It is completely natural for dogs to bark, and it’s one of their most important forms of communication after energy and body language. Dogs will bark as a warning, to protect their pack and territory. They will also bark to express excitement. Excessive barking indicates there is a problem with the human, and not the dog; there is something not balanced in the pack, so the dog’s needs are not being met. The barking is the only way the dog has to tell you something is wrong.
The first step towards controlling excessive barking is to understand the specific reasons behind it. Even after you know the why, don’t expect to wave a magic wand and stop your dog from barking. Training your dog to bark less (you will never stop it altogether) is a time-consuming process. Also keep in mind that some breeds are more apt to bark than others and these could prove more difficult to train.
Generally, there are eight reasons why dogs bark:
- Territorial or defensive barking
- Excitement, or happiness at seeing you
- Play and exercise
- To get your attention or to signal you (i.e. “I have to go potty!”)
- Aggravation over not being able to attain something (such as your pork chop).
- Social barking in response to other dogs
- Separation anxiety and trepidation
- Compulsive behavior
How to Treat Excessive Barking
Getting your dog to bark less will take time, work, practice, and consistency. It won’t happen overnight, but with proper techniques and time, you can see progress.
Here are a few tips to remember as you start your efforts to control your dog’s barking.
- Shouting stimulates your dog to bark more because he thinks you’re joining in. So the first rule is to speak calmly and firmly, but don’t yell.
- Most dogs don’t know what you want when you’re yelling at them to “shut up.” So train your dog to understand the word “Quiet!”
- A tired dog is a quiet dog. If your dog barks when alone, tire him out before you go. Take a long walk or run, play ball or take a trip to the dog park before leaving.
- Don’t allow problems to go on and on. The longer a dog does something, the more ingrained it becomes. Barking can give dogs an adrenaline rush, which makes the barking pleasant. And allowing a dog to bark in certain situations, such as when the mailman arrives, can eventually make a dog aggressive in those situations.
- Be consistent so you don’t confuse your dog. Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately. You can’t let your dog get away with inappropriate barking sometimes and not others.
- Ignore your dog’s barking for as long as it takes him to stop. That means don’t give him any attention at all while he’s barking. Your attention only rewards him for being noisy. Don’t talk to him, don’t touch him, and don’t even look at him. When he finally quiets, even to take a breath, reward him with a treat.To be successful with this method, you must wait as long as it takes for him to stop barking. If he barks for an hour and you finally get so frustrated that you yell at him to be quiet, the next time he’ll probably bark for an hour and a half. He learns that if he just barks long enough you’ll give him attention.
A List Of Don’ts:
- Don’t encourage your dog to bark at strangers or people walking by the door. Asking your dog “who’s that?” in a querying tone will excite their curiosity. Looking out the window or door will encourage him to do the same, and once there, he will bark.
- Don’t use inconsistent rules. If you yell at him for barking at some sights or sounds, such as the kids leaving for school, and encourage him to bark at others, like the salesman at the door, he will be hard-put to distinguish between the two events. The result will be a still-constantly barking dog.
- Don’t punish your dog if the barking is due to fright or separation anxiety. You may have the opposite effect of increasing his anxiety, and therefore, his barking. A Animal Behaviorist or Veterinary Behaviorist can give you specific directions for correcting this behavior.
- Don’t use a muzzle as a substitute for training, or while you are absent. Your dog regulates his temperature through the mouth by panting and muzzles prevent your dog from doing this as well as drinking water and eating.
- Don’t attempt to make your own muzzle using rope or rubber bands. Not only is it cruel, it can be dangerous for the dog.
Please note that there there are instances of excessive barking for which it is a good idea to seek the advice of a Animal Behaviorist, a Veterinary Behaviorist, or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer first.