Why do I have a barking dog?

And tips to stop your dog from barking.

Are you “that neighbor” with the barking dog? Do your neighbors tell you your puppy is barking when you leave? There are many reasons your dog barks.  Barking is one of the ways dogs communicate with each other and us.  It is a natural behavior.  That said, barking or excessive barking can not only be annoying to you, but noisy dogs can bother neighbors and others. If your dog barks too much, so much that it becomes intrusive, it’s time to address it. Maybe you don’t get enough sleep for yourself because of it? Or worse, maybe your neighbors aren’t getting enough sleep.

Barking puppy
Is your dog barking for a reason?

In this article, you will learn about your barking dog and some tips to stop excessive barking in dogs.

Why dogs bark

  • Dog seeks attention. And it works. One reason your dog won’t stop barking is that there is a reason to keep it up. Do you let your dog in or out each time he barks? Maybe you feed him? Even yelling and scolding can provoke more barking because of the attention you are giving them. The solution is to completely ignore your dog’s barks consistently so they learn that barking for attention doesn’t work. Make sure to evaluate ways that barking for attention may be okay. For example, our dog barks to get inside the house and we are glad to let her in. After all, there has got to be a way for her to ask to come inside, and barking is much better than scratching the door.  
  • Dog is barking at nothing. Could it be that your dog is bored and under-exercised? Dogs naturally have plenty of different activities to direct their energy such as howling, running, sniffing, barking, hunting, and chewing. However, if your dog has limited access to these activities, your dog may fill this gap by barking and howling more.
  • Dog is defending you. Or himself. Barking is a well-known defensive vocalization for dogs. If a stranger is approaching your dog’s home turf, he or she will bark to scare the intruder away. Problem is, there’s always someone approaching in our urban world. But to your dog is this okay? If your dog starts to bark whenever someone walks by your yard, and as these people pass by, your dog can proudly conclude that their barking successfully scared the intruder away. So it’s hard to stop this type of barking as it is seen as self-rewarding to the dog. 
  • Owner rewards barking. This happens unintentionally, of course. A common technique used to interrupt a dog’s barking is to call the dog over using food as a distraction. But what does this teach your dog? In order to get food, one must bark. Sometimes owners intentionally reward barking at specific moments, but then wonder why their dog barks at other times, too.
  • Dog is calling you. Barking is a form of distance communication. When a dog is separated from its herd (or owners), dogs may bark to call out to them. If your dog mostly barks when you are away, he may feel isolated. This can range from mild distress to a severe condition called separation anxiety. You can learn more about it here.
  • Dog is playful. Dogs often incorporate barking when they play with other dogs or people. This is completely normal, but if you think it’s not appropriate, you can interrupt their playtime for a few minutes each time the dog starts to bark. Dogs are smart and should quickly understand that they can continue to play only if he is not barking. Though, aren’t those barks the most fun part about playing?
  • Dog is herding. This applies especially when you have a herding dog breed. When dogs guard sheep, they use several ways to keep them contained. Barking is one of them. However, when there are no sheep, these dogs may start to herd people. A big part of why this happens is that the owner does not tire their dog on a frequent basis with long walks and games. Herding dogs are working dogs and have a lot of energy that needs to be used up positively.
  • Dog is fearful, stressed, and anxious. Barking is the easiest defense mechanism for dogs. A fearful or stressed dog can bark and thus raise his confidence and sense of security. In such cases, the barking isn’t your problem; the fear and anxiety are. Understanding the cause of the fear or stress may require help like setting up a webcam when you aren’t home so you can see what’s impacting your dog so much.
  • Dog is suffering from medical condition. While not the primary cause of excessive barking, please keep in mind that your dog might bark because they are ill. Mental disorders and the decline of senses in older dogs commonly cause dogs to express themselves through fervent barking. Visit your veterinarian if you do not see a clear cause for your dog’s increased barking, or if you struggle to solve the problem on your own.

Excessive barking is a very common dog behavior problem and identifying the cause is the main step toward stopping it. However, since barking can become a bad habit, it may linger even after the original cause has been dealt with.  

Tips to silence your barking dog

Training your dog to be quiet on command is also possible. A general increase of activity and bonding time with the owner can prove beneficial when dealing with most boredom-related problems. Training your dog takes patience and consistency.  Remember that your dog connects what just happened to the result.  If they do something you like, reward them. If they don’t, ignore that behavior. Positive reinforcement is more fun for you and your “noisy dog”. The more time you put into their training, the sooner they will become the good dog you know and love.

Remove the stimulus for barking

  • If your dog is barking at people walking in front of your house, try closing the blinds so they can’t see them.
  • If your dog is barking when in the yard, changing your fence material to a solid one so they can’t see. Or add plants that block their view.
  • If your dog is barking at the noise from your neighbors, try playing soothing music to reduce the outside sounds. Another thought is to keep them in other parts of the house where they can’t see or hear people walking around.

Train your barking dog when to bark

  • One method we found that worked really well to minimize barking was training our dog the command “Quiet”. When she would bark, we would give her the command “Quiet”. It would startle her and she would stop barking. We would immediately give her a treat and praise.
  • If your dog is barking to defend your house when people walk by, teach them it’s okay. Have a friend or friends that your dog doesn’t know walk in front of your house. When they start barking give the command “Quiet”. Reward them for being such a good dog. This will take time as when you aren’t home, they may resume their unwanted barking.
  • Your dog may also bark when meeting new people. We trained our girl to “Get your baby” when we would come home. That meant that she had to pick up a toy, any toy before we would greet her. This had 2 benefits. First, she couldn’t mouth us or our visitors. Second, she couldn’t bark with a stuffed animal or tennis ball in her mouth.
  • There are times when barking is a good thing.  Like when your dog needs to let you know they want out and back in the house.  We taught our dog to bark only once to go out or come in.  We did this by first teaching her to “Speak”.  When she barked once, we gave her a treat.  When she needed to go out, we led her to the door and gave her the command “Speak”, gave her a treat, and let her out.  We did the same to come back in.  Eventually, she connected that one bark to go out and come in is the behavior that worked for both of us.

A tired dog is a happy dog

  • Most dog owners we’ve talked to can’t figure out why their dog barks all the time. We ask them how much activity they give their dogs. This is the “Ah ha” moment for most noisy dog owners. Letting your dog direct their energy into running, swimming, and playing will tire them out. This means that when you leave the house, they will sleep deeply and won’t bark out of boredom. If your neighbors tell you your dog barks when you leave for work, that may be a sign that a good walk or a good game of fetch will tire them out before you leave.

If all else fails, seek the help of a licensed dog trainer. If it’s a medical condition, definitely see your vet right away. Hopefully this helps reduce or eliminate excessive barking. Your dog will know what barking is good and not good. And this will help make both you and your Pet Happy.

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