Dog barking is a very natural part of canine ownership. Dogs bark in order to communicate either to notify their owners of some impending dangers, but also to issue a warning to other dogs when they feel like their territories are invaded. Not all dog barking is bad. In fact, there are many instances when a dog’s barking has proven to be beneficial. For instance, if your dog barks when there is an intruder, it could be a lifesaver.
The key to understanding how you can stop excessive barking is to identify the reason. Again, not all dog barking requires correction. Let’s jump in and find out why dogs bark in the first place.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
The tone of how dogs bark, what sets them off, and even the breed will affect how much a dog barks. Let’s take a closer look at the most common reasons.
Fearful and Reactive Barking
Fearful and reactive barking, also referred to as defensive barking, happens when a dog is reacting to stimuli. What the stimuli are will be different for each dog. Some dogs hate it when other dogs and even humans are close to their property, while others don’t react to that but show great dislike when anyone and anything comes close to their food.
This type of barking may be accompanied by some whining and growling depending on if your dog is angry or scared. You know it’s reactive barking when you also assess the body language that comes with this type of barking. Most notably are tails between the hind legs, lowered heads, ears back, and hair on the hackles may stand up. If you see all of the above, then your dog is exhibiting fearful barking.
Barking Due to Separation Anxiety
Dogs and humans both experience separation anxiety to some extent. Some dogs handle separation from their owners better than others. How serious the anxiety depends on how the dogs were raised, the breed, and the temperament. If you’re dog cries and whines a little when you’re getting ready to leave and settles down when you’re out of sight, then there isn’t much to worry about.
However, there are those who have severe separation anxiety that may be serious enough to need expert help. Dogs give in to the separation anxiety which can result in physical damages to their surroundings and sometimes even themselves if they try to escape their confines. Dogs a master chewers, so there will be a time in their life (especially the teething stage) when they gnaw at things and destroy furniture.
It gets to be a problem when your dogs only do this in your absence or when they start to hurt themselves. Compulsive barking due to separation anxiety can be a bigger problem if you live in an apartment with only a thin wall separating you and your neighbors.
Sometimes dogs bark out of boredom. There’s nothing better to do, so hey, let’s bark at mommy and daddy to see if they will pay attention. There is a quick way around this if you have identified your dog’s excessive barking as a result of boredom, which we will cover in a bit. It may be a battle of wits with some dogs who will eventually give up after 20 to 30 minutes, but there are the ones who are extra stubborn and determined and the excessive barking can last for hours if it’s not addressed.
We remind our readers that boredom barking is often mistaken for separation anxiety barking. An easy way to identify which type of barking it is, think about the frequency and when it happens. Compulsive barking from separation anxiety usually happens only when you’re not home. You can set up video surveillance to help you determine which type it is. A video camera is also handy to make sure your dog doesn’t get up to any mischief in your absence.
We covered territorial barking briefly in the first section. This type of barking is when dogs feel like someone or something is invading their space. You will hear a very distinct guttural growl accompanying territorial barking with physical displays of aggression such as ears perked up, tail straight, and a tense posture.
Territorial barking is a generally positive type of barking. We say generally because your dog could overreact to every little thing instead of legitimate dangers, which will classify it as nuisance barking. The defining difference is to teach your dog how to recognize what is a real threat and what is just a passerby.
If your dog reacts this way to specific people, then you may need to engage in further training to teach your dog to see the said person in a positive light.
Barking Due to Old Age
When dogs age, they may also become more irritable and bark more often. This behavior is most commonly linked to canine dementia, which is an unfortunate illness that some dogs could suffer from. Cognitive diseases such as brain tumors or even high blood pressure could also trigger a dog’s barking. You will know a dog is barking due to old age because it seems to stem from nothing.
In order to be sure, we would suggest scheduling an appointment with your vet and describing the behavior in detail. Most dogs hit their senior life stage at about 7 years, so keep your eye out for random barking during this time.
If there ever was a type of barking to ignore, it’s demand barking. This happens when a dog is barking because they want something. Of course, if it’s to be let out to go to the potty spot in your backyard, then you shouldn’t ignore it. A way to get your dog to stop barking every time he needs to go outside, pet owners can think about bell training.
Demand barking is usually intermittent with short barks. You will also notice your dog is looking at you while doing this with either straight or wagging tails and ears in their natural position. Do not reward demand barking with attention, because this will only reinforce your dog’s behavior. Again, you should first identify why your dog is barking. Is it because he wants a treat, your attention, or because something is wrong? If the answer is a treat or your attention, then do not give in.
This type of barking needs immediate attention. Your dog could be barking if he is in pain. This type of barking is often displayed alongside whining and whimpering. If you think it’s pain barking, then suggest checking your dog over. Gently run your hands along the length of his body to his legs, head, neck, and tail. Check your dog’s paws while you’re at it to make sure there are no external wounds.
