Barking is a natural form of communication for dogs. You must never expect a dog to stop barking. However, sometimes dogs bark excessively that it becomes annoying for you and your neighbors. You wanted to relax and take a nap in the afternoon, but your dog’s barking keeps you awake. You invite your friends for a movie marathon, but they can’t enjoy your home because your dog keeps on barking at them. If these situations sound familiar, figure out what causes your dog to bark too much and treat this problem accordingly. Don’t allow it to go on and on – correct the barking behavior immediately.
Why do dogs bark?
There are a lot of reasons why dogs bark. Naturally, they will bark to warn you because they see an unknown person by your door or gate. However, this can be a problem if your dog barks to everything he sees, like birds, cats, other dogs and people walking by, especially if you’re living in a busy city. Some dogs bark at any noise or any object that startles them or catches their attention. Usually, when dogs hear another dog bark, they will bark in response.
Happy dog barks are usually for greeting people and other animals. This barking is accompanied by a relaxed body language and a wagging tail. Attention seeking barks are to solicit play or to ask for food or treat. Besides these, a dog’s bark can also indicate if they’re stressed, anxious about being left alone, or bored. Barks out of boredom or loneliness are repetitive and monotone, while barks out of separation anxiety can sound desperate.
Some dogs are compulsive barkers, who just seem to bark just to hear the sound of their voices. They often do this while making repetitive movements as well, such as running in circles or pacing. Meanwhile, some dogs bark excessively due to medical problems ranging from bee stings to brain disease to pain. Older dogs may have canine senility that causes excessive barking. If your dog barking wasn’t a problem to you before, or if your dog barking worsened, it might be caused by an underlying medical reason. It’s always a good idea to bring your pet to a veterinarian so you can understand what’s going on with your dog and have it treated if there’s something wrong.
Once you have identified what causes your dog’s excessive barking, here are some tips for you to better control it:
1. Block your dog’s view to potential barking triggers
If your dog loves to bark and bark at the window or in the yard, you have to manage its environment by limiting what your dog sees. Blocking your dog’s view from potential barking triggers is your step one.
When indoors, leave your front curtains or blinds closed or use tinted static cling film that blurs and blocks sights from the outside. Consider rearranging your furniture if your dog loves to jump on the back of a sofa or chair to reach the windows. When in the yard, use solid wood as a fence instead of chain fencing. There are also commercial-grade privacy screening installs over your existing fence.
2. Mask outside noises
Besides the view, you can mask outside sounds too. If your dog reacts strongly to outdoor sounds, you can use a white noise machine, a fan or a radio that plays soft music. Place it near the door or window where sounds that trigger barking usually comes from.
3. Ignore barking and don’t shout at your dog
A lot of times we unintentionally reinforce our dog’s annoying barking behavior by shouting and scolding him. Whenever your dog barks and you go shout at him, he thinks you’re joining him with your own human bark. Even looking at the dog when he is barking tells him that he’s got your attention – and for dogs, your attention is a reward.
To stop the dog from barking too much, you must completely ignore it. Walk away, don’t give him eye contact and do not speak. The barking might increase temporarily, but you must be consistent and patient. When he finally stops barking, quickly turn around, praise him and give him a treat. Do it repeatedly until your dog finally learns that he will only get your attention when he’s quiet.
4. Teach your dog when to “speak” and then to stay quiet
Have you ever yelled “Quiet!” to your dog but never get the “quiet” you wanted? Constant barking is irritating, but you can’t correct your dog’s behavior if you are frustrated. Your dog will only mirror your frustration and would tend to bark a lot more. Learn to calm your nerves first, and then you can control your dog’s barking.
To get your dog to learn how to stay quiet, you should teach them to “speak” first. Teaching your dog to bark on command may sound absurd, but it places the behavior under control so you can teach them not to bark on command as well.
First, get your dog’s attention and get them excited by ringing the doorbell, knocking on the door, or anything you know that makes him bark. Give your dog the command word, such as “speak,” and then stick a tasty treat in front of his nose. When your dog stops to sniff the treat, praise him and give him the treat. Then try again by just saying “speak,” without the help of barking triggers. When your dog has learned to bark on command, then you can train him to stay quiet. When he starts barking, say “quiet” and give him a treat. While your dog stops barking to get the treat, pet him and praise him. Practice these when your dog is calm, and he will learn how to stop barking at your command, even if he really wants to bark.
5. Reward your dog when it doesn’t bark
Reinforce the behavior you taught him by making sure you notice it when he doesn’t react to things, or when he reacts only mildly and appropriately. When your dog simply gets up when he hears or sees stimuli and then lies down again, praise him, pat him, or use a click to recognize his good behavior, and then give him a treat. You may do this even when you haven’t trained your dog to speak and stay quiet yet.
6. Keep your dog busy
Oftentimes, excessive barking is the result of bottled up energy. A lot of dogs bark because they are bored and have a lot of energy to spare. Keep the dog active by walking him regularly in the morning – even just a 15-minute walk will do. If you work long hours, get someone to walk your dog or play with him for at least an hour a day. Give him a ball, a chewing toy or any interactive toys for dogs, like food dispensing toys to keep him busy for hours. You may set-up a play-date with your friend’s dog, or you can drop your pet off to doggie daycare for two to three days a week to keep him occupied. Make sure your dog is getting enough mental and physical exercise every day to tame his barking. Remember, a tired dog is a quiet dog.
7. Set up a safe and quiet place for your dog
If your dog loves to bark a lot whenever you leave the house, set up a safe and quiet place away from the front door to keep them from barking (and from disturbing your neighbors). It can be your laundry room, a spare bedroom or any spare space. You may add a crate with a comfy bed and privacy covers, or a baby gate that blocks off other areas. Leave him with toys there to keep him busy and forget about barking or even ruining your things. If you live in a small house and have no space to spare to isolate your dog, use a crate cover and train your dog to stay in a crate.