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Why Do Dogs Bark & How to Get Them to Stop?

Barking is a natural behaviour for dogs and understanding the reasons behind it can help dog owners address any issues that may arise.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Dogs bark as a means of communication, expressing various emotions and needs to their owners and other dogs. It’s important to address barking issues appropriately to ensure a harmonious relationship between the dog and their human family.

Evolution of Barking in Dogs

The domestication of dogs from their wild ancestors led to the development of barking as a form of communication. Barking provided dogs with evolutionary advantages, such as alerting humans to potential threats and strengthening the bond between dogs and their human companions.

Communication through Barking

Dogs use barking as a way to communicate a range of emotions and needs. By understanding the different types of barks, dog owners can better respond to their dog’s needs:

  • Alerting or warning barks: Used to signal potential threats or changes in the environment
  • Attention-seeking barks: A way for dogs to gain their owner’s attention
  • Boredom barks: A result of dogs not receiving enough stimulation or exercise
  • Anxiety or fear barks: A response to stress, fear, or uncertainty
  • Playful barks: Expressing excitement and a desire to play
  • Territorial barks: Asserting dominance or defending their territory

Reasons for Barking

arking is a natural form of communication for dogs, but the reasons behind it can vary widely. Understanding why dogs bark is crucial for addressing unwanted barking behavior effectively. Here are some common reasons for barking in dogs:

  • Alerting or warning: Dogs will bark to warn their owners of potential threats, such as strangers or other animals.
  • Attention-seeking: Barking may be a way for a dog to gain their owner’s attention, especially if they feel neglected.
  • Boredom: Dogs who are not provided with enough mental and physical stimulation may bark out of boredom.
  • Anxiety or fear: Barking can be a response to stress, fear, or uncertainty in a dog’s environment.
  • Playfulness: Excited or playful dogs may bark during playtime.
  • Territorial Behaviour: Dogs may bark to assert dominance or defend their territory from perceived threats.
  • Environmental Factors: Loud or sudden noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks, can trigger barking in dogs. Interactions with other dogs or animals can cause barking, especially if the dog is not well-socialized.

Different Breeds and Barking

Some dog breeds are known for being more vocal than others, while others are relatively quiet. Factors that contribute to breed-specific barking include size, temperament and the original purpose of the breed. For example, herding breeds like Border Collies may be more likely to bark when working or playing, whereas breeds like the Basenji are known for their relatively quiet nature.

Health Issues and Barking

Increased barking in dogs can sometimes be a sign of underlying health issues, manifesting either as a direct symptom of physical discomfort or as a behavioral response to the stress or confusion caused by illness. Dogs experiencing pain from conditions such as arthritis, dental issues, or injuries may resort to barking as a way to express their discomfort. This can become more noticeable during activities that exacerbate their pain, such as moving or eating. Similarly, dogs dealing with sensory impairments like hearing or vision loss might bark more frequently due to the frustration or disorientation associated with these challenges. In older dogs, cognitive dysfunction syndrome, akin to Alzheimer’s in humans, can lead to confusion and changes in behavior, including increased vocalization. Health issues affecting hormonal balance, such as thyroid problems, can alter a dog’s mood and behavior, potentially leading to more frequent barking. Neurological disorders that affect the brain or nervous system can also cause unusual behaviors, including excessive barking, due to altered perceptions or cognitive function. Additionally, infections that cause discomfort, such as ear infections, or systemic illnesses that increase a dog’s thirst or hunger, like diabetes or Cushing’s disease, can lead to vocalizations as the dog attempts to communicate its needs or discomfort.

When health-related concerns are suspected to be the cause of a dog’s excessive barking, it’s essential to seek a veterinarian’s guidance for proper diagnosis and treatment. Addressing the medical issue often helps reduce or resolve the barking. Treatment may be complemented by environmental adjustments and, in some cases, behavioral therapy to help the dog cope with symptoms and improve its overall well-being.

Controlling and Managing Barking

Controlling and managing barking in dogs involves understanding the reasons behind the behavior and applying strategies tailored to address those specific causes. Here’s a comprehensive approach to managing barking:

First, identify the triggers for your dog’s barking. This could be due to environmental stimuli, boredom, attention-seeking, fear, territorial behavior, or even underlying health issues. Once the triggers are identified, you can implement targeted strategies.

For attention-seeking barking, it’s important to avoid reinforcing the behavior. This means not responding with attention, play, or treats when your dog barks for no apparent reason. Instead, reward quiet behavior and teach your dog to communicate in other ways, such as using a bell for going outside.

