You love your dog. They are a wonderful companion, fun to be with, and sensitive to your needs. However, you might have a barker. Whether your neighbours are complaining or you simply can’t stand listening to that non-stop yap, it’s time to do something about it.
Before you decide it’s simply bad behaviour, you’re going to need to determine what kind of barking your dog is engaging in. You may not have a dog problem, you could have a security issue.
Why is My Dog Barking?
Dogs bark for a number of reasons, as it one of their primary forms of communication.
- Alarm! Dogs protect their established territory from perceived threats. Is the barking happening when the postman comes by or your trash is collected? Maybe there’s a growl and whine included. While barking an alarm at every leaf that flies by the window is excessive, encouraging your pet to notify you when a stranger is at the door can be a great theft deterrent.
- I want Attention! Normally a short, sharp bark it lacks the emotion behind the alarm bark. A puppy might do this if they are alone and simply want somebody to play with. They expect a response to the bark. If you own a breed like a Siberian husky and you’re experiencing more of a howl than a bark, it’s a completely social behaviour.
A leftover from their distant wolf ancestry, the howl lets the pack know where they are, how they’re feeling and simply wants reinforcement that the dog is not alone in the world by getting a howl in response. Neither the attention bark or the howl indicate your dog is in any distress. They are being sociable.
- Bored: If your dog isn’t getting enough walks, ball chasing and stimulation they may sit in the middle of the room, look at you, and start yapping. They have a bunch of pent up energy and can’t figure out what to do with it, so they bark.
What Can I Do to Make Them Stop?
If your dog is bored, the solution is up to you. They need to get tired out through active play. Try extending your walk, taking up a little jog, creating playdates with other dogs and even encouraging other family members to help you wear all that energy down. Your dog will come home and want to nap, not simply make a lot of noise.
If your canine is barking to grab your attention, each time that you drop everything and come running to ask what is wrong, it reinforces the bad behaviour. You will need to work on rewarding the puppy for good actions by offering treats when they are quiet. If you wait out the attention barking, and then offer a new game or diversion when they are quiet, they will learn to ask for fun by coming to your side and using their soulful eyes for help–not their bark.
If you want to support the alarm barks, you will need to reward or ignore for each incident in a consistent manner. If the dog is alarming each time a cat walks by, you will want to call them away without offering praise. Offer a “good boy” and pat or treat when they alarm for strangers entering the front garden.
The wild yapping and constant crying that is associated with true separation anxiety is truly a disorder that requires attention. Your dog achieves a panic state when left alone that they are unable to overcome. As time goes by, it can become even worse resulting in a dog that spends large amounts of time living in fear. If you have concerns that the excessive barking and crying goes beyond boredom and see the dog becoming more fearful, it’s time to contact a dog behaviourist or your local vet for professional assistance.
When consistent play and positive reinforcement are not helping your dog avoid barking, reach out to a qualified dog behaviourist for more tips and guided application of other training aids like electronic collars. Improper use of more stringent measures can cause more harm than help, so professional assistance is recommended at that time.