Running your hand gently on your dog’s body is to see if he resists when you touch a certain area or lets out a yelp. If so, then that’s where it hurts. If you don’t see anything on the surface, your dog could be suffering from an internal wound, in which case you should call the vet immediately.
Play and Excitement Barking
This is a very common form of barking and one that you shouldn’t need to correct. Dogs bark when they are excited, happy, and are playing. You don’t want to discourage this type of expression. Some dogs are naturally quieter and don’t bark too much with excitement while others yap like crazy. A good way around this is to occupy your dog with toys and activities that do not perpetuate barking such as puzzle toys.
Stuffing a toy with a treat will give your dog something to do for hours – this is what we do when we need to get some work done but our dogs need stimulation.
Lastly, there is alert barking. It’s a little similar to territorial or fearful barking, except your dog’s attitude won’t be aggressive or scared. The barks will be shorter, and your dog will exhibit alert body language such as perked up ears, and unwavering focus on whatever caught his attention. Alert barking is a type of territorial barking that can be highly beneficial.
How Do I Treat Excessive Barking?
Now that you know the most common reasons for a dog’s barking, now is the time to know how to treat it. Remember, not all barking needs to be curbed, especially if you’re not bothered by the dog barks. Sometimes the circumstances will require you to train barking out of your dog, such as those who live in apartments or work the night shift.
Below are the most effective ways to teach your dog to stop barking.
Set Up a Dog Quiet Zone
Setting up a quiet zone is excellent when your dog barks due to stimuli. It’s a great method for territorial and fearful barking. The quiet zone should be a place where your dog feels safe and where he can retreat to get back to baseline and calm down. For those who engage in crate training, you can place the crate in this area and fill it with all of your dog’s favorite toys and anything else that brings him comfort such as a piece of clothing that smells like you.
The best place to set up a quiet zone for most dogs is one that’s out of the way and clear of foot traffic. if your dog barks excessively at certain stimuli, then it’s important that the spot you pick is free from them. For example, if your dog likes to bark at other dogs that cross his line of sight, then a quiet zone could be in a back room somewhere with no windows.
The quiet zone could just be the crate itself with a crate cover that will restrict your dog’s line of sight. Just make sure that no matter where you keep your dog, there must be sufficient ventilation. Leave your pets in the quiet zone until they stop barking and have calmed down. Once you’re sure they are cool and collected, praise them with positive reinforcement.
If you have two or more dogs with only one that’s reactive, it may be helpful to put all of them in the quiet zone so the one barking doesn’t feel like he is being punished. If the barking from one sets the others off, then you may need to isolate them separately until they have all calmed down.
It takes time and patience for you to learn to stop barking, but with consistency – it will pay off.
Use Sight Barriers
Instead of removing your dog from the trigger, you can adopt the “out of sight out of mind” logic and eliminate the stimuli from sight when your dogs bark excessively. This can be done by implementing sight barriers. This method may only be successful if your dog’s barking triggers are objects and people rather than sounds.
Put a fence around your yard to block “intruders” from view. In your dog’s roaming area during the day so he doesn’t get distracted by what’s outside. Any way you can think of to block the triggers from your dog’s line of sight should help. Don’t be afraid to get creative and plant hedges or even use dark window film to tint the windows so your dog is less bothered by the outside world.
Sight barriers are great for dogs who are triggered by other dogs, have a tendency to engage in greeting barking, and are scared or territorial.
A tired dog is a well-behaved dog – this is something many dog owners can agree with. Exercise is the number one cure for a dog with anxiety barking, boredom barking, and attention-seeking barking. Dogs need both physical and mental exercise on a daily basis in order to feel calm. If your dog gets enough physical and mental exercise on a daily, he won’t have any gas left in the tank to cry and whine in your absence, feel bored enough to bark, or demand your attention by barking.
Before you can expect your dog to behave himself for you to get some work done, he needs to have his walk, and maybe a puzzle toy or a treat-stuffed toy to keep him occupied. Trust us, you will notice a marked difference between a well-stimulated dog and one that’s bored and antsy. Not to mention, you will also save a lot of money by not having to replace damaged furniture around the house.
Sometimes a dog can be more than an owner can handle without expert help. Many first-time dog owners can benefit from puppy classes or even 1-on-1 time with a trainer just to get the hang of things. If you’re someone who has tried exercising your dog, implementing crate training, and removing any triggers and still find your dog starts barking at anything, then it’s time for a certified professional dog trainer to step in.
The certified professional dog trainer could suggest desensitization techniques, which operate on overexposure. No matter what, training will take time, patient, and determination on your part. It may also be an expensive endeavor if it takes several sessions to get your dog to stop barking. It’s very important to continue with the training exercises and methods even while you’re at home if you want to correct the barking behavior.
Bark Control and Anti-Stress Devices
There are also tools you can use to make things easier. Bark control and anti-stress devices are two different things that operate differently as well.
