Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Fumipets
Decoding Canine Communication: Understanding Why Your Dog Is Barking and How to Curb It
Barking is a natural means of communication for dogs, but excessive or incessant barking can be a source of frustration for both pet owners and neighbors. To navigate this common challenge, it’s crucial to decipher the reasons behind your dog’s barking and implement effective strategies to address it.
In this guide, we delve into the various motivations behind canine vocalizations and offer practical tips on how to curb excessive barking. Let’s unravel the mystery of your dog’s barks and pave the way for a quieter and more harmonious coexistence.
Dog Is Barking and How to Curb It
Is your dog’s barking driving you insane? Barking is a normal canine activity, just as talking is for people, and your dog may be barking for a variety of reasons. Although all dogs will bark (or yodel if you have a Basenji), there are ways to reduce annoying barking.
Knowing why your dog barks can enable you to better regulate their surroundings and educate them to remain quiet when necessary. Let’s have a look at the many types of dog barking and what you can do about it.
Your dog is alerting you by barking “Hello there! There’s something to be found there! I’ve noticed something!” Others may answer with an “I hear you!” when they hear a dog barking down the street or in a neighbouring yard. When their dogs warn them of someone approaching the front door, many dog owners are grateful. It might be aggravating to have a dog who barks at everything that happens outside the window.
For individuals who live in apartments or have near neighbours, alert barking may be particularly difficult. And living in an apartment frequently means a dog may hear more noises outside and, if not properly acclimated and trained, will bark to alarm their owners.
When someone knocks on the door, my dog barks, and I let her one or two barks before saying, “Thank you!” (This is her “quiet” signal.) Alert barking was a desirable feature when humans first tamed dogs. We wanted our dogs to alert us to the presence of someone or anything approaching. It’s difficult to expect our dogs to ignore their natural instincts. There are three techniques to reduce alert barking.
Remove the Opportunity to Alert Bark
Remove any visual stimuli that lead your dog to bark by closing your blinds or drapes. Set up a fan, noise machine, or turn on the radio or television to drown out outside sounds if your dog alerts to them. This is referred to as noise masking. Some dogs prefer to sit at the window and watch the world go by; if they start barking from their perch, move the furniture away from the window so they can’t keep an eye on things. If you don’t feel like altering the furniture, just put a fence in the way of their entry to that room.
Teach Your Dog the “Quiet” Cue
Use your dog’s barking as an opportunity to educate them to remain quiet. You may swiftly educate your dog to both talk and stay silent during the same training session by introducing “paired cues.” Learn how to teach your dog the quiet command with our step-by-step instructions.
Acclimate Your Dog to Sights and Sounds
If your dog barks alertly, you may desensitize and counter condition them to the sights and noises that cause them to bark. Some dogs adapt to new noises more quickly than others, while others take longer. Make a positive link with the sights and noises that your dog would normally bark at.
Let’s take the case of someone passing by your house. Make sure you’ve drawn the curtains or obscured your dog’s view of passers-by while you’re not training. Grab a few high-value training goodies while you’re training. Say “yes” (or click if you’re using clicker training) and give your dog a reward as soon as your dog detects the person but before they start barking. If they return your gaze, say “yes” or click once more before they bark, and give them another goodie. You will have taught an incompatible behaviour to notify barking with practice (looking at you and keeping their mouth shut). Plus, watching someone go by has now elicited a favourable emotional response. It’s a win-win situation!
Alert barking is comparable to territorial barking. Your dog is reacting to the presence of someone or anything in the vicinity of his or her house. The purpose of territorial barking is to guard the territory and force the “intruder” to depart. While alert barking may end after you’ve realized what’s going on, territorial barking normally lasts longer – until the apparent danger has passed.
We term territorial barking “self-reinforcing.” Barking frequently causes the object your dog is barking at to disappear – this is a beneficial habit for your dog! They learn that barking gets them what they want, and they’re more inclined to do it again the following time. Your dog, for example, may be alone at home and staring out the window.
They start barking when they see the mail guy walking by your house on the sidewalk. Your dog had no idea that the postal worker was intending on walking by and “leaving” the area. They’re inferring that their barking caused the postal person to depart. “Mission done!” thinks the dog.
Territorial barking training is the same as alert barking training for dogs (click here to read these training steps). You want to educate your dog that it’s OK when someone (or anything) enters or approaches their domain, and the best way to accomplish so is to make a positive link with it.
