Dog Behavior Byte: How to Stop Dog Barking
It’s a fact of nature that dogs bark. Some more than others. What happens, though, when excessive barking starts to affect your relationship with your pet? Mobile Vet M.D. has the answers you need about how to stop dog barking.
The Call of the Wild
Barking is a natural dog behavior. It is one of the ways that our canid friends communicate with us and each other. Different barks and sounds can mean different things.
Our canine companions also rely heavily on body language to communicate with one another. Barking and other audible sounds remain an important part of dog language, though.
The sounds our dogs make may not sound very sophisticated to the human ear, but there are subtle changes in pitch, timing, and amplitude that are significantly different.
Interestingly, wild dogs and wolves bark far less than do their doggy counterparts. Dog barking seems to be, at least in some way, a product of domestication.
When Excessive Barking Occurs
While barking is a natural dog behavior, it can definitely become out of control. A dog who is barking excessively may be trying to let you know a few different things. The most common of these include:
- They are scared—If your pet is scared or startled, barking may be their way of letting you and others around them know. Removing the scary stimulus and consoling your pet can often fix this cause of extra noise.
- They feel threatened—Dogs may be protective of certain objects, places, or even people and bark to let others who get near know that something belongs to them. The more threatening an approaching person or animal is, often the louder and more aggressive the barking becomes.
- They are bored—Pets who are left alone for long periods without stimulation may bark. Adding interaction and activity into these social creature’s days can help.
- They want to play—If your pet’s tail is wagging and body language is energetic, she may be trying to tell you that they are happy or need something. Many dogs will also bark when they wish to initiate play with you or another animal.
- They are anxious—Barking accompanied by destructive behavior, house-soiling, or agitated body language can indicate a problem. Call us for a behavior consultation if you think your pet may be experiencing separation anxiety or other compulsive anxiety related behavior.
- They have learned—Sometimes we inadvertently teach our dogs that barking gets them something that they want. If you give them food when they bark, they may learn to bark a lot when they want to eat. If the mailman retreats everytime they are barked at, it may become a fun game.
How to Stop Dog Barking
Excessive barking can be very disruptive and stressful to deal with. Thankfully most excessive dog barking has a solution. Taking the time to identify what your pooch is trying to tell you is an important first step.
Is your dog upset that a neighbor is in the yard? Worried that someone might steal their favorite toy? A little down because they haven’t been able to go to the dog park this week? Once you have identified the cause of the barking, solutions begin to become more obvious.
Training techniques are a great way to discourage excessive dog barking.
- Use positive reinforcement techniques and reward your dog with treats, playtime, or pets when they are quiet and calm.
- Avoid yelling, as this can worsen things if your pet is already anxious, fearful, or worried.
- Ensure that your pet is getting enough physical exercise.
- Provide mental stimulation through training sessions, puzzle toys, or hide-and-seek type games.
- Don’t let unacceptable barking go unaddressed. The longer a behavior goes on, the harder it will be to get rid of.
If your pet’s barking is not improving with these basic suggestions, it is time for us to take a peek at your pet. Medical problems such as pain, loss of vision, and cognitive dysfunction can lead to an increase in barking. We can also counsel you on behavioral modifications and medications where appropriate.
Sometimes more complex behavioral issues need a little extra help. Bringing in a veterinary behaviorist can be helpful in getting to the bottom of the issue.
Dog barking is a natural behavior, but it doesn’t mean that you have to deal with a disruptive amount. Excessive barking behavior usually has a cause, and we are here to help you figure out what that might be.