Why do dogs bark?

Barking dogs can get on a person’s nerves, but we must remember that they do it for a reason.  In fact their voices have distinctive sounds, which can be a way of communicating their likes and needs.  To find out why they are barking we must observe when and how they are barking.

One reason dogs bark is to express fear or to demand attention. In most cases, the more they bark the more attention we give them.  However, some dogs suffering from anxiety-related disorders often bark because they are lonely and nervous and will continue to bark while their owners are not home.  This barking problem is not easily corrected and may get worse if the dog is treated in a negative fashion.  Severe separation anxiety in dogs can be remedied by working with a professional trainer.

Dogs also alarm-bark to draw attention to something they feel warrants our attention.  This can be something as simple as the neighbour’s cat sitting in the window to an intruder rummaging around in the backyard.  Many dog owners feel that alarm-barking is acceptable.  It makes the family feel protected in their home.

It is important to teach your dog to distinguish regular guests from things that are out of the ordinary.  It is in everyone’s best interest to train your dog not to bark at the plumber or the Avon Lady.  By indicating who is okay with praise and treats, you will help your dog recognize when something out of the ordinary occurs. Rest assured your dog will alert you if someone tries to climb through your window at night.

Another reason a dog barks is out of sheer boredom if for instance it is left unattended in the backyard for hours on end.  While the owner’s intention may have been to treat the dog with some sunshine and fresh air, the dog might feel ignored.  Even your dog-loving neighbour’s patience will wear thin by a dog barking incessantly.  To avoid boredom, your dog must have daily physical and mental stimulation.  A happy dog is much more relaxed and able to soak up a few rays on the occasions he is put outside.

 If boredom barking is a problem for your dog, then increase its exercise.  Take him on a least one different outing per week to the park or a friend’s home.  Make sure you keep his brain active by teaching him something new once in a while.  Obedience classes are important for all dogs and can make your dog a better pet and family member.  And don’t forget to let him visit with a neighbour’s dog now and then as socialization is important.

To discover what your dog’s bark means, pay close attention to his behaviour.  A dog’s body language is an important clue to what he is dealing with.  A dog that barks because he is nervous or overwhelmed may tremble or cower and have his ears back. This type of dog deserves a bit of time and patience to overcome the problem.  Slowly show the dog that unusual circumstances don’t have to be frightening.  Comfort the dog with a calm voice and perhaps hold or pet them or even give them a food treat.  Create a bit of distance between your dog and what he’s nervous about.   But be cautious if the dog is too nervous even for you.  Keep your distance and wait for the dog to calm on their own if they growl at you when you get close.

Once you feel you know why your dog barks, you may need to curb the unwanted barking.  One way to do so is to ignore the barking (disengage).  Another way is to direct their attention elsewhere (distract).  Sometimes simply turning your back to a barking dog will stop the barking.

If you are looking for a gadget to help you, there are a few on the market.   The citronella spray collar is a great choice.  These collars act as a barking interrupter by spraying a light lemony (or scentless) spray up from the collar each time the dog barks.  The timing is fabulous and this stops most dogs in their tracks.

Shock collars are not recommended, because they may cause more harm to your dog, especially if used on a sensitive dog.  Most dogs will stop barking if told to stop on consistent basis.  To teach your dog to control his barking, call the dog by name and then say “no, quiet”.  If your dog continues to bark, go to him and hold him, holding his muzzle shut.  Repeat his name and say firmly “no, quiet”.  When he has stopped barking praise him and tell him “good boy”.

If you’re still having difficulty, you can teach your dog an alternate behaviour during times he is tempted to bark.  For instance, instruct your dog to go and lie down on his bed whenever he hears the doorbell.  Ring the bell and guide your dog to his bed or mat close by.  Reward your dog each and every time with food and praise.  Eventually, you will have a dog that runs quickly to his bed in anticipation of a biscuit or praise when the doorbell rings

All dogs benefit from socialization and training at a young age but an older dog can learn new tricks if you have the patience to teach them right from wrong. Remember to treat your dog as you would treat a three to five year old child, with consequences suitable for each action.  Your dog will soon realize he is barking up the wrong tree.