Play and Excitement Barking
Many dogs bark when they are excited or playing. The pitch of play barking is higher than that of other barks. I don’t care about teaching play barking behaviour unless it bothers the other dog who is playing, damages my hearing, or causes neighbours to complain. It’s like expecting children to be entirely quiet when playing together on the playground if you expect a joyful and energetic dog not to vocalize during play. When the barking becomes too loud, having a firm “quiet” signal learned is always beneficial.
It’s all about management if you need to control your dog’s enthusiasm or play barking. Interrupt your dog before they start running if a certain sort of play, such as chase, tends to promote barking. Allow them to play another game with you, such as tug of war or flirting with a flirt pole. End the play session and offer them an interactive toy or puzzle if they’re simply too excited to settle into more peaceful play. This form of cerebral stimulation burns a lot of energy, and since their mouth is occupied with a stuffed KONG or similar toy, they can’t bark at the same time!
How to Train Calm and Quiet Greetings
When approaching other people or dogs on a stroll, some dogs start barking out of enthusiasm. Others may find this threatening, particularly since it is often followed by yanking on the leash or rushing up to them. Instead of praising barking, focus on rewarding what you want your dog to accomplish, such as walking slowly and quietly to meet someone.
Allow your dog to approach only if they are calm and not tugging on the leash if meeting the person or dog is safe and suitable (always check with them first!).
Stop approaching and bring their attention back to you if they start barking out of excitement. You may use name recognition, the touch cue, or the sit cue to do this. To catch their attention and get them to concentrate on you, you may need to utilize a training reward. Continue approaching for a welcome if they are able to concentrate and stop barking.
Turn and move away from the person or dog your dog wants to welcome if your dog is having problems paying attention to you and continues barking. Stop and attempt the approach again when your dog can concentrate on you from a distance. Consider using a higher-value training goodie to hold your dog’s attention as you approach or request basic signals (such as those indicated in step two) early in the process. You don’t want to entirely eliminate cheerful greets from other people or dogs, but you do want to set your dog up for success.
This practice teaches your dog that approaching someone or another dog carefully and discreetly means getting to meet them! When they bark or pull, the person or dog they wish to welcome moves away.
Your dog will need practice and repetition to learn this. I propose enlisting the services of a friend or neighbour to act as your “decoy,” since you won’t feel pressured as you would with someone you pass on the street. Working with a skilled dog trainer may also assist you in troubleshooting and preventing your dog’s enthusiasm from becoming a source of aggravation.
PRO TIP: If you’re doing the above exercise with a friend or neighbour, swap who is approaching and withdrawing. You and your dog may alternate between standing motionless as they approach you to say hello and approaching to greet. They may turn and go away if you’re sitting motionless as they approach and your dog becomes extremely eager. This is an excellent approach to generalize the behaviour and practice impulse control with your dog. Reward your dog for being calm and not barking when a stranger approaches.
Your dog may be barking because it has previously gotten them what they wanted. I appreciate your focus. Alternatively, they may have their retrieve toy tossed for them. “Toss the ball, toss the ball, toss the ball! Toss the ball around!” This style of barking may be aggravating – believe me, I’ve experienced it. I have a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and she can be a handful at times.
Demand barking is often derived from enthusiasm barking, which has developed into our dogs learning how to teach us humans. By association, they’ve learned that if they bark, we’ll typically look at them. When dogs bark, we may mistakenly toss their toy for them, successfully reinforcing the bark. If only our canines weren’t so clever! This implies that if they’re begging for your attention, staring them in the eyes and saying NO is effectively giving them what they want. You paid attention to them, even if it was negative attention in your thinking.
Ignoring the bark may work for your dog’s demand barking (if you can stand being barked at for a long), but it’s generally better to teach your dog ahead of time and show him what works rather than having him bark in the first place. Let’s have a look at how to do this.
How to Teach Your Dog Not to Demand Bark
I’ve seen demand barking occur during dog-dog play in certain circumstances, when one dog barks at another to encourage them to play. In such cases, I just transfer the barking dog to a more engaged companion or provide them with something else to do, such as a brief training session or an interactive toy.
Consider what your dog is requesting when he or she starts barking at you. Make a strategy to teach a new behaviour that is rewarded with your attention if it’s your attention. It’s difficult to pin down an incompatible behaviour to barking since a dog might bark while doing other things. It’s crucial to practice your timing!
For example, instead of barking, you’d prefer your dog to sit for attention. If they come up to you, teach ahead of time by asking for a sit before they start barking. Reward them abundantly with praise and attention after their behind touches the floor! Have an even larger praise celebration if your dog approaches and sits on its own. If you don’t have the chance to reward a peaceful sit and your dog starts barking for your attention, instruct them to sit to stop the noise.
