You’re enjoying a pleasant afternoon relaxing in the yard, listening to the soothing sounds of the birds singing or the water feature trickling. Bliss! But Fido suddenly starts barking like crazy at nothing more than the air! Or maybe you didn’t even get that far because your pup is constantly barking at anything and everything. It’s frustrating, and we hear you. And your pup!
Barking is important because it’s how our dogs speak to us. And it’s just part of owning a dog. But unnecessary, extreme barking is not! So, if you’re trying to figure out how to stop my dog from excessive, nuisance barking, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll walk through why dogs bark and the common reasons for excessive barking. And more importantly, we will explain how to correct your pup’s barking problem if it becomes a nuisance. You’ll learn plenty of tips to put an end to your pup’s barking if it’s become annoying to you, or your neighbors. Let’s jump in!
- 1 Barking is How Dogs Communicate
- 2 Start Training Young
- 3 7 Common Reasons for Barking
- 4 Correcting Barking Habits
- 5 Things NOT to do With a Problem Barker
- 6 Additional Tips for Problem Barkers
- 7 Final Thoughts
Barking is How Dogs Communicate
Let’s kick this off by saying that dogs are meant to bark because it’s how they speak. Like us humans can talk, some of us more than others, some dogs are more vocal than others. It’s important to realize that the goal here is not to stop your dog from barking completely. How would you like it if your parent’s prevented you from ever speaking again? Nope, you wouldn’t.
The goal here is to stop excessive, nuisance barking and tone it down to appropriate barking levels. Having the gift of the gab is fine when it doesn’t encroach on your or your neighbor’s sanity. But when it does, it can ruin relations or mean having to pay fines depending on your local laws or tenancy agreements.
When a dog barks, they are trying to tell you something. And they must do. Some dogs bark to announce the arrival of someone on their property, which can be useful. Others bark when they need to go outside for a pee or poop, which is also helpful. The last thing you want to do is eradicate barking completely. Because then you’ll find other problems on your hands. As with most things in life, it’s all about balance.
Start Training Young
You can always teach an old dog new tricks, but teaching a puppy tricks is much easier for sure. The best way to prevent excessive, nuisance barking is to teach dogs from an early age that it will be ignored. And only calm, relaxed behavior will be rewarded with praise and treats. If you are forever giving in to your new pup because he is cute, you are setting both you and them up for disaster.
The socialization process also goes a long way to prevent excessive barking. Socializing your dog at an early age not only teaches them how to behave correctly, but it also exposes them to new situations, sounds, and objects, and it also builds their confidence. And more manners and confidence mean less barking at anything and everything.
7 Common Reasons for Barking
Dog’s can’t speak to us in our language, how easier would life be if they could?! Think of your dog as a newborn baby. Babies cry when they are hungry, want attention, are ill, or are scared, etc. Babies can’t tell their parents the problem, they can only make a noise. And for dogs, their noise is barking. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons for barking.
Excited barking usually comes with a waggy tail and wiggly butt. Spinning in circles or tapping their paws are also signs of excitement. They will look alert, generally pleased, with their ears held high. Packs of dogs will bark and howl when they are excited, and it’s just your dog’s way of saying they’re happy!
Examples of excited barking are when you come home after work or say the word ‘walk.’ This type of barking only lasts a minute or two at most or until the desired outcome happens. For example, when you pay them attention or take them out for walkies. Usually, this type of barking is rarely an issue because it is normal and short-lived.
Barking is how a dog communicates. If your dog is barking for attention, the barks will usually be short, sharp, and monotone. There will usually be a pause between each bark, giving you a chance to react. Their body language will be more relaxed, with a slowly wagging or stiff tail and natural ears.
Examples of this could be barking because they want to be stroked or need a pee or poop break outside. This type of barking can be problematic depending on why they want attention and whether you give it to them.
For example, barking because they need to pee is good and should be acted on. But if your pup is barking because they want a treat and you give them a treat, you are rewarding that behavior. And you can be sure they’ll do it again and again.
Anxiety or Loneliness
This barking type is common for dogs who are bored and anxious at home while their family works all day. You might not be aware of this problem until your neighbor or indoor CCTV alerts you to the problem.
So, it might not be a problem for you as such, but it can be a big problem for your neighbors and one that needs solving fast. This type of barking is your dog’s way of calling out to anyone who can hear them because they want comfort.
If they are barking because they are anxious, it could be consistent barking, loud and proud, throughout the day. Some dogs howl too. And some mix it up with both barking and howling to keep everyone on their toes. Anxious dogs often drop their ears and tail and look generally uneasy. Trembling is also common for severely anxious dogs.
Fear and Being Territorial
This bark is a defensive style of barking, and it is usually caused by a stimulus. For example, they might bark because a stranger is walking towards their family or doing something they shouldn’t be doing. Or it could be a reaction to loud, scary noises or one that they have never heard before. This is your dog’s way of telling you that you both need to be ready for this potential problem.
