Are you exhausted from your dog’s barking? Although it’s completely natural for dogs to express themselves vocally, excessive barking can pose a challenge for dog owners. Whether it's caused by feelings of loneliness, territorial behaviour, fear, or other factors, it is important to understand the causes to effectively address the issue.
In this article, we will explore the different reasons why dogs excessively bark, their different types of barks, and how you can approach these with practical strategies to help manage your dog’s barking. From using reinforcement techniques and effective commands to utilising anti-barking devices, we have all the solutions you need.
Why is My Dog Barking Excessively?
Excessive barking in dogs can be caused by various factors. To address the issue effectively, it’s essential to understand the root cause of your dog’s barking. Here are some common reasons why dogs bark excessively:
- Loneliness and Boredom: Dogs are very social animals, and if they feel lonely or bored, they may bark for attention or to alleviate their boredom.
- Territorial Behaviour: Dogs often bark to protect their territory or to warn their owners of potential intruders.
- Fear and Anxiety: Fear or anxiety can trigger barking in dogs. They may bark when they feel threatened or scared.
- Medical Issues: Pain or discomfort from underlying medical conditions can also lead to excessive barking.
- Lack of Training: Insufficient training or inconsistent discipline can result in excessive barking.
Identifying the specific cause enables you to apply the appropriate training or interventions for your furry friend to help address their excessive barking.
7 Distinct Types of Dog Barking
Once you grasp the true meaning behind your dog's barks, you can work towards curbing them effectively. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) identifies the following primary categories of dog barking:
1. Territorial Barking:
This form of barking occurs when your dog vocalises in response to visitors, other animals, or anything passing near your home or vehicle. It's their way of asserting, 'this is my territory.' While barking, you might also notice your dog’s ears pinned back with their tail held upright and high. This can also be accompanied by growling or baring teeth.1
Related: How to Stop Dog Barking at Visitors
2. Alarm Barking
Alarm barking is mostly triggered by new and unusual noises and sights. Dogs exhibiting this behaviour may appear alert, stiff, and move forward while barking. While this is more likely to occur at home, this is not only limited to their territory; and can happen anywhere they go.4
3. Attention-Seeking Barking
When your dog wants something, like food, a treat, a walk, or playtime, they can resort to attention-seeking barking. As part of their way of saying, 'pay attention to me’, dogs can also perform actions such as pawing, whining, jumping on you, or even mouthing you with their jaws in between their barking.2
4. Greeting Barking
As mentioned earlier, dogs are social animals. When excited, they can also bark to greet people or even other pets when they are nearby. This type of bark serves as a friendly 'Hello!' Your dog will display relaxation and may wag their tail when using this form of vocalisation.
5. Compulsive Barking
Characterised by repetitive barking often accompanied by repetitive movements, such as pacing around a room or yard. Compulsive barking can also be a sign of separation anxiety especially when a dog is left alone or is away from its owner.3
6. Socially Facilitated Barking
Dogs tend to bark in response to other dogs. If one dog's bark triggers a chain reaction throughout the neighbourhood or a dog park, you're dealing with socially facilitated barking.4
7. Frustration-Induced Barking
Many dogs bark excessively in situations that induce frustration, such as being confined or separated from other dogs or people. If your dog barks at night when they have to sleep away from you, or in times when you need to leave home, they may be barking out of frustration.
It's essential to recognise and categorise your dog's barking behaviour to find the appropriate training to help better manage their behaviour. Notably, punitive measures are often ineffective in addressing these barking types, as they fail to address the root causes of the vocalisation and may lead to counterproductive outcomes. If you need help in identifying the reasons for your furry friend’s excessive barking, you can seek professional advice from a dog trainer or dog behaviourist.
