Barking is a dog’s natural means of communication. But if yours barks excessively, it could cause you much frustration and might even invite trouble from your neighbors. More importantly, excessive barking could be a sign that your dog has issues that need addressing.
To stop the barking, you need to identify why your dog is behaving this way in the first place. Only then can you determine the best way to control the aggravating behavior.
Why Your Dog Keeps Barking
You might recognize your dog’s own behavior in these typical causes of excessive barking:
Your dog might bark as a response to people or animals getting too close to your front door or property. They might be protective over anything they perceive as their territory, and so will bark to drive off anything or anyone that approaches.
Keep in mind that what your dog might view as their territory can extend beyond their actual property. This might not just be your house but also your car, places they often visit, or even possessions they treasure.
Alarm barking is a response to a perceived threat brought on by sounds and sights in your dog’s environment. It could happen regardless of context and not necessarily in relation to what they regard as their territory.
With alarm barking, you’ll notice that your dog takes on a stiff posture. They pounce or move forward slightly at every bark. Also, they bark loudly, as if knowing that their sound will scare away possible threats.
Dogs will bark when they want something they can’t get or access. This is often the case when their movements are restricted or when they’re confined.
For example, they might bark continuously when they’re locked in their crate. They may also behave the same way when they see a squirrel out the window but the doors to the yard are closed.
Offering any kind of attention when they bark will train your dog to keep barking for that same attention. For example, if you offer your dog a bone to chew on to distract them from barking, they will think that barking leads to treats. That’s exactly the opposite of what you want them to learn.
It’s easy to know if your dog is barking for attention. Often, they’ll do so while looking at you or even pawing at you. Sometimes, they will even block your way and appear to be talking to you.
Barking caused by separation anxiety is a complex issue. This may be due to a feeling of insecurity and hyper-alertness while being alone. Or, it could also be caused by their inability to protect you and fears you might not return.
You’ll know this is the cause of your dog’s barking when they start as you’re about to leave. For example, they start whining when you begin getting dressed and then bark in excess when you’re opening the door to exit the house. Sometimes, they stop barking when you leave but others aren’t able to control their anxiety and may bark continuously until you return and they feel safe.
Ways to Control Excessive Barking
Here are three of the most effective ways to eliminate uncontrollable barking:
1) Remove the cause
Sometimes, keeping your dog from barking too much is as easy as removing them from the situation that makes them bark. For example, if they watch the window and bark excessively at passersby, you can keep your curtains drawn shut so they aren’t triggered by whatever is going on outside.
2) Redirect the behavior
Redirection is one of the most effective training techniques to get your dog to bark less. It involves training your dog to perform a specific action in response to whatever triggers the barking.
For example, if the doorbell triggers your dog’s barking, use positive reinforcement to respond to the sound in a different way. You can teach them to bring you a ball whenever they hear the doorbell ring. Make sure they wait quietly for a treat and your release command. This might take some time to accomplish, but it’s a positive way to reduce barking.
3) Control the barking
It might seem counterintuitive, but teaching your dog to bark on command is the best way to eliminate excess barking. Start by finding a sure way to get your dog to bark (ex., holding up a toy or grabbing a leash) and then rewarding them as soon as they bark. Then, mark the bark with a command (ex. “speak” or “bark”). Keep marking and rewarding the barking until your dog has mastered the trick.
Once you can get your dog to bark on cue, you can teach them to stop using another command (ex. “quiet” or “hush”). You can do this by commanding them to bark, giving the silence command, and then rewarding them as soon as they stop barking.
This training technique will take a while to master and it involves lots of patience and dedication. But once you get it right, you will be able to command your dog to keep quiet every time they start barking.
Additional Tips for Dogs That Bark Too Much
Nevertheless, here are other things you might want to consider when your dog barks too much:
• Be mindful of your reaction. You might unknowingly reward your dog for barking, which makes them more likely to repeat the behavior. Avoid petting them in hopes of calming them down and don’t give them treats thinking it’s a good distraction.
• Get more exercise. Give your dog plenty of opportunities to burn off their excess energy and try to provide mental stimulation as well. A tired dog is less likely to bother with every noise and will happily spend the day sleeping until it’s time to walk or play again.
• Get helpful tools. Bark collars are controversial tools, but some trainers swear by them. You’ll also find plenty of other bark-controlling devices. Make sure you consult a certified professional before trying any of them to ensure your dog’s welfare and safety.
• Consult a vet. Dogs that don’t feel well might bark a lot because they feel vulnerable. If your dog has just recently started barking in excess and you can’t figure out any changes in your environment that might trigger it, it could be due to a health issue.
• Consult a dog trainer. Professional trainers and behaviorists are better able to recognize body language and signals that might help address the issue. Training sessions will involve recreating the typical scenarios that cause uncontrollable barking and then finding ways to redirect, reduce, or eliminate the behavior.
The only way to stop excessive barking is to understand what triggers the barking and why your dog engages in that behavior. Only then can you find the most effective approach to getting your dog to bark less. If all else fails, there are dog behaviorists that could help you solve this issue.