FINDING OUT WHY YOUR DOG BARKS:
THE MEAT OF THE MATTER
Having a dog that barks too much can really try your patience (and that of your friends, family, neighbours, etc.). The most important thing is to figure out why they’re doing it in the first place.
Dogs bark for any number of reasons: to get attention, to show excitement, to say “Let’s play,” to try to tell you something, to express fear or anxiety, to react to their environment, etc. Sometimes these natural reactions get out of hand, causing major problems for pet owners.
HUMANS TALK. DOGS BARK.
Barking is an important communication tool for dogs. They use it to:
ASK QUESTIONS LIKE:
- “May I?”
- “Hey, mind opening the door for me?”
- “Who’s that? Who’s that?”
- “What’s that noise?”
EXPRESS EMOTIONS LIKE:
It’s pretty normal for a dog to bark when they hear a noise for the first time or an unfamiliar person or animal approaches.
In situations like this, a dog normally lets out a few questioning barks and waits for whatever triggered the bark to respond before continuing. If the noise fades or the stranger stops moving to show they’re not a threat, your dog should stop barking.
But if your dog barks non-stop, even after repeated exposure to a stimulus, they may be anxious and unable to accurately assess the danger. Excessive barking may be the only way they know how to cope.
Your dog’s barking may be the result of conditioning, meaning they’ve learned they can get what they want in a given situation if they bark.
For instance, let’s say your pooch is yapping out of fear and then the trigger that set them off goes away. The dog may learn to associate barking with the relief they feel when the “threat” moves on. If the end result is that they feel less anxious, they may be more inclined to repeat the behaviour in the future.
Barking can also be the first sign of escalating aggression. Dogs that bark at unfamiliar people or animals may develop increasingly intense reactions like:
- Lip rolling
- Snapping at the air or actual biting
Is your dog exhibiting one of these signs of aggression in addition to barking? To better understand your pet and to ensure everyone’s safety, read our article on Aggression in dogs.
DOES YOUR DOG BARK WHEN YOU’RE NOT HOME?
IT MAY BE SEPARATION ANXIETY
Does your neighbour complain about your dog barking all the time when you’re not home? Separation anxiety may be the cause. Dogs with this condition get distressed when their owners leave them. They may express this emotion by:
- Destroying property
- Having accidents
- Complete inhibition
If your dog exhibits symptoms like these, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away. They can do tests and make recommendations on how to get your dog’s anxiety under control quickly.
Want to know more about separation anxiety? Read our article on Anxiety in dogs.
STOPPING EXCESSIVE BARKING: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS
ASK US FOR ADVICE
Can’t take your dog’s barking anymore? The first step is to discuss it with your Globalvet team. During the consultation, your veterinarian will ask questions to get to the root of your dog’s problem and recommend other things you can try like:
- Private consultations
- Outside referrals
TRAIN YOUR DOG
In some cases, one of the best solutions may be to combine specific training techniques with proper management of your dog’s environment. Your veterinarian may have some recommendations or can point you toward resources like the ones above.
GET A REFERRAL TO A SPECIALIST
If you can’t get a handle on your dog’s excessive barking or break them of the behaviour, your veterinarian can refer you to an in-house or outside animal behaviourist for an assessment.
Very often, these overreactions by your dog are a sign of a behavioural disorder like anxiety. A specialist can evaluate your dog, give you a more specific diagnosis, and develop an effective treatment plan tailored to your situation.
DON’T PUNISH YOUR PET
Barking is usually caused by fear and anxiety. Punishing your dog could backfire and make them even more fearful and anxious. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, and in the meantime avoid the things that trigger your dog’s barking rather than resorting to punishment.
We also recommend avoiding techniques like:
- Using an anti-bark collar (e.g., electric, blast of air, citronella, vibration)
- Dousing your dog with water
- Throwing something on the ground to startle them
- Having their vocal cords removed
Why? Because none of these “solutions” address the underlying emotional reasons for your dog’s behaviour. They don’t get at the source of the problem, and can even make it worse.