There are many reasons why dogs bark. Barking is perfectly natural for dogs, it’s how they communicate a range of different emotions. Therefore, expecting them not to bark is unreasonable. However excessive barking is not a good thing. Understanding why your dog barks should be the focus. It helps you identify the reason for barking so you can correct the behaviour or reason behind it.
It’s important to contextualise the barking. For example, what is happening at that very moment? What is their body language telling you?
- Are they excited?
- Are they fearful?
- Did the doorbell ring?
- Is someone outside?
A dog’s environment impacts its state of mind, therefore its behaviours. The more awareness we have of our dog’s surroundings, the better we will understand why they bark and how to best manage it.
7 Reasons Why Dogs Bark
Not all barking is equal. There are different types of barking that can give you insight into how they are feeling. For example, an aggressive bark can be loud, and long and include growling and snarling in-between barks. An anxious bark can include whimpering amongst the barks. A playful bark is short, sharp and at times high pitched. Without a doubt, the body language that goes with the bark can tell you how they are feeling.
So, why do dogs bark? Let’s take a look at the reasons.
1. Attention or Food-seeking
If you are guilty of giving your dog attention in the way of a cuddle, taking them for a walk, or giving them treats when they bark just to keep them quiet, then you have taught them that barking will get them love, attention, and food. These barks are generally short and sharp. Accompanied by a wagging tail, relaxed posture, and a tilted head as they wait for your response (their reward).
Solution: Ignore the bark, don’t look at them, and don’t say a word. Just ignore. When they have settled down and are quiet and relaxed, then reward them with what they were looking for. This reinforces that being quiet is a good thing.
2. Health Issues
Pain can cause excessive barking. There are many health-related issues such as joint pain or something as basic as a bee sting that can cause them serious discomfort. They want the pain to stop, therefore they will bark. Generally, it will be a whimpering low bark with a submissive posture. However, the bark can turn aggressive if approached by another dog or human as they warn them off. This type of barking will be out of the ordinary for them. Making it easy for you to notice that something isn’t right.
Solution: take your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
3. Separation Anxiety
Many dogs with separation anxiety will vocalise by barking and whining. They will also show other signs of anxiety such as lip licking, excessive drooling and pacing.
Solution: Train them to be alone. Start by going into a different room of the house, and leaving your dog alone for periods of time. This will allow your dog to get used to you not being in the same room. Or leave them at home alone more often with their favourite treat or toy. Start with a few minutes at a time. Gradually extend the length of time you leave them alone. Each time you come back home, praise them with love and treats. Doing this constantly will teach them that you will always come home.
4. Bored and Lonely
As we know, dogs are pack animals. This means they thrive on interaction with others. They need connection and companionship. Dogs are intelligent animals that require mental stimulation. Without this level of attention, they will bore easily, feel lonely, and in some cases develop depression. Their need for connection can play out in excessive barking that can go on for hours, desperate for your attention.
Solution: Make time daily to spend quality time with your dog. Bring them inside, provide sufficient exercise, talk to them, play games with them, and keep them busy with food/treat dispensing toys. If you can, take them to cafes with you. They will be happy just to sit next to you.
When a dog is in a state of excitement, they tend to show it in several ways.
- Tail wagging
- Pointed ears
- Eyes and mouth open
- Short excited barks mixed in with some whining.
Typically, they do this when you come home to them, when they see their favourite friend at the dog park, or when you reach for the lead.
Solution: Turn your back to them and ignore them until they are quiet. Once they have settled, then acknowledge them with attention and a treat.
Dogs will bark and growl when they hear unfamiliar sounds. Their head will pick, up turning side to side and their tail and posture will be stiff with hackles raised. This is their way of communicating potential danger. Consequently warning off the danger and let their pack (you) know of the danger. The barks are short but loud.
Solution: Investigate what your dog is barking at.
7. Territorial and Protective
This type of barking is instinctual for dogs. They will growl and bark aggressively to let intruders know that it’s not ok to be in their home or near their pack. Generally instigated by fear, this behaviour is often misconstrued as jealousy.
Solution: Ignore the behaviour. Instruct your guest to ignore the dog and not to make eye contact as this could be perceived as a challenge to them. Once the dog calms down and stops barking, reward them with a treat or their favourite toy.
What NOT to do
It’s tempting to react to a barking dog the way you would react to a human doing the wrong thing. Importantly, dogs aren’t humans, and they don’t rationalise situations the way humans do.
- Don’t shout at a barking dog, they don’t understand your words. They may think that you’re barking along with them.
- Don’t punish a barking dog, there are many reasons why dogs bark. It’s important to understand why your dog is barking.
- Don’t respond to a barking dog by giving them love, attention, or treats. This just encourages more barking. The dog thinks “I bark, I get attention and treats, I’ll just keep barking”.
- Don’t use a shock collar to prevent them from barking.
What to do
- Ensure the barking isn’t related to a health issue. Take them to the vet for an examination.
- Ignore the bark. Do this consistently.
- Pay attention to your dog’s body language when they are barking. It’s important to understand why they are barking.
- Give them the right amount of physical and mental stimulation.
- Desensitise your dog to the trigger that causes the bark. For example, if they bark due to the doorbell ringing, have someone continually ring the doorbell and ignore the dogs barking. When they stop barking say the word “Quiet” and reward them. Do this regularly.
- Engage a canine behaviourist if you need help identifying why your dog is barking. They can work with you to develop a strategy to correct the behaviour.
Read more about Understanding Common Dog Behavioural Issues
Dogs will bark, it’s their way of communicating and that’s that. To ensure they don’t bark excessively you need to be consistent with the training and be patient. It may take some time to get the barking under control, but with the proper techniques, you will get the results.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this email and website are not to be taken as medical advice. The team at Pet Squad Pty Ltd trading as PetWell encourages you to make your own pet healthcare decisions based on your research and in partnership with a qualified pet healthcare professional.