More bark than bite: Changing dogs’ barking habits

by | Dog Care |

A dog’s bark can be very useful; for showing their human something they want or need, or to warn of a possible intruder. But if it gets out of hand, your dog’s barking can be a nuisance to you, and your neighbours!  

Reasons behind your dog barking

The first step to changing your dog’s barking habit is knowing the cause. Some of the reasons could include: 

  • Alert barking: This type of barking is triggered by sights and sounds. Alert barking is typically a communication that something new or unknown is near, dogs often do this to alert their families in both new and known environments.  
  • Demand barking: This type of barking is motivated by attention: food, toys, or play. Dogs that demand bark have learned that by barking to let you know they have a need they are more likely to have it fulfilled. This is the dog that may bring a ball to your feet drop it and bark until it’s thrown or may bark when they want to play. 
  • Greeting barking: “Hello! I’m here!” This barking happens when your dog sees people or other dogs, but he’s excited and relaxed as he does it. This can also come out in a whine. 
  • Fear and stress-based barking: A dog may bark due to fear or discomfort when dealing with something that scares them. Dogs have far superior hearing to ours so they may be barking at something we may not hear or see but they definitely can! 
  • Compulsive barking: This type of bark is more repetitive and can be accompanied by repetitive actions like running back and forth. 
  • Boredom barking: This may occur when our dogs are under stimulated, if they haven’t had a lot physical or mental exercise or activity that day, this may just be our dog’s finding entertainment for themselves barking at their toys or otherwise.  
  • Socially facilitated barking: This is where your dog only barks excessively when they hear other dogs doing the same. They may join other dogs who bark and howl or may be the one to start the neighbourhood! 
  • Frustration-induced barking: When confined or tied up, some dogs bark excessively to express their frustration. 

Other problems that can cause barking include illness or injury, and anxiety. 

Changing the barking behaviour 

 There are key questions you want to ask to help you determine what to do about your dog’s excessive barking: 

  1. What is the motivation? 
  2. Have your dog’s needs been met? (Food, water, elimination, play, stimulation etc.) 
  3. When and where does the barking occur? 
  4. Who or what is the target of the barking? 
  5. What things (objects, sounds, animals or people) trigger the barking?