Does your dog bark more than you’d like? While barking is a natural instinct for dogs, excessive barking can be a nuisance, especially if it happens at night or when you’re not home.
Fortunately, if your dog is barking too much, there are a few things you can do to help restore peace to your household and remain on speaking terms with your neighbours!
Why is your dog barking?
The first step in stopping excessive barking is to understand why your dog is doing it in the first place.
Here are five possible reasons why your dog might be barking:
- Territorial barking: This is your dog’s way of defending their territory. Often this type of barking is directed towards passers-by, or other dogs that come in close proximity.
- Boredom: This is most often an issue with dogs who are left alone for long periods of time. In this case, they are barking because they are lonely and unhappy.
- Fear/alarm: If something catches your dog’s attention or frightens them they may bark out of fear.
- Compulsive barking: It seems like some dogs just bark to hear the sound of their own voice, and this can be accompanied by other repetitive behaviour like running around in circles.
- Attention seeking: Your dog may bark to get your attention or if they want to play, go outside or go for a walk.
Dealing with the behaviour
There’s no quick-fix solution, but with time, patience and the right training, your dog's nuisance barking can be improved or even stopped altogether. But before you start trying to change your dog’s behaviour, it’s a good idea to get your pet checked over by a vet to make sure there’s no medical reason for the barking.
Once you know there’s no underlying health issue, we suggest you try these tips to reduce the behaviour:
Ignore the barking
Shouting at your dog to stop barking may actually encourage the problem, as it appears that you are barking along with them. It’s important that you don’t give your dog any attention at all for barking, or they may see it as a reward and continue the behaviour.
You can however use food rewards to disrupt the pattern of nuisance barking. When your dog is quiet, even if they are only taking a pause between barks, give them a dog treat. Eventually over time, your dog should start to realise that it’s more rewarding to be quiet than noisy.
You will need to be consistent if this is going to work and it will probably take a great deal of patience in the beginning, especially if your dog is one of those persistent barkers that can keep going for hours at a time.
Teach your dog to bark on command first
Yes this sounds completely counterintuitive, but it can work in some cases. First you teach your dog to bark when you say ‘speak’ and then once they have mastered that, you teach your dog to stop barking when you say ‘quiet’. Practice in a calm environment at first, and once your dog has got the hang of being quiet on command, gradually move to more stimulating situations (like when someone arrives at the door)
If your dog is barking at something specific, for example a person or another dog, you can try desensitising them to this particular stimulus. Start with the person or other animal at a distance; close enough that your dog can see it but not so close they start barking. Feed your dog lots of treats. Gradually move the stimulus closer and keep feeding your dog treats, so eventually they start to associate the stimulus with the rewards.
Tire your dog out
Any parent will tell you a tired child is a quiet child and the same principle applies to dogs! Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise in the form of regular walks, and give them interactive toys to play with at home. This will also help stave off boredom for your pet, especially if they are at home alone for long periods of time. Your dog’s exercise needs will vary depending on breed and age, so check with your vet if you are not sure.
Training your dog to stop excessive barking takes time and patience, but it can be done. Once the barking is under control, you’ll be able to focus on enjoying the many benefits of dog ownership in a calm and peaceful household!