­­Why does my dog bark so much?

Three dogs lying on the sidewalk one is barking

Barking is normal for dogs, and you shouldn’t expect dogs not to bark. Barking helps dogs express their emotions. However, excessive barking can be annoying and can also mean something is disturbing your dog, or it may have behavior problems.

Barking is a way of commutation for dogs. A dog owner would usually be pleased when a dog barks as it lets them know when someone is approaching their house and lets them know if they want or need something.

a woman having a conversation with her dog

Dogs that get rewards and always get what they want from barking will use that to their advantage. Dogs that will bark for people’s attention will start to bark for food, walks, and to go to the dog park. It is important to teach your dog to stop when told, so you can teach them other ways of getting attention, such as sitting or telling them down.

Most owners will be able to tell the difference between each bark. For example, owners can tell when it is a bark for going out for a walk, a bark for food, or a bark for wanting to return home. If you want to reduce how much your dog barks, then it is important for you to learn why they are barking.

It will take time to get your dog to stop barking. Unfortunately, they will only partially stop barking. Would you expect a human to stop talking altogether? You want to decrease how much they bark, not completely stop the dog from barking. Always remember that some dogs are more prone to barking than others. These dogs are known as “barkers,” and it may be harder to decrease their barking.

Why dogs bark excessively

Territorial barking

Some dogs bark at people, other dogs, and animals when they are within or approaching the dog’s territory. Your dog’s territory includes his home and the surrounding areas and any places they explore or associate strongly with the owner, like your car, the route you take them on walks, or other places where you spend a lot of time. They are just defending territory.

Alarm barking

If your dog barks at every noise and sight regardless of the context, they are alarm barking. Dogs can alarm bark anywhere, not just in their territory. Dogs engaged in alarm barking usually have stiffer body language than when dogs bark to greet others, and they may move or pounce an inch or two each time they bark.

Greeting barking

Your dog may be greeting barking if they bark when they see people or other dogs. Their body will be relaxed and excited, and their tail will wag. Dogs that bark when greeting people or other dogs may also whine.

Two dogs cheek to cheek mouths open mid bark

Compulsive barking

These dogs love the sound of their own bark and want everyone else to hear it. So they will bark repetitively, like a broken record. Often compulsive barking is accompanied by running in circles or along a fence line.

Socially Facilitated barking

Some dogs excessively bark when they hear another dog barking. This type of barking appears in a social context, even from a distance, neighbor dogs, or dogs in the park.

Frustration-induced barking

Most dogs excessively bark only when placed in a frustrating situation, such as when they cannot play with their friends or when confined or tied up, so their movement is restricted.

Other problems that cause dog’s barking

Illness or injury

Dogs may sometimes bark because of an injury or a painful condition. Before you try to resolve your dog’s barking alone, please take it to a veterinarian to get checked.

Separation anxiety barking

Excessive barking because of separation anxiety will only happen when the owner is out, and the dog is left alone. You will see other signs of separation anxiety or at least one other sign of it, like pacing, destruction, depression, or other signs of distress.

Loneliness or boredom

Dogs left alone for long periods will get bored and sad. So they will bark to show a sign of their displeasure.

Attention seeking

Dogs bark to communicate with their owners. They use barking to communicate a desire for something such as going outside to play, food, or get a treat.

What to do to stop excessive barking?

The first step towards reducing your dog’s bark is finding the reason why they are barking in the first place. These questions will help you accurately decide which type of barking your dog is doing so you can find the best way to address it.

  • When and where does the barking occur?
  • Who and what is the target of the barking?
  • What things, objects, animals, or places trigger the barking?
  • Why is your dog barking?

Here are two methods to help stop barking:

When your dog is barking, say “quiet” in a firm and calm voice. Wait until they stop barking even if it is just for a breath. Give them a treat when they listen to you. Make sure never to reward them while they are still barking. Eventually, your dog will realize they get a treat when they listen to you staying quiet, so give them a delicious treat like chicken or peanut butter.

