We all know that barking comes with owning a dog. Barking is an integral part of communication for dogs. In fact, many people are happy about the fact that barking is a great way of alerting owners to potential intruders or dangerous situations. But when is barking something to be concerned about? Dogs have numerous barks-recognising these differences is vital in reducing an excessively barking dog.
- You can modify or correct your dog’s barking behaviour. If you can understand and recognise the kind of bark your dog is exhibiting, correcting the behaviour is far easier.
- Understand why your dog is barking. There are 5 main types of barking behaviour and communication your dog may exhibit: howls, growls, grunts, whines, and barks.
- Choose a cue word to use in undesired barking situations. Generally, shouting at your dog with a command such as “no!”, can be confused by your dog as you joining in with the barking, and cause more barking to ensue. Instead, choose a word such as “enough” and keep your tone mild and non threatening, or loud. Keep using this method, using the same word and the same tone of voice.
- Patience is key. You are not going to change your dog’s behaviour overnight. Do not lose patience with your dog and become angry. Instead, reward him when he exercises the correct behaviour. Positive reinforcement is always far better than punishment.
- Is your dog barking out of distress? If this is the case, there are several ways to solve the problem. Howling, growling, and whining are all sounds of distress or negative communication that your dog is trying to convey. If your dog is, for example, afraid of strangers, you can modify the behaviour the by having strangers approach the dog from relatively far. Strangers, over time, may come closer to the dog, to a point where they can throw a treat to the dog. This reward behaviour will show the dog that strangers are not to be feared.
- Barking out of boredom. Dogs that are not stimulated enough, certain breeds especially, are likely to bark excessively due to boredom. Make sure your dog is getting enough interaction, exercise, and, if you are unable to provide enough of this due to work schedules or similar, make sure your dog has toys that provide stimulation and minimise boredom.
- Separation anxiety. This is common for many dogs. Owners often get annoyed with dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. It’s no surprise though and completely understandable. Especially when you come home home to find furniture destroyed, or neighbours leaving notes of complaints. Your dog needs to realise that when you leave the house, you are not going to be away forever. You can modify this behaviour by modifying some of your own habits. For example, get your keys and whatever else you may get when you are on your way out, but do not go out. Instead, sit down on the sofa and read a book/watch TV. Over time, go out for short periods. As your dog starts to relax, make these periods longer. The key here is to convince your dog you will not leave him and you will always come back.
- Consult with an animal behaviourist. If you feel as though your techniques are not working, bring in the assistance of an animal behaviourist. They can assess the needs of your dog, as well as provide valuable advice as to how you can stop excessive barking using proper techniques and exercises.
The Bottom Line
Unlike humans, barking is the only way a dog can communicate how he is feeling, whether it may be loneliness, fear, boredom or anxiety. Your dog is not intentionally trying to misbehave, but rather trying to communicate a feeling of distress or discomfort. Learn his language and, with patience and love, you can fix excessive barking problems.