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If you are someone who feels like you’ve tried everything but your dog just won’t stop barking regardless of what you do. Well, this article will give you new approaches and ideas to finally remove this annoying behavior.
Barking is a natural behavior for dogs. It’s a method they use to communicate and the first step in understanding how to stop your dog from barking is to understand WHY they are barking, to begin with.
If we can isolate exactly what is making them bark, we can put in place a plan of action to slowly reduce and eliminate excessive barking.
In this article we discuss:
- The 8 reasons why dogs bark
- 7 simple steps to get your dog to stop barking
8 Reasons Dogs Bark Excessively
All dogs bark to some extent, but when barking becomes excessive there is always a reason. Common causes of excessive barking include excitement, boredom, anxiety, territorial, fear, compulsion, frustration, and attention-seeking behavior.
Let’s look into each of the 8 reasons your dog barks further so you can better identify your dog’s specific reasons, then we can stop it.
1.) Territorial/Protective Barking
A Response to an intruder, be it people or animals. If something gets close to their food, yard, or human, they will let everyone know.
This is usually one of the most common behaviors to develop because it is “self-reinforcing”. This happens because your dog is usually barking with the intention of making something go away, and it usually happens.
For example, when your dog is at a window barking at another dog or person, they end up walking away or leaving.
This person or animal was already planning on leaving and walking past but your dog does not know this! So your dog’s behavior becomes reinforced because they think their barking made them leave.
2.) Alarm Barking
This reason is due to dogs responding to specific sounds or sights. This could be after hearing a door shut, seeing the mailman, etc. It closely resembles territorial barking with some select differences.
With alert barking your dog is letting you know “there is something there!”. They don’t want that thing to go away, they are just giving you a heads up. The big issue here is with dogs do this with everything because it can be quite annoying.
3.) Attention-Seeking Barking
A response from your dog looking to get your attention or a reward of some sort. This is sometimes called ‘Deman Barking’ where your dog is demanding you play with them and give them attention.
4.) Greeting/Excitement Barking
A response from excitement to see you or other friends/dogs. This can cause dogs to bark to say ‘hello’. It’s usually not a confrontational bark and appears more relaxed.
Most of the time these kinds of vocal expressions are higher pitched as well. Whenever your dog gets excited you just come home or during playtime with you or other dogs and they let out a few barks here and there, it’s likely excitement barking.
5.) Fear/Reactive Barking
When dogs are fearful they become reactive. This can often lead to aggressive barking and is usually a sign of fear. Fear-based reactive barking can develop when puppies are not properly socialized at young ages.
In addition, this type of barking can develop after dogs experience a traumatic experience.
6.) Boredom/Loneliness Barking
A response from being under-stimulated and downright bored. With this kind of barking, you may have no idea this is happening until you are out of the house one day and your neighbors call to complain about your dog barking.
Many dogs who get bored to this extent can often bark for hours if not addressed.
7.) Compulsion Barking
A response for no real apparent reasons. Your dog likely shows signs of agitation, they may even hide and pace while barking. You can usually indicate this type of barking since there is no real trigger.
Compulsion barking is repetitive and dogs will often move in similar motions while they bark. For example, your dog may run up and down your backyard, or pace by a window in your home.
8.) Injury/Pain/Frustration Barking
A response to discomfort and a way for dogs to tell you they need help. Pain or injury barking can sometimes be a sad-sounding bark/yelp.
Frustration barking on the other hand can be misconstrued as demand barking. For example, if they want your attention and to play, but you are not giving them what they want, their attention-seeking bark can turn into frustration.
Another reason dogs will have frustration barking is when they get older. Senior dogs don’t move the ways they did when they were younger.
Instead of being able to walk up to the door to indicate they need out, instead, they may bark while lying down.
Furthermore, older dogs that experience ‘doggy dementia’ and other forms of cognitive degeneration may bark for no apparent reason.