Even requesting an incompatible behaviour to barking does not always cease the demand barking. Your dog may be overstimulated and unsure what to do with all of his or her extra energy. It may help them get more physical activity throughout the day while also offering enough of cerebral stimulation to keep their minds occupied.
When Demand Barking Is Warranted
Pay special attention to any barking or whimpering from small pups in the course of potty training – this might signal that they need to go outdoors to use the bathroom. You don’t want them to have an indoor potty accident and undo the hard work you’ve put into house training by having an indoor potty accident.
If adult dogs need to go outdoors to pee, they may bark to call your attention. When my dogs’ stomachs are disturbed, this happens to them as well. That form of demand barking was quite helpful in saving me from a nasty inside mishap and alerting me to the situation. Watch for any pacing or panting in their general body language – my dog has growled and whimpered at me before moving towards the door to signal she wants to go to the potty.
In other circumstances, what you may perceive as demand barking is really your dog’s anxiety over something. It may be anything as simple as a looming thunderstorm (our dogs can sense the change in barometric pressure before storms, or might feel the vibrations of distant thunder through the ground). When it comes to the context of barking, consider the big picture to narrow down what the underlying reason could be.
Because they are understimulated, bored dogs often bark. This kind of barking is generally monotonous and has a consistent pitch and tone. If left alone, a bored dog’s barking might linger for hours. Many dogs that bark out of boredom do it when their owners are gone, and many owners are unaware until a neighbour complains that their dog is barking out of boredom. The simplest answer to boredom barking is to provide your dog with suitable and safe activities to do when you’re at home and away.
Boredom barking may be mistaken for separation anxiety barking, and vice versa. Setting up a pet camera to observe your dog while you’re gone might help you figure out if they’re bored or barking out of worry. More information on how to use a webcam and how to identify whether your dog has separation anxiety may be found here.
How to Stop Your Dog’s Boredom Barking
Exercise Your Dog
Boredom may be avoided by doing enough physical activity. If you take your dog for a morning walk or jog, they are more likely to snooze throughout the day while you are at work. Physical activity doesn’t have to be restricted to scheduled walks; think of alternative activities to keep your dog active. This might involve fetch or hide-and-seek games, flirt pole activities, or chasing a Jolly Ball around the yard (an excellent outlet for herding breeds). Short clicker training sessions are another great method to develop your dog’s intellect while burning physical energy.
Provide Mental Enrichment and Brain Games
Your dog’s intellect, in addition to his body, needs exercise. Feed your dog engaging toys and work-to-eat puzzles during mealtimes. Go on a sniffari to mix up your walking routine! When you leave your dog alone at home, make sure they have safe and acceptable activities to do. This might include a plush KONG or a variety of chew toys.
Set Up a Safe Space for When Your Dog is Left Alone
While you’re gone, give your dog a peaceful place to rest. This not only prevents bored barking but also destructive chewing and your dog getting into potentially hazardous situations when alone at home. If your dog has been crate trained and likes spending time in his or her crate, use it. To offer your puppy a greater area to wander about, you might build up a bigger playpen or “puppy zone.” This post will teach you how to create a safe area for your dog.
Fearful and Reactive Barking
When they come across anything that disturbs or terrifies them, many dogs may bark. This is sometimes referred to as “aggressive” barking and is frequently a frightened reaction. Reactive barking caused by fear might occur as a result of a traumatic event or a lack of socialization as a puppy. Reactive barking might sometimes be the consequence of annoyance rather than fear.
The most prevalent problem I deal with private training clients is reactive barking when on leash (followed closely by separation anxiety). Many dog owners are ashamed to take their reactive dog for a walk because they are afraid of what may happen if their dog escapes or an off-leash dog approaches them.
Working with a professional canine behavior consultant or a veterinary behaviorist is the best way to handle leash reactivity and scared barking. When your dog is met with their “trigger” for barking, the idea is to adjust their emotional reaction. A certified professional will assist you in creating a training plan tailored to your dog’s needs and triggers, as well as walk you through each step so you can feel confident taking your dog for a walk. This type of behavior change necessitates:
- Understanding the body language of dogs
- Management of the environment
- Exercising exact classical and operant conditioning time
- Exercises that help your dog gain confidence
- Walking on a leash and managing a leash in an emergency
The worst thing you can do is punish your dog for barking if he or she is a reactive barker or barks out of fear. If you penalize a dog for responding to something because it terrifies them, you’re not solving the fundamental issue; in fact, you’re just adding gasoline to the fire.
