As much as pet owners can love their dogs, excessive barking can get on anyone’s nerves. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a phone conversation or watch a TV show at the end of a long day, than to have a dog bark consistently. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to alter this behavior.
Reasons Why Some Dogs Bark so Much
Barking is a way a dog communicates vocally. Just as some people never know when to close their mouths, some dogs are the same way. The first thing to do is to figure out why the dog is barking. Try to find any patterns.
Does the dog bark a lot during playtime or does the dog bark in a way to instigate play? Is the dog the kind who barks when hearing outdoor sounds? When the dog sees other dogs outdoors, does this cause barking? Once the reason for the barking is determined, steps can be taken to resolve the issue.
While a dog’s bark is a natural way for it to communicate, it is also partially a learned behaviour. For example if a dog elicits the response it wants from the barking then it has been rewarded. Dogs bark for many reasons, including:
- Separation anxiety
- Pain or discomfort
If the dog barks for attention and the owner yells at the dog, the dog has still received attention. Good or bad attention, the dog often doesn’t care which. If the dog barks because it wants to play and the owner throws the ball, the dog has received the desired response. It is being rewarded for its barking behavior. Other barking behaviours are:
- Dog barking when left outside or alone for extended periods of time.
- Dog barking whenever people pass the property on the street. They may not need to enter the property at all for the barking to occur.
- Dog barking as soon as owners leave the house
- Dog barking continuously to get owner’s attention
- When owners or neighbors are losing sleep due to overnight barking.
Understanding the reason why a dog is barking excessively is the first step to solving the problem.
How to Stop a Dog From Barking
Sometimes a dog will bark when it isn’t getting enough exercise or attention. Try giving the dog more interactive exercise or playtime. However, before beginning, the barking needs to be stopped. Verbally command the dog to be quiet and wait until the barking stops before interaction begins.
Praise the dog when he or she becomes quiet and then begin play or exercise time. Each time the dog begins to bark again, stop and repeat the above. Use this same technique if the dog begins to bark too much while playing. It may take some time to work, but, in the end the dog is being taught positive reinforcement for not barking.
If a dog barks a lot when it sees other dogs, it could mean that the dog isn’t socializing enough. Try taking him or her out around people and other dogs more often so he or she can get used to them. Other suggestions include putting the dog in another room where other dogs and people can’t be seen through the window or closing the blinds or curtains to obstruct the view.
If the dog tends to bark at outside noises, turn on a radio. Put the volume just loud enough to block out the sounds from outside.
Using Exercise to Prevent Excessive Barking
Exercise can be useful for dogs that bark due to boredom, separation anxiety or loneliness. Extra exercise can mean walking or playing games in the backyard, such as fetch.
Some breeds of dog are more prone to boredom and need more exercise. These are usually working breeds such as kelpies and cattle dogs. These dogs are best suited to large properties and farms, so owners that live in the suburbs with these breeds will have their work cut out for them. Both the owner and dog would benefit from several walks per day.
Walking stimulates a dog’s mind as well as physically, so this is a particularly beneficial activity. Dogs that have had plenty of exercise usually behave better at home and will snooze or sun bake quietly.
Using Toys and Playing
All dogs enjoy playing with their owners and well-socialized dogs enjoy interacting with other dogs. For owners that wish to play with their dogs, balls, frisbees and other dog toys designed for throwing are ideal.
If a dog thinks its owner wants to play with a toy, suddenly that toy becomes very appealing. When owners are gone during the day, this can be a lonely and boring time so rotating toys is important to minimize boredom.
If owners cannot manage the barking problem or suspect that the behaviour may be due to pain or a medical condition, veterinary care should be sought.
Using Training to Stop Excessive Barking
A well-trained dog is a delight to live with. If owners neglected to train their dog when it was young, then training may be more difficult. Some basic training techniques can be taught such as having to sit before being fed.
Daily training sessions will stimulate the dog and lessen boredom, loneliness and similar causes of problem behavior. Food and treats are good motivators to get a dog to perform for the owner, as are praise and toys. Local dog training classes can also be beneficial for more advanced training and to allow socialization with other dogs.
Praising a Dog For Good Behavior
It’s important when training a dog not to bark to be sure to give the dog lots of praise when he or she listens. Use verbal praise along with petting or hugging the dog. Most dogs love to please their owners so once the dog experiences the praise and reward for not barking, the excessive barking should begin to stop.
If the above solutions don’t work, consider placing the dog into an obedience class. Please keep in mind that some breeds of dogs are prone to barking. Excessive barking can be very annoying. With time and patience, a pet owner should be able to get the dog to learn to stop barking.