If your dog barks out of boredom or loneliness, increasing physical exercise and mental stimulation is key. Regular walks, playtime, and interactive toys can keep your dog engaged and reduce the likelihood of boredom-induced barking.

For dogs that bark at environmental stimuli, like passing cars or strangers, desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques can be effective. Gradually exposing your dog to these triggers in a controlled manner and rewarding them for remaining calm can help reduce reactive barking.

Territorial barking can be managed by limiting your dog’s view of the outside world through strategic fencing or window coverings and by training your dog to respond to commands like “quiet” or “enough.” Positive reinforcement should be used to reward compliance.

Fear-induced barking requires addressing the underlying fear. This might involve creating positive associations with the feared object or situation through treats and praise or seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for more severe cases.

For dogs with separation anxiety, it’s important to make departures and arrivals low-key to reduce anxiety and gradually acclimate your dog to being alone. This might involve leaving your dog alone for short periods and gradually increasing the duration.

In cases where barking is due to health issues, consulting with a veterinarian to address the medical condition is crucial. Pain management, treatment of infections, or addressing other health concerns can significantly reduce discomfort-related barking.

Consistency in training and management is key. Using a calm and firm command to cease barking, rewarding quiet behavior, and ensuring all family members follow the same guidelines will help reinforce the desired behavior.

For persistent or problematic barking, seeking the assistance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can provide personalized guidance and more advanced training techniques to manage the barking effectively.

Implementing these strategies requires patience and consistency, but over time they can significantly reduce unwanted barking and contribute to a more peaceful environment for both the dog and its owners.

What Should You Do if Your Puppy is Barking?

If your puppy is barking, it’s important to first identify the reason behind the barking and then address it appropriately. Here are some steps to follow when dealing with a barking puppy:

  1. Determine the cause: Understand why your puppy is barking. Common reasons include fear, attention-seeking, boredom, hunger, or the need to go potty.
  2. Address the need: If your puppy’s barking is due to a specific need, such as hunger or the need to go potty, address that need promptly.
  3. Teach the “quiet” command: Train your puppy to stop barking on cue by using the “quiet” command. When your puppy starts barking, say “quiet” in a firm but calm voice. As soon as they stop barking, reward them with a treat and praise. Repeat this process consistently to reinforce the desired behaviour.
  4. Ignore attention-seeking barking: If your puppy is barking to seek attention, do not engage with them while they are barking. Instead, wait for a break in the barking and then reward your puppy with attention and praise. This helps to teach them that quiet behaviour is rewarded.
  5. Provide sufficient exercise and mental stimulation: Ensure your puppy has enough physical activity and mental enrichment to prevent boredom-induced barking. Interactive toys, puzzle feeders and regular play sessions can help to keep your puppy engaged.
  6. Socialization: Expose your puppy to a variety of situations, people & animals to help them feel more comfortable in different environments and reduce fear-based barking.
  7. Positive reinforcement: Always reward your puppy for appropriate behaviour and remaining quiet in situations where they might typically bark.
  8. Seek professional help if needed: If your puppy’s barking becomes excessive or problematic, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviourist for guidance and support.

Remember, consistency and patience are essential when addressing a barking puppy. By understanding the cause of the barking and employing appropriate training techniques, you can help teach your puppy when it is acceptable to bark and when they should remain quiet.

Should You Use a Bark Collar?

Bark collars are a controversial tool designed to discourage excessive barking. While some people find them effective, others argue they can cause unnecessary discomfort to the dog. Before considering a bark collar, it’s essential to explore alternative methods, such as training and environmental modifications.

What Not to Do

When addressing your dog’s barking, it’s important to avoid the following:

  • Punishment: Punishing your dog for barking can cause fear and anxiety, which may make the problem worse.
  • Ignoring the issue: Failing to address your dog’s barking can lead to an escalation in the behavior.
  • Encouraging barking inadvertently: Be aware of how your actions may reinforce barking, such as giving your dog attention when they bark.
  • Inconsistency in training: Consistency is crucial when training your dog, as inconsistent responses may confuse them.

Legal Consequences of Uncontrolled Barking

Uncontrolled barking can lead to legal issues, such as noise ordinances and potential fines. Dog owners may also face liability issues if their dog’s barking causes harm or distress to others.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you’ve tried various methods to control your dog’s barking without success, it may be time to seek professional help. A professional dog trainer or animal behaviourist can provide personalized guidance and support to address your dog’s barking issues effectively.

Bark Information by Breed

Are you trying to find out how much a particular breed barks? See below for detailed barking information on all of the most popular breeds.

Why Do Dogs Bark & How to Get Them to Stop?