Now that you have a general idea of the 8 reasons dogs bark, let’s dive into how we can curb excessive barking.
7 Steps To Stop Your Dog From Barking
Before you dive into the steps, I want to make it clear that getting your dog to stop this behavior will take time, patience, and consistency. You need to commit to making these changes and put in daily effort to reduce this behavior.
Depending on how long they have had this habit and how solidified the behavior is for your dog, will reflect the length of time it will take to stop your dog’s barking.
1.) Know How NOT To Respond
You should never be yelling or shouting at your dog when they bark. Your yelling stimulates them and can make them feel like you are ‘barking’ with them.
A dog will not understand you are yelling at them and will be more inclined to continue when you do this. Instead, your focus should be on training them a specific words like “silence” or “quiet”.
When your dog barks you say “Quiet” in a calm, firm voice. Then wait until they stop barking, and as soon as there is silence, praise them and give them a treat.
Remain calm, and ignore any barking if it’s for the purpose of getting your attention. Even saying “stop” rewards this behavior.
2.) Identify The Problem
There are 9 different reasons dogs bark, you need to first understand all of these reasons before you can curb the behavior. Look for key signs and triggers that are causing your dog to bark then you can move to step 3.
3.) Remove The Reinforcements & Reduce The Triggers
Now that you have an understanding of why your dog may be barking here are some specific steps you can take for each particular situation:
When it comes to territorial barkers we want to reduce their opportunity to defend and protect their territory. The best way to do this is to block their ability to see people and animals.
The more they bark at people and animals the more they self-reinforce this behavior. So removing this is the key to slowing down this behavior.
Once we are able to reduce their ability to protect their territory you can start to train them proper ways of behaving.
Alarm barking is similar to territorial barking. The motivation of their barking is to indicate to you someone is there. In order to reduce this behavior, we want to limit their ability to do this.
We can shut the blinds, make sure our yard has a fence fully blocked, etc.
When it comes to attention-seeking barking the trigger and reinforcing behavior begins with you. They want you to play with them and give them attention.
The problem is any time you look at them or say something, you are giving them what they want. This reinforces the behavior and makes things worse.
So, In order to reduce this, we want to make sure we are completely ignoring them when they do this. When they stop and are calm, that’s when we can give them the attention.
The most effective way you can get a dog to control their frustration and excitement barking is through obedience training. This is the best way to train your dog to control their urges of excitement.
What you do not want to do in this instance is give in to their pleading.
For example, if your dog sees another dog or person, and they start barking with excitement to go play and greet them, do not give in.
This is how you reinforce the behavior, instead get them to calm down, sit and be quiet before approaching.
In some cases, this will make dogs frustrated and get even more vocal. In that case, if they are not calming down, walk past and do not give in.
Among the reasons dog bark, reactive or fearful barking is a common issue and hard to deal with. In some cases, people don’t want to leave their homes with their dogs because they feel embarrassed that their pup will bark at everyone.
What you do not want to do if your dog barks out of fear or reaction is punish them. They are reacting in fear and punishing them makes things worse for them.
Take this scenario explained by Cathy Madson with Preventive Vet, “if your dog barks at another dog across the street and you give them a leash correction to make them stop, what do you think they learned? See a dog = neck gets yanked (or a tightening of a choke or pinch collar). Dog = bad things happen to me.”
So what can you do?
If you have a dog that is barking out of fear it’s best addressed with a professional dog behavioralist. The reason being is that small improper correction with this type of behavior can lead to extreme life-altering consequences (and not the good kind),
When it comes to bored dogs the solution is pretty simple. Increasing their daily physical activity, providing them with more mentally stimulating toys and games are all solutions to help.
If you can tire them out, give them more attention when they need it, they will ultimately become less bored.
Even so, you may be in a situation where your dog is barking when you are not home. Indicating boredom and loneliness. The problem with this is you cannot leave them unattended with toys and you are not there to play with them.