6 Useful Tips to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking
Training your dog to stop barking involves patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. Here are some steps you can follow:
1. Identify Triggers:
Occasionally, the most effective way to address your dog's barking is by relocating them from the source of the disturbance.5 For example, if there's a landscaping crew operating in your neighbour's yard, you could consider setting up a comfortable area for your dog in a different part of the house. This space should be equipped with their favourite toys, chews, blankets, and other comforting items, all while ensuring it doesn't offer a direct view of the unfamiliar individuals outside.
It's important to note that you won't always be able to remove your dog from every triggering situation. However, this strategy can be particularly useful for managing short-term barking instances, such as when your dog barks in response to greetings or alarm-triggered barking.
2. Use Commands:
Introducing commands as part of your dog's training regimen can be a valuable strategy to curb excessive barking, particularly if your dog tends to bark out of frustration or the desire for attention. Here are essential commands to consider incorporating into your dog's training routine:
- Recall Command: This command serves as a reliable way to call your dog away from barking triggers, such as a ringing doorbell or the presence of another dog outside.
- Speak Command: Training your dog to bark on command can be a useful tool for teaching them when to bark and when to stay quiet, especially when combined with the "Quiet" command.
- Quiet or Settle Command: These commands provide a means to prompt your dog to "calm down" on cue. It's important to reward your dog promptly for being "quiet" after using the "Speak" command. These commands are typically best practised at home.5
- Show Me Command: This command involves the use of objects to teach your dog to approach certain stimuli without barking. The objective is for your dog to gradually approach the object and then look back at you. You can reinforce their compliance with treats and praise, although this may require patience during the training process.
- Sit and Stay Commands: These commands are excellent for keeping your dog engaged when they encounter a potential barking trigger, such as while on a leash. Encourage your dog to sit and stay, and reward them for maintaining a calm and quiet demeanour.
By integrating these commands into your dog's training routine, you can effectively manage their barking behaviour and instil discipline. This also fosters a more peaceful time at home for you both (and for your neighbours). Remember that patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are key to successful command training.
3. Positive Reinforcement:
Positive reinforcement is a powerful training method to stop barking in dogs. Here's how you can use it effectively:
- Identify Desired Behaviour: Determine the behaviour you want from your dog, such as being quiet on command.
- Reward Silence: When your dog stops barking as desired, immediately reward them with treats, praise, or playtime.
- Consistency: Be consistent in rewarding the desired behaviour and make sure all family members do the same.
- Use Commands: Teach your dog a command like "quiet" or "enough" to signal when they should stop barking.
- Timing: Timing is crucial; reward your dog as soon as they stop barking to reinforce the connection between silence and rewards.
- Patience: Training takes time, so be patient and persistent in your efforts.
Positive reinforcement can be highly effective in teaching your dog when to stop barking and is a humane approach to training.
4. Ignore Your Dog’s Attention-Seeking Barking
It's not uncommon for dogs to resort to barking as a means of gaining your attention, asking for food, or signalling their desire to be let out of a crate. The key here is not to immediately respond to their barking. Instead, exercise patience and wait until your dog falls into a state of quiet before fulfilling their requests. The goal is to reinforce the behaviour you desire – providing positive reinforcement when your dog is calmly lying down.
5. Tire Your Dog
It's crucial to ensure that your dog receives an adequate amount of physical and mental stimulation daily.5 A tired dog is less prone to barking out of boredom or frustration. Depending on your dog's age and overall health, they may need multiple extended walks, engaging games like fetch, and interactive toy play to stay mentally and physically satisfied.
6. Consult a Professional:
If your dog's barking is severe or persistent, consider seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or a dog behaviourist.
Remember that training takes time, and it's essential to be patient and persistent.
Is Excessive Barking a Sign of Underlying Health Issues?
Excessive barking can sometimes be a sign of underlying health issues in dogs.4 If your dog suddenly started barking more than usual, it's essential to consider the following potential medical causes:
- Pain or Discomfort: Dogs may bark when they are in pain or discomfort. Check for any signs of injury or illness.
- Cognitive Dysfunction: Older dogs may develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome, leading to changes in behaviour, including increased barking.
