Dogs bark. Expecting a dog to never bark would be unrealistic. It’s a natural way that dogs communicate, and we should expect our dogs to bark at times. That said, excessive barking can be a serious problem, especially for those of us living with close neighbors who may not appreciate our pup’s dulcet tones. So, if you have an excessive barker, what can you do?
First make sure basic needs have been met. Does your dog need to potty? Is he hungry, thirsty, scared, alarmed or bored?
- Understanding why your dog is barking is key. If we jump to “correcting” or scolding our dogs for barking, we are not addressing the underlying reason for the barking. This can be a big problem. For instance, if your dog is barking because he is feeling anxious, scolding or using punishment (like shock or spray collars), will likely increase anxiety, not decrease it. That means it may stop the barking now, but it is likely to get worse over time. This can also lead to other behavioral issues because that anxiety is going to be expressed in other ways.
- Develop a training plan to address the cause.
- If you are at a loss, it may be time to call in a pro. Click HERE .
What are the most common reasons our dogs bark?
- Fear or alarm. If something startles your dog or seems threatening to them, they will often bark. Strangers, unusual objects, and unfamiliar or scary sounds are common causes of alarm or fear barking.
- Excitement/play. Your dog is likely to bark, for instance, if he wants to play with a dog he sees or to chase a squirrel that crosses his path.
- Anxiety. Separation anxiety or isolation distress can lead to excessive barking. Often, this is accompanied by inappropriate elimination and destructive or even dangerous behaviors.
- Boredom. Dogs who are left alone or are not given enough attention, exercise, and interaction may bark out of boredom.
- Attention seeking. Some dogs will bark to get something they want like food, attention, or play.
- For fear and excitement barking, try using the Engage/Disengage protocol.
- For Separation Anxiety click HERE
- For enrichment ideas to help resolve boredom, click HERE
- For fence running and barking at fences, check out Laura’s post HERE
- For alert barking and stranger danger, check out this great video series HERE
- For more reading, check out this great blog post HERE