“There’s someone in our territory! I mean, at the door!”
“Hey! Hey! Pay attention to me!”
“There’s a dog over there! Over there! A DOG!!”
What is your dog’s bark telling you?
They may not use words, but dogs do have a language. They have six basic vocalizations:
- Barking: playful, frightened, aggressive, excited;
- Baying: hunting or facing a threat;
- Growling: warning of aggression, playing;
- Howling: communication with the pack or triggered by a similar sound (e.g., a siren);
- Whimpering or yelping: excitement or sudden pain;
- Whining: a wide variety of meanings, depending on the context.
Each vocal communication contains variations, plus ranges of pitch, intensity, and body language. In all, dogs have a sizable nonverbal vocabulary.
When Does a Dog’s Barking Become a Problem?
Barking is a normal mode of communication for dogs. Some dogs, such as Siberian Huskies, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire Terriers, tend to be more vocal than others, such as Mastiffs and Greyhounds, although it varies by individual dog. The impact of the barking also varies because the sound of a barking Doberman will carry farther than that of a Pomeranian.
Barking becomes a problem when it is compulsive and goes on too long or too often. When the neighbors start complaining, or when it starts grating your nerves because it just won’t stop, it’s time to do something about it.
But what can you do? We have some insights to share that will help you understand why your dog is barking obsessively and how you can regain peace in your home.
What’s All the Excessive Barking About, and What Can You Do?
There are many reasons for a dog’s excessive barking, so you may have to play detective to figure it out. But if you do, you can address the underlying cause. Here are some of the most common reasons:
First, check for any medical problems as a possible cause, especially if the barking has suddenly started.
How to address it: If you suspect your dog is hurt or sick, take a trip to the vet to at least rule this out.
An older dog may bark excessively due to canine dementia, vision or hearing loss, or pain.
How to address it: The best thing you can do is take the dog to your vet and follow their recommendations.
Someone — a person or another dog or animal — has crossed into an area your dog has designated their territory: your house, yard, or car. This can be a scary, alarming threat for your dog.
How to address it: Limit your dog’s exposure to the trigger. For example, block the window view or use fencing that the dog can’t see through. Let the dog bark a few times, then give the “Quiet!” command. Distract the dog with chew toys or noise and remove them from the situation.
Fear or Alarm Barking
Something startled your dog or gave them a reason to be afraid. It may be fireworks, a car backfiring, a thunderstorm, or anything else loud and sudden.
How to address it: If possible, remove the dog from the feared situation or remove the thing they are afraid of. If your dog is afraid of the vacuum and the horrid sound it makes, put the dog in a different room until you’re done cleaning the room you’re in. Is there a scary dog on your walk route? Change your route.
Also, remember that your dog may be warning you of something dangerous! Over time, you can train your dog not to fear specific triggers through desensitization and counterconditioning training.
Boredom, Separation Anxiety, and Frustration-Induced Barking
If your dog spends a lot of time alone, it will get bored, frustrated, and lonely. Dogs are social animals; it’s not normal for them to be separated from the pack. With separation anxiety, they may feel abandoned, even if you’re gone just for a short time. In addition to the barking problem, they may become destructive and exhibit psychological problems.
How to address it: Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise throughout the day — walks, playtime, dog parks, etc. They also need mental stimulation. Dogs are intelligent animals and need a challenge, especially the working breeds. Toys, interaction with people, playing with other dogs, and fun games are essential. If your work or other obligations take you away from your dog for long stretches, hire a dog walker or put your dog in daycare, so they are not alone.
Some dogs get over excited when greeting someone. A knock on the door or a doorbell ring can set off a long stream of compulsive barking alongside frenzied jumping and wiggling.
How to address it: You can teach your dog to move to an area away from the door while you answer it. Give the “Quiet!” command. Distract the dog with a favorite toy or a delicious treat when they stop barking or go to their designated spot.
Sometimes, your dog will bark just to get your attention because you’re too focused on something else for their liking.
How to address it: Don’t reward the unwanted behavior! Unless they’re destroying something valuable, ignore them until they quiet down. Give the “Quiet!” command, and reward your dog with tasty treats when they comply. Share your attention when they are calm and quiet. Teach the dog other ways to let you know what they want.
Do Your Dogs Bark Excessively? It’s Time for Some Professional Training!
Stopping excessive dog barking is not an easy task. It may be best to seek the help of a certified professional dog trainer, such as the K9 Basics team. We have the experience, expertise, and compassion to safely and effectively teach your dog to stop barking and focus on other things. We will also teach you how to be a powerful pack leader and correct any unwanted behavior.
So, give us a call at (866) 592-2742 or, if you’re from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New York, visit us at 131 Kenilworth Road, Marlton, New Jersey 08053, to learn more about our dog training services. Also, browse our blog and social media for various topics about dogs and their lives with us!