Helpful Tools to Curb Your Dog’s Barking
Are Bark Collars Effective in Controlling Barking?
Bark collars can be effective tools for controlling excessive barking in dogs. These collars come in different types, including:
- Shock Collars: These collars deliver a mild electric shock when the dog barks, serving as a deterrent. They are considered effective but should be used with caution and under supervision.
- Citronella Collars: These collars release a burst of citronella spray near the dog's nose when they bark. Most dogs find the citronella smell unpleasant and stop barking.
- Vibrating Collars: These collars vibrate when the dog barks, which can startle them and discourage barking.
The effectiveness of bark collars may vary from one dog to another. It's essential to choose the right type of collar and use it in conjunction with proper training techniques. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions, and ensure the collar does not cause distress to your dog.
Should I Use Shock Collars to Stop Barking?
Using shock collars to stop excessive barking can be a controversial topic with varied opinions among dog owners and experts. While shock collars can be effective in some cases, here are potential drawbacks to consider:
- Stress and Fear: Shock collars may cause stress and fear in dogs, leading to negative behavioural consequences.
- Risk of Overcorrection: In some instances, shock collars may overcorrect, leading to unintended consequences.
- Not Suitable for All Dogs: Some dogs may not respond well to shock collars, and they can be particularly harmful to sensitive or anxious dogs.
Before using a shock collar, it's advisable to explore other training methods, such as positive reinforcement and citronella collars, which are generally considered less aversive. If you decide to use a shock collar, consult with a professional trainer and use it cautiously.
Are Citronella Collars Safe for Dogs?
Citronella collars are considered a safer alternative to shock collars for controlling barking. These collars work by releasing a burst of citronella spray near the dog's nose when they bark. The smell of citronella is unpleasant to most dogs, but it is harmless.
Citronella collars are generally safe, but there are a few things to consider:
- Skin Sensitivity: Some dogs may have skin sensitivities, so it's essential to monitor their skin for any signs of irritation or allergies.
- Effectiveness: The effectiveness of citronella collars may vary from dog to dog. While they work well for many, they may not deter all dogs from barking.
- Refilling the Collar: You'll need to regularly refill the citronella collar with citronella spray.
Citronella collars are a humane and safe option to reduce barking in dogs. Like all other training collars, it's essential to use them in conjunction with proper training for the best results.
Can Vibrating Dog Collars Stop Barking?
Vibrating dog collars are another tool for controlling barking behaviour. These collars are designed to deliver a vibration or sound signal when the dog barks, which can startle them and discourage further barking.
Here are some key points to consider when using vibrating collars:
- Gentle Correction: Vibrating collars provide a gentle correction without the use of electric shocks or sprays.
- Effectiveness: They can be effective for some dogs, especially those who are sensitive to noise and vibrations.
- Gradual Training: Introduce the collar gradually and ensure your dog gets used to the vibrations.
- Positive Reinforcement: Pair the use of the collar with positive reinforcement to teach your dog when to stop barking.
Vibrating collars are also a friendlier, effective way to reduce excessive barking. It’s important to remember that consistency is always key to dog training, and that training collars should always be used with care combined with proper training techniques.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Stopping a dog from barking completely may not be realistic. Dogs use barking as a natural form of communication with you and others. The goal is to manage and reduce excessive or nuisance barking.
If your dog's barking issues are severe, persistent, or have not improved with training, it is advisable to consult a professional dog trainer or behaviourist. They can provide tailored solutions and guidance.
Choosing the right bark collar depends on your dog's temperament and the cause of their barking. Consider factors like size, sensitivity, and your dog's response to different correction methods.
Yes, you can combine training methods, such as positive reinforcement with a citronella collar. However, be cautious and ensure that the combined approach is manageable for your dog.
If your dog's barking is related to separation anxiety, it's essential to address the root cause of the anxiety. Seek professional help and consider techniques like desensitisation and counterconditioning to reduce anxiety-related barking.