Dogs bark to communicate with each other and with their owners, but sometimes all that barking can get out of hand. Constant barking can fray a family’s nerves and create turmoil in a neighborhood.
But keep in mind that your dog is trying to tell you something by barking. Before you quiet him down, you will first need to figure out what he’s trying to say.
What’s Behind the Barking?
These are some of the reasons dogs bark:
- To protect their territory. Dogs guard their territory from people, other dogs, and animals. That territory includes your property, but it can also include other places where the dog has spent a lot of time.
- Because they sense danger. The dog could be reacting to an alarming situation.
- To communicate. Sometimes dogs bark to get attention from people.
- Out of frustration. Barking can result from becoming frustrated by a situation, such as being in a confined space or being unable to locate an owner or playmate.
- Because they’re anxious. A dog’s anxiety can be caused by separation from the dog’s owner.
- Because they’re in pain. Barking can communicate pain caused by injury or illness.
- To say hello. A friendly bark could be how a dog greets people or other dogs.
There are a lot of stop-barking devices available on the market. The most commonly known are bark collars that deliver an electric shock, high-pitched squeal, or stinging spray of citronella mist whenever a pet dog barks. Other devices include ultrasonic emitters that are placed in a room and activated by barking and muzzles that keep the dog’s jaws held shut.
These devices may offer a short-term fix, but they do nothing to address the underlying cause of your dog’s barking. Eventually, the problem may surface through other behavioral problems, as your dog continues to try to communicate his need or problem to you. A dog prevented from barking caused by separation anxiety may instead take to destroying furniture or urinating indoors when his owner is away.
The devices also can be inhumane. Any dog’s bark can set off a bark collar or ultrasonic device, meaning your dog may end up receiving punishment for another dog’s behavior. Also, a muzzle will keep a dog from being able to eat, drink, and cool off through panting.
For these reasons, an owner frustrated by his dog’s barking is better off using some simple tricks to head off the behavior or taking the time to train the dog out of the behavior. Try these tips:
- Offer distractions. Bored dogs will be less inclined to bark if they are given plenty of toys to play with. If your dog is barking due to outside noises, playing the TV or radio while you’re away can drown out those sounds. A TV or radio also can help soothe separation anxiety.
- Keep your dog active. A pooped pooch is less likely to overreact with a barking fit. Take your dog on regular walks or play fitness games like fetch or Frisbee.
- Work your dog’s brain. Obedience training, either in a class or at home, can improve your dog’s ability to discern threats. It also can lay the groundwork for other anti-barking solutions that require more intensive training.
- Desensitize your pet. If the barking fits are being caused by an outside stimulus, you can try to desensitize your dog. For example, ask friends to walk by your house while you work with your dog inside, encouraging your pet to be quiet.
- Teach the “quiet” command. Train your dog to respond to the word “quiet” by allowing three or four barks, then saying “quiet” in a calm, clear voice. When you say “quiet,” break the barking jag by holding his muzzle gently, dropping a loud object that distracts him or squirting him in the face with a spray bottle of water. In this instance, you could use a manually-controlled bark collar as a distraction method. Eventually your dog will learn that “quiet” means he should stop barking.
- Change up his routine. A dog barking compulsively or out of boredom might stop if you make some changes. If he is being kept in a backyard and barking there, bring the dog indoors and place him in a crate. If the dog is barking because he’s confined in a crate, try leaving him free in one room of your house.
- Teach her how to meet and greet. A dog that barks when greeting can be trained to meet people and other dogs more gently. Be sure to keep greetings at your front door very low-key and calm. Keep a toy near the door and encourage your dog to pick it up and hold it in his mouth before opening the door. On walks, distract your dog when passing other people or dogs by offering a tasty treat.
- Don’t reward barking. Above everything else, don’t inadvertently encourage barking through your own behavior. Don’t reward barking by giving the dog a treat after he has barked. Only treat when the dog has been quiet. Also, don’t encourage barking at outside noises by asking, “Who’s there?”
Training can be a lengthy process, but in the end you will improve your relationship with your dog and be better able to make sure his needs are met.