Something we hear often at Red Pointy Dog Training is, “My dog won’t stop barking!” While people can identify when their dog is barking, why their dog is barking is a whole different story. There are many reasons why our dogs bark and each reason is addressed differently. Here are a few examples of why our dogs bark at us.
1. Fear. Much of the barking we see is caused by fear or discomfort. Whether it be fear of other dogs, strangers in hats, the mailman or the scary new trash can that popped up next door. Fear can be caused by a traumatic experience, it can be caused by genetics and sometimes a mixture of the two. Helping a dog conquer fear can be a long and difficult road. Patience and understanding are paramount, but with the proper tools and plan, big steps towards having a less fearful dog are possible!
2. Boredom. When a dog is bored, they are probably going to find a way to entertain themselves. Sometimes this will be chewing your favorite shoes, sometimes it will be bringing you their favorite squeaky toy to try to entice you to play, sometimes they will bark as an attention seeking behavior or because it is more entertaining than doing nothing! Remember negative attention is still attention and something I always say is you can’t bark at a dog for barking and expect results. The solution to this type of barking is often simple: More exercise! By increasing their physical exercise and mental stimulation may cause that behavior to disappear. Some great ways to increase mental stimulation are getting rid of your dog bowl and only feeding out of enrichment toys, doing tricks, using some Doggie Parkour out on your walks or getting into a dog sport such as Nosework or Agility.
3. Frustration. It’s common for a dog to start barking when there is something they want but can’t get to. If they are on leash and want to kill the porcupine who infuriatingly won’t move out of the trail they might vocalize their frustration. If they are crated when they aren’t tired, (or some times over tired) they might bark out of frustration until let out or they fall asleep. It’s worth noting that if the barking becomes frantic or is coupled with destructive behavior that might be a completely different problem and may require help from a professional.
Ways to combat frustration are increasing rewards for hard behaviors such as walking past wildlife, lowering your expectations while training, working on settling as a trained behavior and properly introducing the crate. Make it a place they want to be, not just a ‘timeout.’
5. Physical needs. If your dog is barking at you and you feel their needs are met, it might be because they have to potty! Though barking can be very annoying this is one of the times where you should just listen and bring them out. No matter how annoying you find barking, they are telling you they need to go and cleaning up an accident that could have been avoided is always going to be more annoying.
If barking for these reasons are something you really want to eliminate a great option is to hang some bells on your doorway and teach them to ring when they need to go out.
6. Breed. If you live in an apartment and have a busy lifestyle, getting a beagle or other hound type might not be the best idea. There are options for training a dog who is genetically predisposed to bark but you may be faced with a greater challenge. Be sure to choose a dog who will fit your lifestyle so everyone can remain happy without too much stress!
It’s important to keep in mind that barking is a perfectly normal dog behavior. While extra exercise and mental stimulation will cure some of your dog’s barking, it might not help eliminate all of it. If barking is caused by fear, stress, or anxiety it is important to contact a professional rather than trying to deal with it yourself. If you are not sure what is causing your dogs excessive barking we would be more than happy to help you reach the root of the problem, develop a plan, and help you to help your dog conquer the behavior!