- 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 via different types of bark.
- 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 these different types of barks send different messages out.
Reasons for barking
- Warning to keep distance from them – your dog is scared
- Anxiety of a previous fearful experience happening again
- Fear trigger by what is perceived a threat
- Protection linked to survival instinct or genetics
- Warning to provide an alert
- Pain related
- Excitement and arousal
- Energy release
- One dog initiates and the others follow
- Attention seeking, they have barked at you before and been rewarded this with attention
- Separation anxiety/Isolation distress
To help lessen 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 dog’s individual circumstances. Consider the following.
- The occasions the barking is at its worst
- 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 dog’s 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 its head or eyes to the side?
- Is your dog suffering from separation anxiety as the barking only happens when your dog is left alone or without you?
The main point to remember is your dog will be barking for a reason, firstly ensure your dog’s fundamental needs are truly being met
- Adequate exercise
- Hunger or Thirst, Hot or cold
- Does not need to toilet
- Is not pain or age related
- Consider previous negative experiences
- Enrichment to lessen boredom
- Has a safe, quiet place to settle and sleep
- Not left alone if the dog suffers from separation anxiety. Seek professional advice.
My Top Tips to Help Your Dog to Stop Barking All the Time
Firstly a big tip! The use of noise, spray, shouting and other punishment related methods such as anti-bark collars do not work long term and the result is the dog becomes more fearful and anxious and will resort to more barking and possible divert this anxiety into other anxiety based behaviours. 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 a dog will stop once they know you have it covered.
- Give your dog something else to do such as a ‘find’ the treat, hand touch, middle training or focus cue and reward. The thought process on following known cue’s that have a positive association helps to calm and redirect your dog’s attention else where
- Train your dog to settle on a mat or behind a boundary line so they feel safe
- If you have any windows to the street which escalates your dog’s barking, then it is wise to cover these with blinds or window film decal to distort the outside passers-by.
- Television and the radio can mask outside noises that can trigger your dog to bark
- If your dog is very fearful ensure there is safe quiet place to retreat within the home.
- If your dog is a guarding breed type and is allowed to be watch at the windows of the home frustration escalates and therefore the barking increases, as above offer a quiet place to rest away from window or porches.
- 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.
- Teach a cue of “shush 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 by adding duration gradually before marking and rewarding.
- 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 fear based. This requires boundaries within in the home so the dog can have a safe place and also counter conditioning methods to positively associate new people in the home
Barking is a natural behaviour for dogs, just as we use a verbal language, they are animals and will instinctively warn of potential threats. We may not see these as threats but they do. Dogs will also bark when happy, excited, and overly aroused. They will bark to communicate to us. If the dogs’ needs are not being met over time the barking can become a self-rewarded behaviour and the dog gains some sort of relief by doing this behaviour or is being rewarded by the human if not now in the past.
- Attention from the owner in many different forms.
- Self-fulfilling, internally the dog is getting a “feel good” hormone release which is lowering their anxiety.
- Releasing unspent energy.
If your dog is barking excessively consider if you are covering all of their 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 yours and your dog’s daily regimes, do these need adjusting? and what reward is being received for the behaviour to be continuing?
With these questions answered you can look to fulfil, change or alter the situation or the environment.
Above all always remain consistent this prevents confusion and anxiety building up in your dog which will serve only to increase not decrease the barking issue
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