Barking is a big issue for many of dog owners, firstly I would like to discuss the reasons why dogs bark and what they are trying to communicate to us. This article is not related to barking issues when the dog is alone as this would be considered a separation anxiety issue. Please see my website for more details on this subject under common issues.

Different types of barks

  • Low and gruff
  • Short intervals in between the bark
  • High pitched or low pitched but continuous
  • Howl bark
  • Long intervals in between each bark
  • Standing still and barking
  • Moving back and forth and barking
  • Mid Intervals between each bark

All of these different types of barks send different messages out.

Reasons for barking

  • Boredom
  • Frustration
  • Warning to keep distance from them
  • Fear
  • Protection
  • Warning giving an alarm to us
  • Pain related
  • Excitement and arousal
  • Play
  • Energy release
  • One dog initiates and the others follow

Evaluate

To help stop your dog barking it is a good idea to try and work out the reasons why the bark is happening then you can implement the correct strategy and training methods to your individual circumstances. Consider the following;

  • The occasions the barking is at it’s worse
  • Other body languages that your dog may be displaying.  Are the ears up, forward or pinned back? Is the tail happy and wagging mid-range? Or wagging high or stiff or possibly down low?
  • How about your dogs movements do they look fearful and backing away or moving forward when the barking is happening?
  • Is your dog barking for no reason that you can see?  (This if often an obsessional behaviour which needs behaviour modification to treat the underlying cause first).
  • Is your dog staring at the stimulus it is barking at or turning it’s head or eyes to the side?

To help your dog to follow your lead in stopping barking then ensure your dog has the following areas addressed;

  • Adequate exercise
  • Is not hungry or thirsty
  • Does not need to toilet
  • Is not pain or age related
  • Negative previous experiences

My 12 Top Tips

Many barking related issues I come across require the owner to make a metaphorical statement to their dog saying, “there is no problem, I have it under control”. This tells the dog you are in charge and can lessen the internal anxiety within your dog. The use of noise, spray, shouting and other punishment related methods do not work long term and the end result is a more fearful and anxious dog who will then bark more. Below are some great tips to try.

  • Acknowledge to your dog that you have heard the alarm and all is good, by you getting up and checking out the source and saying “Okay thank you” there is no problem here, repeat twice if necessary. This sounds simple but often your dog will stop once it knows you have it covered.
  • Give your dog something else to do such as a command to sit and stay and positively reward for doing so.  A calmer or thinking dog is not a barkie dog!
  • Train your dog to settle on a mat or behind a boundary line and await your next instruction.
  • If you have any windows to the street which escalates any barking then it is wise to cover these with blinds or window film decal to distort the outside passers-by.
  • If your dog is very fearful then a covered crate can induce a secure feeling for your dog. (The crate needs to be conditioned as a nice place not a punishment!)
  • If your dog is a guarding breed type ensure you have a calm assertive leadership in place, not only with the barking issue but in other daily regimes too.
  • A snuffle mat or Kong type of canine enrichment toy induces calming chemicals to the brain and can be given as a distraction, reward or to elevate boredom.
  • If your dog does not like strangers in the house then you may need to have your dog leaded and following your commands whilst reward training .
  • Teach “shush”by giving attention, praise and treats in the interval of the bark if possible (by showing the treat initially whilst teaching the word the bark will usually stop) then stop rewarding when the barking starts. Increase the time gradually after saying the word “shush” before then giving the hidden treat, count the seconds in your head and repeat.
  • If your dog is barking and jumping up your guest, then use a lead and ask for an alternative behaviour such as sit and reward. If this continues then remove your dog quietly and calmly with no words into another area away from your guest and bring out again after a couple of minutes when calmer. Always ask your visitors to remain quiet and calm and not to encourage and reward the excitable behaviour.
  • In a multiple dog household, observe which dog initiates the barking and apply your chosen method to lessen the initial barking.
  • When your dog constantly barks at people in your home or when the people are moving about this is often linked to guarding you and the territory. This requires a confident owner influence. Install boundaries within in the home using sit and stay between rooms that you are entering and only allowing on furniture or beds when you ask up, so they become a true reward. Make sure your dog leaves and enters the house, garden  and car with manners using a release command when you are telling your dog it can move through.

A lot of dogs bark because they believe it to be their job to do so and we like this to happen on occasions when there may be a threat outside our home. When barking becomes a nuisance it has often become habitual and it becomes self-rewarded to the dog so they continue to do it. Some rewards your dog may be getting which you have not realised below;

  • The supposed threat going or backing off.
  • Attention from the owner, even if this is being told off, spoken to or picked up.
  • Self-fulfilling, internally the dog is getting a “feel good”hormone release which is lowering their anxiety.
  • It is releases unspent energy.

Conclusion

If your dog is barking excessively consider if you are covering all of its mental and physical needs. Then give thought to what is exactly happening to trigger the barking and what other body communications you can see. Consider you other daily regimes, do these need adjusting too so your dog knows it is not necessary to step up and watch over you and the home? What reward is being received on carrying out this behaviour? With all these questions answered you can look to change or alter the situation so they are not receiving any reward apart from the reward based reinforcement that you give. Decide on what you would like to see and only reward this behaviour instead of the barking.

Above all remain consistent at all times and instruct anyone else that has dealings with your dog to do the same, this prevents confusion and anxiety building up in your dog which will serve only to increase not decrease the barking problem.

If you require one to one help with excessive or intimidating barking or any other behavioural issues please contact me, Mandy Rigby at Yes! Good Dog via telephone or my contact page