You can teach your dog to bark on command by rewarding them with treats when they bark and then use a different command, like “quiet”, while holding your finger to your lips. Practice these commands when your dog is calm; with practice, they will learn to stop barking on your command, even if they have the urge to bark at something.

  • Suppose your dog barks when alone. Tire them out before you leave. Take them for a walk or run, play ball or take them to the dog park before you go out. A tired dog is a quiet dog.
  • The longer a dog practices something, the more difficult it becomes to break the habit. So prevent problem behaviors before they become a part of your dog’s routine. Stop them before it becomes ingrained. Barking can give your dog an adrenaline rush, making the barking a pleasant experience for them. Allowing a dog to bark in certain situations, like when the mailman comes, may eventually make them aggressive in these situations.
  • Some medical problems can be the cause of excessive barking, including insect bites, brain disease, or chronic pain. Older pets may develop a form of canine senility that causes them to frequently bark. It’s best to go to a vet to get your dog checked out.

Once you know why your dog is barking, you can start working out ways to decrease it:

Dogs standing next to a fence barking

Territorial/alarm barking:

This barking is often motivated by fear, anticipation, or a perceived threat to their territory or people. This type of behavior can be lessened by limiting what your dog sees. For example, if they are in a fenced yard, use solid wood instead of chain fencing, and indoors, limit the access to windows or cover them with an opaque film. Make sure they can’t see out of the living room window.

Boredom/ Loneliness

If your dog barks while you are gone, you need to provide them with lots of activities and companionship to stop them from getting lonely or bored.

Bringing your outdoor dog inside will lessen the noise for the neighbors and is a lot safer for the dog while you are out as it stops the risk of theft, harassment, running away, or other dangers.

But, your dog will continue to bark inside if it feels alone or bored, so a good idea may be to get a dog sitter or even someone to walk your dog for an hour a day while you are at work, as this will stop them from being lonely all day.

Provide something for them to do while you are out. For example, give them toys, puzzle toys, or their favorite toy. Anything that will keep them occupied while you are out. These will keep them busy and eventually, they will go for a nap.

A barking dog should be brought inside at night. Dogs will quickly learn to sleep quietly at night and it is extra protection for the family members.

Doggy daycare two or three times a week is also a good idea if this is the reason your dog barks excessively.

Greeting barking

To stop barking every time you come home or the doorbell rings, you need to teach your dog other behaviors. You can train your dog to go to a spot and stay when the door opens. It is best they can see the door but aren’t too close to it. Pick a spot and get your dog to go to it and stay, but don’t touch the door yet. Make sure to use treats and praise them.

Once your dog is doing it reliably, start opening the door while they are at their spot.

When your dog has trained to stay in the spot, get someone to come in the front door, at first your dog will break from the spot but with time and practice and they will learn to stay at their spot when the door opens and a guest comes in.

Refrain from praising your dog for barking when you come in; you have to wait until they sit silently and stop barking before you pet them. Don’t pet them or give them direct eye contact until they stop.

Attention-seeking barking

Never reward your dog for barking; if your dog barks when they want water, and you fill its bowl, you have then shown them how to get what they want. Instead, find ways to have vocal communication with your dog. Like tie a doorbell to the door and teach them to ring it when they want to go out and bang their bowl with your foot so eventually, they will tap it with their nose when they want water.

If they bark and you can see their bowl is empty, do something else first before filling it, so they think their bark didn’t have an effect.

Remember not to scold your pet, that is also giving them attention. Instead, ignore them and what they want until your dog stops barking.

Separation anxiety/ compulsive barking

These are both hard to treat and should be handled by a veterinary behaviorist or certified applied animal behaviorist. In addition, compulsive barkers and separation anxiety barkers may need drug therapy until they learn other behaviors to cope.

