Why dogs bark and what to do about it

Free from Pixaby labrador-1287297_1280Canine communication isn’t that complicated. Most dogs bark for the same reasons. Here’s a translation.

Alert/alarm bell
Something gets a dog’s attention and barking ensues. It can happen in a dog’s home territory or almost anywhere else. It also happens when a dog is startled by an unfamiliar sound or movement.

Territorial declaration
This is usually an “intruder” warning, a feeling of protectiveness toward a human, a home, yard or any place a dog calls its own.

Dogs say “hi” just like humans.

Excited to see you
A dog is happy to see its human or just wants to play.

Yelp, please help.
“Ouch,” “I’m hurt,” or “I’m very scared.”

Sometimes there’s a health issue not a behavior problem responsible for barking. A dog that’s deaf doesn’t hear himself bark and doesn’t understand he should stop. A dog with dementia doesn’t understand much at all.

I’m bored/lonely/frustrated
This is a call for attention. Dogs who have been left alone for a long period, have excess energy or just want some human interaction will bark.

Then there are these reasons every human with a dog has experienced. These are from David Sapsted at the Telegraph newspaper. He says his dog barks:

  • Because some other dog three counties away decided to bark.
  • To frighten off that ugly beast just spotted in the reflection of the oven door.
  • As a warning to passing aircraft that 30,000 feet looks low enough.
  • To alert you to the hazards posed by that leaf that has just blown past the window.
    See the other 6 reasons here.

Free from Pixabydog-888907_1280The question is, how do you get barking dogs to stop. Here are suggestions from the Humane Society.

Ignore it.
This actually means don’t give your dog attention and reinforce whatever the reason for barking. Don’t talk, touch or look at your pup. When the canine is quiet, reward that with a treat.

Remove the motivation, if possible.
Your pup is barking at a someone passing by your house. Close the curtains, put your dog in another room or outside (in an enclosed space).

Desensitize your dog to the stimulus.
This takes some time and commitment, but it’s the same strategy that helps people with anxiety disorders.

This is how the Humane Society suggests you do this.
“Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing him to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes him bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that he doesn’t bark when he sees it. Feed him lots of good treats. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats!).”


FreeImages.com copycat-1315150-1278x848Teach the “quiet” command.
It seems contradictory, but teach your canine to “speak” (bark) on command.
Give the command to speak. As you dog barks a few times, stick a treat in front of his nose, something the pup really likes. When he stops to sniff the treat, praise him and let him have the treat. Keep this up until your dog begins to bark as soon as you give the command to “speak.”

Then, follow the same procedure but using the “quiet” command. Tell your pup to speak. When she barks, give the “quiet” command and stick a treat in front of her nose. When she stops barking to examine the treat, give to her and say “good quiet.” Repeat until both commands are automatic.

Keep your dog too tired to bark
The right combination of physical and mental activity can keep a dog relaxed and more resistant to barking.

Here are more ideas and information from the ASPCA and petMD.

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