure you aren’t leaving them outside by themselves too much. They’re our best friends, after all. Then you teach them an alternate behavior that will always result in being rewarded. “Sit” is a great behavior to have as a default way of asking for our attention. Have your pup sit before meals, before pets, before going inside or outside… teach them that sitting is the gateway to every good thing. Dogs will repeat the behaviors that earn them rewards.
To change our dogs’ unwanted barking behavior, we first have to understand why dogs bark. It’s our job as their humans to use our power of deduction to get to the root of the problem. The reason for the bark makes a big difference in our plan of action to stop excessive barking. If you need help identifying the root of your dog’s excessive barking, or if you need professional help to get started with a behavior modification plan, contact Guthrie Pet Hospital and set up an appointment today!