Socially frustrated barking

Dogs are social animals, so it is normal to bark when other dogs do. However, you can lessen this by keeping your dog indoors while other dogs are barking, playing music to drown out the noise, and distracting them with treats and toys.

Dog at window barking

Ways to overcome barking

Never yell at a barking dog, your dog will think you are joining in. Do not discipline a bark with your own bark. Instead, speak calmly and firmly when stopping your dog from barking.

Teach them the word “quiet”. Dogs understand a lot but telling them to “Shut up” is a bit sophisticated for them to understand. So instead, you can teach them the command “quiet” and reward them when they go silent.

Ignore the dog bark; if your dog is barking to get your attention, then you need to ignore them for them to learn. They will soon realize their manipulation isn’t working and when they stop barking, offer them praise. Dogs learn quickly.

Desensitize your dog to the stimulus; if your dog barks excessively at the mailman daily, give them a firm, quiet command and reward them when they stop.

Keep your dog tired. Getting sufficient exercise and playtime is important for a dog to be quiet. Take a long walk before you go out for long periods. Have a trip to the dog park, and play “fetch” throughout the day. Keeping your dog happy and tired is the best way to stop excessive barking.

If everything you try fails, hire a certified professional dog trainer. If your efforts are unsuccessful, be bold and turn to a professional trainer. The training sessions will teach your dog the correct behaviors and give you some quiet time.

Make sure to ask your vet in you have medical concerns. For example, if your dog is barking intensively to get out to pee, it could have a bladder problem. So never hesitate to seek medical help.

Barking dog walking with a human

Bark collars, should you use one?

There are a number of products on the market that can help stop your dog from barking quickly, such as bark collars that go on your dog, can deliver audible or ultrasonic corrections to your dog, but they only work on some dogs.

Shock collars that deliver a painful jolt to your dog can cause pets harm and make most dogs aggressive, primarily if they associate the person or animal they are barking at with the pain.

Off-collar can work well if your dog barks at set areas. Bark-activated sprayers or noisemakers switch on when they pick up on marking, spraying water at your dog or emitting an irritating sound. These can sometimes break your dog from barking in a specific area but are best used at home so you can reward your dog for stopping barking.

Citronella spray collar

A humane alternative for the shock collar is the citronella spray bark collar; it uses a burst of citronella spray to reduce the dogs’ bark, as dogs don’t like the smell of citronella. In addition, the ‘shh’ sound and sensation will help to startle them, stopping the barking.

Stress-reducing collar

This collar contains soothing dog herbs and can help stressed dogs calm down and reduce anxious barking. Keep in mind these are not for all dogs.

Training

There are lots of tips and tricks to train your dog to stop excessive barking; here are a few key commands to control the barking:

  • “Recall” is useful to call your dog away from barking triggers, such as a doorbell or a neighbor’s dog outside.
  • “Speak” teaches your dog to communicate by “speaking” instead of barking.
  • “Settle” or “Quiet” helps your dog calm down on cue if said correctly.
  • “Sit/stay.” It is useful for keeping your dog occupied while another dog is barking outside.

What not to do

Do not encourage your dog to bark at sounds, such as pedestrians or dogs passing by your house, birds outside the window, children outside playing, or car doors slamming, by getting up and saying “who’s there?” and looking out the window.

Do not give your dog into trouble for barking at certain sounds like children playing or the car door slamming, and then not give them into trouble for barking at other sounds like people at the door; you have to be consistent.

Unless a certified applied animal behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist has advised you otherwise, do not use punishment if your dog is barking out of fear and anxiety it may make them feel worse, leading to increased barking

Never use a muzzle to keep your dog quiet for long periods or when you are not actively supervising them. Dogs will not be able to eat, drink or pant to cool themselves while wearing a muzzle, so making your dog wear one for long periods is inhumane.

Never tie your dog’s muzzle with rope, cord, rubber bands, or anything else. Doing this is dangerous and painful for the dog and completely inhumane.

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