What do you think your dog learnt if they bark at another dog across the street and you give them a leash correction to get them to stop? If you see a dog, your neck will be pulled (or a tightening of a choke or pinch collar). Bad things happen to me because of my dog. While these tactics may temporarily cease the barking, they have only succeeded in suppressing the barking rather than treating the fear.
In severe circumstances, you may wind up with a dog that “bite out of nowhere” since their lower-level warning signals have been suppressed. I cannot emphasize enough the need of working with a licensed canine behaviorist who will educate you how to control and alter your dog’s scared and reactive behavior. For both you and your dog, the possible implications of wrong and outmoded training approaches may be life-altering (in a bad sense).
Barking Due to Separation Anxiety
One of the most prevalent signs of canine separation anxiety is barking, whining, and wailing when left alone. Separation anxiety is a condition in which a dog gets concerned when separated from a certain person or individuals, and it may vary in severity. In more serious circumstances, a dog may damage itself while attempting to flee and locate their owner. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety are unable to control their behavior and are not behaving out on purpose.
Dog owners may find it difficult to control separation anxiety barking, particularly if they live near neighbors (such as in an apartment). It’s also sad for owners to witness their dog in such misery, and it might seem hard to leave the dog alone in many circumstances. Separation anxiety can be managed, so don’t give up! Luckily, there’s few choices to temporarily relieve what they’re feeling. Like a calming dog bed for instance. Businesses like Lucky Paws specializes in this one
How to Tell if Your Dog is Barking Due to Separation Anxiety
Using a pet camera, such as a Furbo Dog Camera or a Pawbo Camera, makes detecting whether your dog has separation anxiety much simpler. You can monitor what your dog does when they are left alone if you have video. What symptoms do they have, and how long do they have them? Do they seem to calm down while you’re gone? Do they behave normally for a period of time before beginning to bark? Are they barking for causes other than worry while they’re alone?
Treating your dog’s separation anxiety barking will be simpler and more effective if you have the aid and support of a licensed training expert and your veterinarian, much like with frightened and reactive barking (or veterinary behaviorist). Anti-anxiety medication can be extremely helpful in jumpstarting behavior modification and training in some cases, as well as providing much-needed relief to your dog. There are a plethora of non-prescription treatment options available. Your veterinarian and dog trainer can both assist you in determining what is best for your dog.
Barking Due to Old Age
As your dog gets older, you may find that he or she barks more often and for no apparent reason. The reason for this form of roaming barking might be a deterioration in your dog’s cognitive abilities. Canine cognitive dysfunction, sometimes known as “doggy dementia,” is a neurobehavioral condition that affects elderly dogs and cats. Consider it the canine version of Alzheimer’s disease. Your veterinarian can help you figure out whether your barking dog has cognitive impairment, what the best treatment choices are, and other things you can do to enhance your dog’s quality of life as they become older.
Increased barking episodes in dogs may be caused by a range of medical diseases and disorders. Pain (such as arthritis), blindness or deafness, high blood pressure (hypertension), or even a tumour or excessive fluid production surrounding the brain may cause dogs to bark.
When dealing with a dog showing excessive barking, the first step should be to consult with your veterinarian, particularly if it appears out of nowhere or is accompanied by other indicators such as changes in thirst, sleep/wake cycles, or the emergence of more aggressive tendencies.
Q&A: Navigating the World of Canine Barks
Why does my dog bark excessively?
Excessive barking can stem from various reasons, including boredom, anxiety, fear, territorial instincts, or a response to external stimuli. Identifying the specific trigger is crucial in addressing the behavior effectively.
How can I determine the cause of my dog’s barking?
Observation is key. Pay attention to the circumstances surrounding the barking episodes. Note the presence of strangers, other animals, or specific noises that coincide with the barking. Understanding the context helps pinpoint the underlying cause.
Can training help curb excessive barking?
Yes, training is a powerful tool to modify your dog’s behavior. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewarding quiet behavior and providing distractions, can be effective. Consistency and patience are essential components of successful training.
Are there specific breeds more prone to excessive barking?
Certain breeds, particularly those bred for guarding or alerting purposes, may be more predisposed to barking. However, individual temperament and environmental factors play a significant role. Proper training and socialization can help manage barking tendencies in any breed.
When should I seek professional help for my dog’s barking?
If your efforts to curb excessive barking prove challenging or if the behavior is causing distress to your dog or neighbors, consulting a professional dog trainer or behaviorist is advisable. They can provide personalized guidance based on your dog’s specific needs.