Bark control devices encompass items such as ultrasonic bark collars, spray collars, and vibrating collars. The above three bark control devices aim for the same result – to produce something unpleasant to curb dogs barking.
Ultrasonic bark collars emit an ultrasonic noise when it detects your dog’s bark. Most collars of this type are adjustable and offer various levels of sound in order to find one suitable for your dog. Many dogs don’t require a high setting, but there are dogs out there that aren’t too bothered by the noise. We suggest inching up the settings incrementally one level at a time.
Citronella collars, or spray collars, spray citronella, a citrus scent that many dogs dislike. It’s a harmless alternative to the former, and many dog owners prefer it. Each dog has a different personality, which includes its likes and dislikes. This means that it’s possible for your dog to not mind the citrus scent or even like it. In this case, it’s best to move on to an alternative method.
We then have the vibrating collars. These collars operate on the same concept as shock collars, but they are much less harmful. There are also customizable levels in decent vibrating collars and they produce nothing more than an irritating vibration that will catch your dog by surprise and hopefully your dog stops barking when it does.
These bark control devices work on every type of barking and are very useful accessories to have in case nothing else works.
There is also a different way that isn’t as heavy-handed as bark control devices but it only works on dogs who bark due to elevated emotions, stress, or anxiety. We’re talking about the anti-stress and calming devices that can also curb unwanted barking behavior.
There are collars infused with therapeutic scents, essential oils, and herbs that have a calming effect on dogs. Aside from collars, there are also diffusers that also use the same calming agents to create a relaxing space. Again, the scent may not work on every dog – the unique creatures that they are.
There are also pressure blankets and wraps that work on humans as well. These weighted blankets simulate swaddling, which is what adults do to newborns in order to make them feel safe and calm. It creates the feeling of being cuddled or hugged, which could calm some dogs down. We would suggest only trying pressure wraps and blankets if your dog is over the “seek and destroy” phase.
No matter which method you choose, always remember to reward your dog with plenty of praise, treats, and belly rubs!
Top Tips to Curb Your Dog’s Barking
Now that we know what to do, there are also some things that dog owners should avoid doing which could aggravate the situation.
You can tell your dog off by letting him know calmly but firmly that barking is something you don’t like. You can do this with a very low and firm “No!”. However, refrain from scolding your do because this could make him feel very confused. As we mentioned, there are certain types of barking that you may not need to correct such as alert barking and pain barking.
There is even a chance your dog may misunderstand your loud yelling and confuse it with excitement, thinking that you’re joining in on the fun. This will cause some dogs to bark even louder.
If your dog is scared of something, some trainers may suggest familiarizing your dog with the trigger and using overexposure methods. Then there are other experts that may suggest avoiding what scares your dog. You can try to introduce your dog to whatever causes him fear, but if he is very resistant, do not force it.
Don’t accidentally reward your dog for the barking. The correct way to do this will also depend on the type of barking he is doing. For example, a boredom barker should never be rewarded with your attention or treats. If he is, your dog will believe he can get whatever he wants by barking. Soon you will find him barking more frequently for everything he wants. When it gets to this point, it will be more difficult to train it out of him.
Rewards should only be given when your dog is quiet and calm. You can teach him to calm down by commanding an action. A dog won’t bark when he is focusing and trying to recollect what “sit” means. When he successfully carries out the command and looks at you expectantly, you can reward him with treats and praise.
Lastly, just make sure your dog is properly engaged. Give him enough exercise, attention and stimulation, but don’t be afraid to set boundaries for yourself. It may be difficult to expect peace and quiet if your dog is freshly up from a nap with nothing to occupy him. Set out a schedule for yourself and carve out time to play with your dog and take him for a walk. You may be surprised that your dog doesn’t require a lot if his needs are met.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you stop nuisance barking?
The first step is to let your pet know that this is unacceptable dog behavior. You can do this with positive reinforcement rather than punishment. In other words, reward the good behavior and ignore the bad. When you tell your dog firmly “NO!”, wait until he is quiet and somewhat settled before rewarding him with a treat. Make sure to not do it while he’s barking.
How do you get a dog to shut up?
You can prevent barking behavior if you identify what type of barking it is and use the appropriate method to train your dog. For example, keeping your dog away from stimuli or removing the barking triggers are the best ways to see instant results. Otherwise, you can enlist the help of a professional, a barking device, or rely on physical and mental stimulation.
What causes a dog to bark excessively?
A dog may bark excessively for a variety of reasons, some of which include territorial barking, anxiety barking, boredom barking, and even pain and injury barking. The key to rectifying this unwanted behavior is to figure out why it’s happening so you can find the best method to stop it.
Every dog barks, there is just no way around that, but keep in mind that a tired dog is a good and quiet dog. We have found that consistent daily mental and physical exercise will solve the majority of excessive barking. The key to greatly reducing nuisance barking is to identify why, find a solution, and carry it out with patience and perseverance. You can do it!