Does your dog bark so much that you're starting to wonder if they're secretly trying to drive you crazy? You're not alone. Millions of pet parents deal with excessive barking on a daily basis. But why do dogs bark so much, and what can you do to stop it? In this article, we'll explore the different reasons why dogs bark and provide tips on how to reduce excessive barking.
Reasons for Dog Barking
Since barking is one of the main ways that dogs communicate, you’ll need to understand the underlying problem that is causing your dog to bark, because then you can address it and help your dog learn to express themselves in other ways.
Many dogs are territorial, so if a new person or animal new enters a space they consider theirs, they may begin barking. In these situations, your dog may even lunge or appear aggressive. They’re simply trying to communicate that a new person or animal is entering the territory. For most dogs, this barking is a natural instinct and their attempt to scare off the new person or animal, and keep themselves (and you!) safe from harm.
Many dogs will bark when something catches them off guard, such as a strange noise, a new object placed in a new location, or even a different smell. This is because dogs have a very strong startle reflex, which is a natural defense mechanism that helps them to avoid danger. When a dog is startled, their body releases adrenaline, which causes them to become more alert and responsive. In some cases, this increased alertness may lead to barking, as the dog tries to assess the situation and determine whether or not it is in danger.
Dogs require a certain amount of physical and mental exercise to stay healthy and happy. When dogs don't get enough exercise, they can become bored, frustrated, and stressed, which can lead to a variety of behavioral problems, including excessive barking. In addition to providing your dog with enough exercise, it is also important to create a stimulating and enriching environment for them, with plenty of toys and activities to keep them occupied.
Has your dog ever barked when his toy was just out of reach? Or when you were holding a treat just a little too long? Dogs tend to get vocal when they’re seeking attention and when they want something, like the ball that rolled under the couch, or a little one-on-one time with you.
Dogs often bark when they meet new people or animals. This happy, playful type of bark is usually accompanied by a wagging tail and happy, loose body language. Just like people, dogs can get excited, and this happy bark is their way of communicating that excitement.
Separation Anxiety/Compulsive Barking
While the most common reasons for excessive barking are natural instincts that can be easily addressed, there are also a few more serious medical or behavioral issues that could be the cause.
Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that causes dogs to become distressed when they’re separated from their owner. Many dogs with separation anxiety will become destructive and bark constantly.
Compulsive barking in dogs is a behavioral disorder that causes them to bark excessively, even when there is no apparent trigger. It is often accompanied by other compulsive behaviors, such as pacing, spinning, or circling. This is a relatively rare condition, but it can be very disruptive and frustrating for both dog owners and their neighbors. Dogs with compulsive barking may bark for hours on end, even when they are left alone or when there is nothing else happening in their environment.
Both of these are serious conditions and require working with a professional. For some dogs, medications, like anti-anxiety medication, may be prescribed by your veterinarian to ease your dog’s anxiety and help him feel better. While pet insurance plans are meant to cover medical needs, many pet insurance companies like Embrace have optional additional wellness plans that aren’t insurance, but can help budget for the cost of seeing these professionals.
Pain/Hearing Loss Can Cause Dog Barking
As dogs age, they may encounter hearing loss, pain from arthritis, or other conditions that cause them distress. When your dog is uncomfortable, they may begin barking to alert you to this. If you notice your dog is barking more than usual and you can’t quite narrow down the cause, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for an exam.
How to Stop a Dog From Barking with Training Techniques
When looking for techniques to train a dog to stop barking, it’s important to use positive reinforcement based techniques that address the specific reason causing your dog to bark. When it comes to excessive barking, we want to stop dog barking as soon as possible. Barking is self-reinforcing for many dogs, and the longer your dog barks, the harder it may become to train him to stop.
Teaching the Quiet Command
The core principle of dog training is to reinforce the behaviors that we want to see more often. When your dog associates a certain behavior with a reward, he’ll be more likely to repeat that behavior. When your dog is barking, you can tell them “quiet.” As soon as your dog is quiet, you want to reward that behavior with a treat. This will teach your dog the “quiet” command.
Ignoring Attention-Seeking Barking
While this can be difficult, if your dog is barking to get your attention, you actually want to ignore him completely! You may want to turn your back or even walk into a different room. Giving your dog any attention would inadvertently reward your dog for precisely the behavior you don’t want – the consistent barking. When dogs are attention-seeking, it’s important to not respond to them. You should only interact with your dog once they are quiet.
Managing the Environment to Stop Barking
Dogs may begin with their alarm barking when something startles them or comes into their territory. Many dogs like to lay near the front door or look out the window, but then they practice the barking behavior every time a squirrel or person walks by. Visual barriers, like closing doors and curtains, or even installing an opaque window cling film that blocks your dog’s view, are often the best and easiest options to prevent your dog from rehearsing this behavior.
