The first thing to note if you’re frustrated by your dog’s barking is that barking is a normal part of a dog’s communication. It is how they speak.
They may be happy, excited and playful or scared, nervous and threatened. It is the same as how humans display their emotions through speaking and shouting.
So if you’re reading this in the hope you can get your dog to never bark again, we have bad news – expecting a dog never to bark is like expecting a child to never talk or cry. You can, however, limit their barking to avoid it happening too frequently in certain situations.
Realising why your dog is barking is key to preventing it, however. Dogs may be greeting someone by barking. But if your dog is barking frequently, randomly or for long periods, it could be a sign something is wrong.
Why is my dog barking?
Common reasons for dog barking include:
- Seeking attention (cuddles, playing, talking to)
- They want something (a treat, food or outside)
- They are playing
- They are greeting someone (happiness also brings a wagging tail!)
- They’re being territorial (when strangers approach or come into the home)
- Your dog is scared (wind and other loud noises can trigger fear)
- They’re bored as they are alone
- They have separation anxiety
This isn’t to say you should allow all positive barking, as it can be excessive, but happy barking is a common part of a dog’s life and is their easiest way to communicate joy. It is the negative barking that usually has a root cause that needs to be fixed alongside the barking.
Your dog may also bark excessively if they are suffering from a health issue. Brain issues, such as canine senility, can cause louder and random barking
Get your dog checked out if you’re concerned
Things to avoid when a dog is barking
There are some simple rules to follow if your dog is barking, before considering why they are barking.
Don’t raise your voice
It can be easy to think that you trying to overpower your dog can stop them. Likewise, they may bark so loudly that you think they can’t hear you over their own noise.
But a dog’s hearing is very powerful. They will be able to hear you even if nobody else in the household can.
Shouting stimulates your dog to bark more. They think you are joining in. Speak firmly, calmly and at your normal level so they don’t get confused.
Don’t tell your dog off
They don’t understand that what they are doing is wrong. Positive reinforcement is always best for all behaviours, and telling them off may confuse them. Why are you shouting when they’re only trying to protect you from the noise of the wind?
They may then bark in confusion and worry. It can also make them unsure about you. We will get more into this below, but the key is to reward them for stopping barking, not punishing them for barking.
Don’t confuse them with what you’re saying
Shouting “shut up”, “stop it” or “enough” at your dog isn’t going to translate well in their own language. They don’t know what unfamiliar terms mean.
Tell your dog to be “Quiet” when they are barking, or making other noises. This can be groans from wanting attention, slight growls at other dogs or howling at music. It is a word they can easily understand in one go and has a simple rule.
Dogs also pick up on physical signs. You can hold a finger up, or a finger to your lips, and they will soon pick up on what you mean. Some can pick up physical signs quicker than vocal commands.
Don’t allow the barking to carry on
You need to nip bad behaviour in the bud ASAP. If your dog barks at the postal worker, it can become ingrained to do this again and again. Dogs can get an adrenaline rush from barking. This makes it a pleasant thing to do.
What happens if they are outside one day when the postal worker comes? If they see a man in a red jacket on their walk? Barking can be the start of more unpleasant behaviour, such as aggressiveness if it stems from fear.
How to stop a dog from barking
The main thing you need to do is work out why they are barking, but we will get onto that below. There are some general rules to follow if your dog is barking first.
Divert their attention
Does your dog bark at other dogs when outside? Getting them to focus on a treat, or even sniff something interesting, can help to take their mind off the presence of another dog.
This can also be the case if they bark for attention, or at animals on the telly. Then, the treat is their reward for a) stopping barking and eventually, b) for not barking at all.
Wait until they stop barking to reward them
It can be hard to wait if they’re running around the house seemingly shouting their heads off. But wait for your dog to stop barking before rewarding them.
The same applies to if they bark at mealtimes out of excitement. Ignore their behaviour and barking until they stop. Once they have stopped, then give them their meal, or tell them “Good” before giving them a training treat.
Making it a delicious treat that they don’t get often, such as chicken, can actually really drum into them that they need to do as you say.
Plan ahead if they have got used to having their attention diverted. Offer them a toy if you know your nan is popping round and is a few minutes away.
Are they barking because they want attention? A chew treat? To be played with? It is hard to, but ignore them. Turn away (or even leave the room) and then when they stop, give them what they want.
They need to know that you are in control and they can’t just get what they want when they want it.
Tire them out
If your dog is tired from a big walk or a run around the field, they are less likely to use up the rest of their energy barking and running around the house.
If your dog barks when alone, walk them before leaving the house. The same applies if you have guests coming.
Working out why your dog is barking
As mentioned above, the main way to stop your dog from barking is to find the root cause and prevent this. If it is through emotions such as fear, you need to stop them from feeling scared of whatever it is. You may even need to make adjustments to your lifestyle and home.
If they bark at seeing your neighbour in their garden, put up some more solid fencing between you both. If they don’t like people coming into their house, perhaps limit this as much as possible until they are used to the person or have been seen by a professional dog trainer.
Do they bark at people walking past the window in the day? Perhaps cute if they are greeting these strangers. Not cute for the neighbours. Use blinds, or opaque film on the windows and remove their ability to see out of the window. This may mean moving furniture around.
Dogs that bark when left alone during the day could benefit from doggy daycare. Dogs who bark when you simply take a shower need training and help for anxiety.