How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Barking?
It is completely normal for dogs to bark in different situations. It is one of many ways dogs use to communicate. However, if you do find your dog barking excessively, it may be a sign of anxiety or other behavioural issues. Here are some tips on how to deal with excessive barking.
Barking is normal
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, including greeting people and other dogs, seeking attention, warning of danger, protecting goods or property, and communicating that they are hungry, thirsty, or need exercise. Barking is an issue when it is excessive or occurs in unwanted situations causing disturbance and distress to your family or neighbours. Excessive barking can signal that your pet’s physiological needs are not being addressed or an underlying behavioural issue.
My dog is barking uncontrollably, which is upsetting my family and neighbours. What do I do?
The first step in resolving this issue is to determine the underlying cause of your pet’s barking. When you have a better understanding of your pet’s requirements and behaviour, you can try to decrease or eliminate the behavioural patterns.
Potential causes of your dog’s excessive barking include:
- The basic needs of your dog are not being met.
- Your dog is terrified or anxious.
- Your dog is barking for attention.
- Your dog barks to warn you.
Barking because their basic needs are not being met.
Dogs will bark excessively if they are hungry, thirsty, lack mental stimulation, or are not receiving enough exercise. If your dog is barking excessively, have a look at their entire daily routine. Ensure that their nutritional needs are addressed and that they always have access to clean water. Your dog should get enough exercise and have daily access to the outdoors. Boredom from a lack of mental stimulation and physical activity is a major cause of excessive barking. Boredom is a typical underlying cause of nuisance barking in dogs. Spending quality time with your pet daily is important.
If your pet is barking because it is terrified of something, try to remove the source of the fear or decrease your pet’s exposure to the circumstance that is generating anxiety. If your pet is barking at passers-by via the window, block access to the window or cover it up. If your dog barks at other walkers and dogs, try walking in quieter places where it is less likely to encounter other people and pets.
You can try to desensitize your dog to triggers that you believe startle or fear your dog, prompting them to bark. If your pet is afraid of the sound of trucks or machinery, play a recording of the sound very gently at home when the pet is comfortable and reward them with praise and goodies if they do not bark.
If your pet barks excessively when left alone, it is most likely they are suffering from separation anxiety. Consider utilizing a doggy day care, a dog sitter, or a dog walker to decrease the length of time your pet is left alone. Measures that may assist a pet suffering from separation anxiety include:
- Training them to be alone; initially only leaving the room for very short periods of time to gradually increasing the amount of time pet is left alone in the house.
- Leaving an item of your clothing with your pet.
- Leaving the radio on.
- Putting food and treats in puzzle feeders, treat balls or Kong toys to keep your pet occupied.
- Take your pet for a long walk before being left alone so that they have gone to the toilet and will be tired after exercise.
Never punish a pet that is barking because they are frightened or anxious, as it is likely you will exacerbate behavioural issues. You may need to seek advice from a clinical animal behaviourist if your pet is having anxiety issues.
Barking to Seek Attention
Dogs who have learned to grab your attention by barking will continue to do so. Giving them the desired attention rewards and reinforces the behaviour, and the cycle continues indefinitely. To put a halt to this undesirable behaviour, you must:
- Ignore your dog when it barks.
- When they have stopped barking and have calmed down, give them your attention, praise, and goodies.
You might have to turn away or leave the room until they stop barking. They will learn that when they are quiet and comfortable, they receive attention and goodies, and that barking is an unrewarded behaviour. When your dog realizes that barking for attention is futile, he or she will eventually cease. Ignoring barking behaviour may initially make the problem worse before it improves, so you may need to notify your neighbours.
Barking to Warn/Alarm
Many dogs will bark automatically to warn or frighten their owners. Someone may have arrived at the house, or there may be an odd noise outside. If your dog appears to be barking excessively in these situations, you can try to train them to stop. The training goal is to get your dog to stop barking on command:
- Your dog will need to become acquainted with a vocal signal such as “Silent” and correlate it with something nice. When your pet is quiet, calm, and relaxed, say the command word “Quiet” calmly and offer your dog praise and prizes.
- Repeat this several times over a few days, and your dog will identify this term with being quiet, comfortable, and receiving praise and goodies.
- When your pet barks excessively to alert you that someone has knocked on the door, say “Silence,” and when your dog stops barking and calms down, give the necessary praise and rewards.
- As time goes on, you can minimize the number of goodies and only give vocal praise if your dog obeys the command.
You should also take these precautions if your pet is barking to be fed; always wait until your pet is calm and quiet before feeding. You are praising your pet and encouraging this unwanted behaviour if you feed them while they are barking.
Important points to remember
- Never discipline a dog who barks. You are quite likely to aggravate the problem.
- Never reward a barking dog; instead, wait until the pet has calmed down before giving it food, treats, or attention.
- You may need to consult a veterinarian. Your pet may have an underlying behavioral issue that requires referral to a behavior specialist.