Providing Physical and Mental Stimulation to Reduce Barking
If your dog barks excessively, try increasing their physical and mental stimulation, especially if your dog seems bored. Increasing your dog’s mental and physical exercise is not only good for keeping them occupied and preventing them from constantly barking, but it will improve their overall wellness and health, too! Things like daily walks and puzzle toys are easy ways to keep your dog occupied.
Desensitizing Your Dog to Barking Triggers
If your dog barks at specific triggers, like the mailman, the most thorough way to work with your dog to get them to stop barking is to desensitize him to that trigger. To do this, you would ensure that your dog sees the trigger from a very great distance and immediately reward your dog for noticing the trigger while not barking. In these training set ups, it’s essential to reward your dog frequently and keep a very big distance from the trigger. As you and your dog progress in the training, you can begin to slowly move the trigger closer.
If you have a puppy or young dog, it’s important to desensitize your dog to triggers as a routine part of his training plan, because this will help your dog be more confident and comfortable in the future and prevent barking at triggers. As puppies age, it’s important to have them on a consistent puppy schedule that involves not only the routine daily potty breaks or crate training but also a solid training plan.
Addressing Specific Barking Issues
Since a dog’s bark is his way of communicating about a specific issue, it’s important to recognize that each specific scenario needs to be addressed in a unique way for the best training outcome for your dog to prevent him from barking.
In these scenarios, if your dog has specific triggers, it’s best to prevent exposing him to them outside of training exercises. Manage the environment by limiting your dog’s view of potential threats by closing doors or curtains or using other visual barriers.
The good news is that if your dog is barking because he’s bored, that’s an easy fix! Try spending more one-on-one time with your dog engaging in activities together, like a daily walk or even a game like tug-of-war. Providing mental enrichment games like puzzle toys or challenging your dog’s brain with a fun training activity like learning a new trick is also another good way to strengthen your bond while keeping your dog occupied.
Dogs are social animals, so it makes sense that sometimes they just can’t help how excited they are to see another dog or person that they want to greet. Teaching your dog how to greet others politely by rewarding calm behavior can be a huge help to prevent barking in this situation. When greeting people or dogs, try to keep your dog calm and reward him with a treat when he is quiet.
If your dog is barking simply because he wants your attention, he may be bored, and you may want to increase his physical exercise and mental enrichment activities. In addition, it’s incredibly important to ignore attention-seeking barking behavior. In many cases, it may be more productive to teach your dog an alternative way to communicate that he wants attention – like putting his chin in your lap or by bringing you a ball to throw.
Separation Anxiety/Compulsive Barking
Dogs with separation anxiety will bark consistently when you aren’t near them, which isn’t healthy for your dog and can be annoying for your neighbors. Both separation anxiety and compulsive barking are serious conditions, and it’s important to seek help from a veterinary behaviorist or trainer.
For some dogs, it may be necessary for your veterinarian to prescribe medication to help your dog’s anxiety level so that he is more equipped to handle a training plan to address the issue. These costs can add up quickly, and pet insurance may help you budget. When you're asking yourself how much does pet insurance cost, it's important to remember that the price of peace of mind is priceless. Pet insurance can help you cover the unexpected costs of veterinary care, so you can focus on what matters most: getting your beloved furry friend back to their healthy and happy self. And when your pet is healthy and happy (and quiet!), you can enjoy all the moments that make life so special.
What Not To Do When Training a Dog to Stop Barking
Canine devocalization, or debarking surgery, is a surgery where laryngeal tissue is removed from a dog so they can’t make normal barking noises. This procedure is considered inhumane by many veterinarians since it completely rids your dog of natural behavior, so this is not something people should generally consider. Instead, work with a professional trainer or veterinary behaviorist to get to the root of your dog’s barking.
You may also want to avoid bark collars. These products typically deliver a shock to your dog’s neck or spray citronella into their nostrils. Neither of these are pleasant feelings for your dog, and in fact, these products specifically work by causing your dog pain or discomfort until they are quiet. These can cause your dog to become fearful or distressed.
So, How Do You Stop a Dog Barking?
As much as we love our dogs, “stop dog barking” might be at the top of your to-do list if you’re dealing with a dog who has a tendency to vocalize. Barking is a natural form of communication, and it’s important to understand your dog is simply trying to tell you something.
While in most cases your dog is likely barking as a part of their normal communication method, it’s important to understand serious underlying problems, like pain or separation anxiety, can also cause your dog to bark. It’s essential to work with a professional to determine the cause, and in these cases, pet insurance can come in handy to help cover some of these costs that can add up quickly!
Dogs are our furry companions who love us unconditionally. Let's show them the same love and compassion by understanding and addressing their barking needs. By helping our dogs to stop barking excessively, we can reduce their stress and anxiety, and improve our relationship with them. With patience, love, and professional help, we can help our dogs to live happy and healthy lives.