To help with this set up a safe space for your dog when they are left alone. This can be with a crate (ideally if they are trained and enjoy it), a large playpen, their own room, etc.
If you are suspecting your dog may be a compulsive barker the best method for handling this is to seek help from professionals. There is no real obvious trigger to deal with, and at this point, the behavior may be so solidified it would be hard to stop.
Make sure an expert around your location has dealt with compulsive behavior as they will be the best people for the job.
Depending on the type of injury your dog can react in a few different ways. If the injury is sudden and acute, they will likely freak out and immediately start yelping.
The solution to this is pretty easy, console and be there for your dog. When the pain subsides the braking will also. If they are in severe pain contact your vet immediately.
If the injury is not as obvious in their body language and barking looks for other signs of injury. Older dogs with cognitive issues can bark for no apparent reason.
If they are barking, look a little confused, and have no apparent reason for barking consult your vet or an animal specialist.
5.) Try Teaching Them Incompatible Behaviors
Once you have started desensitizing their triggers you’ll want to start training them with an incompatible behavior.
What this means is that anytime your dog would usually start to bark, instead, you train them to do something that makes it hard to bark.
For example, you can train your dog to lay down which makes it harder for them to bark. If someone comes to the door you simply send them to their bed to lay down.
Repeating this over and over anytime they would normally get up to start barking will help limit the behavior and get them into a better habit.
This can be applied to most of the reasons why dogs are barking. The goal is to counter-condition the barking into another behavior.
6.) Consistent Exercise & Mental Stimulation
Keeping your dog healthy and fit will help with a few forms of barking. Taking your dog out for walks can also be a great way to begin training them proper ways to behave should they act out and bark when they shouldn’t.
Just remember the more tired your dog is, the less likely they will have the energy to bark in the first place.
7.) Socialize Them
Socializing dogs is another great strategy to hinder a few forms of barking. Not only will your dog start to become more comfortable with other dogs, but they will also learn how to behave.
It’s important that when socializing with your dog that you make sure these are constructive and positive experiences.
Negative socializing experiences can lead to trauma and cause fearful and reactive barking. So keep a close eye when your dog is meeting other dogs, and make sure they are playing appropriately.
Lastly, it is best to introduce your dog to other well-behaved dogs. That way your dog can learn and pick up on the good behavior. Taking your dog to play with other ill-mannered dogs can create bad habits (if they often play together).
8.) Manage Surroundings
One of the most important aspects of dog training is controlling your dog’s environment. This allows you to limit their exposure and self-reinforcement.
That way barking slowly decreases in your home because there is less opportunity present. This also gives you more opportunity to train them with a better habit.
If your dog barks when you leave the house, try controlling their environment by giving them a space of their own. You can even turn some familiar music, TV, or radio on to calm them.
Another great tip is if your dog tends to react to other dogs or people on a walk you can control your environment by walking across the street to the other side.
7.) Get Professional Help
The last step is for those that are still struggling and can’t find a solution to their dog barking.
One of the fastest ways to get this problem solved is to go to the experts.
Although it can be quite expensive to have trainers take your dog it can be one of the best choices for some.
Another option is to get specialized training online. It’s really cheap but requires you to put in the work.
Now I’ll be the first to admit a lot of online programs are not very good. We’ve reviewed a ton of really bad dog training programs.
However, I’ve recently found one that’s actually worth recommending.
If you are in need of some extra help that is much more in depth and specific to your dog, you may want to consider enrolling in SpiritDog Training’s Tackling Reactivity Bundle.
Steffi the creator has over 32,226 students across her training with 100% satisfaction.
For just $49, you get lifetime access to professional dog trainers, on demand step by step video training, instructional PDFs, progress tracking, all from the comfort of your home.
SpiritDog’s Tackling Reactivity Bundle also comes with a 60-day money back guarantee.
If you feel like you’ve done everything you can but nothing seems to change, this is your best bet.
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