Fearful barking is deeper and louder in sound and is usually continuous and excessive until the stimulus is removed. There might also be an aggressive growl in there for good measure if they are fearful or unsure of the stimulus. Their unsure body language will usually include low head posture, raised hackles, holding their tail between their legs.
If they are barking because they are just being territorial, their head and tail will be raised. This makes them appear larger and stronger. A growl and bared teeth warn that they are ready to bite and that whoever or whatever is annoying them should back up. Their barks are likely to be loud and proud, literally acting like the alpha male. This is problematic if they are constantly being territorial.
This type of barking is one of the most common reasons why dogs bark. If a dog is unstimulated, either mentally or physically, it will bark or howl. This is their way of sighing or telling us that they’re fed up. This type of barking is very simple to correct. Excessive barking from boredom is usually the precursor to problematic behavior, so you need to address it. The simple mantra here is that a tired dog is a happy dog.
Some dogs will bark, and others might gruff rather than bark. Like attention-seeking, it’s because they want your attention and to play with you. The barks or gruffs will be short with gaps in between to allow you to play. Or if he’s super bored or a natural howler, he might howl too.
To make it really obvious, some pups will carry their toy over to you. And some will play bow (front legs down, booty in the air) to let you know that they are ready for action.
This is another common reason for excessive, nuisance barking, and it is always caused by a stimulus. For example, your dog might be barking at a cat sitting up a tree in your yard. Or they could be barking at someone or something walking past their house. It’s their way of saying, ‘Hmmm, I’m not sure how to handle this situation,’ or they want to investigate it further.
It could also be something as simple as a sound they don’t like, such as a siren outside. Or it could be because something is annoying them, for example, when you are running a vacuum around the house. Reactive barking is loud and continuous, and it usually won’t stop until the stimulus is removed.
It’s very similar to the fear and territorial barking, but not necessarily because they want to guard you or feel fearful. It could be that they just think it’s a game and want to join in.
This type of barking usually occurs during play or fighting, and it is a result of being in pain or the shock of what has just happened. If your pooch is in pain, they’ll do whatever they can to tell you.
This is their way of shouting out, asking for assistance or informing the other dog or human to stop what they are doing. You’ll see this a lot with puppies who are learning how to play and testing how hard they can bite their littermates without hurting them.
You will usually be able to tell the difference between this type of barking and all other types of barking because they will genuinely sound in pain. The bark will be high-pitched or whimper-like. This type of barking usually stops after a few barks. But if your dog continues to bark in pain, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet as they might have broken something.
Correcting Barking Habits
If you are looking to curb the bad habits, the good news is that there are steps that you can take for each type. While most of the steps to correct the behavior are similar, it can be done in a way to not upset your dog, or cause any type of mistrust between the two of you. Let’s look at how you can put an end to this annoying behavior before it gets out of hand.
Correcting Boredom Barking
If your dog is barking out of boredom, it simply needs more stimulation. Including dog toys, chew sticks, interactive games, and more exercise. Many dog owners make the mistake of saving their exercise after returning home as a treat to look forward to.
But Fido’s brain isn’t wired that way. Instead, exercise them vigorously before you leave them. This way, they’ve already burned their excess energy, leaving them with less energy for barking.
But what about if you are working all day and you aren’t there to address it? Unfortunately, unless you want more problems on your hands, something needs to change. Is working from home or mixed hours an option? Or maybe you could ask a friend or a neighbor to pop in and play with them for a little while.
If not, you need to hire a doggy walker or take your pup to doggy daycare. Otherwise, your neighbors will have something to say about the excessive barking.
Correcting Attention Seeking Barking
This is one of the simplest barking correction methods, but usually, the one that people struggle with the most because owners feel guilty for ignoring their barking pooch. Whether they are barking to get you to play or barking because they don’t want to be in the crate. It all requires the same treatment. Ignore them.
Negative attention, such as telling them off or to be quiet, is still attention. So, ignore them until they are quiet. Otherwise, you are simply rewarding them for barking despite wanting them to stop. If you know that your dog doesn’t need a pee break or water, wait until they are quiet. Once they have shown you that they can be quiet, reward them by letting them out and giving them attention.
The trick to this correction is consistency and being strong-willed. You need to show your dog that being quiet wins rewards, not barking. This may take a while, especially if they are used to you coming to them when they bark. If, after a while, it still isn’t working, try giving them something to do to occupy them, such as a toy. And pay them attention when they are playing with the toy rather than barking.
Correcting Reactive Barking
This is one of the most difficult barking problems to correct because this is usually your dog’s natural reaction to something, or it is an ingrained reaction that has never been challenged before. It involves two commands for success, and we’ll go through these commands next. Like before, you need to be consistent and stronger-willed than Fido. Remember that reactive barking always starts with a stimulus, so you need to figure out what the stimulus is.
For example, say your pooch barks at passersby when sat by the window. Now you can’t stop people walking past your house, but you can install a blind or set of curtains to block his view. Remove the stimulus, and you should prevent the barking. If your dog barks at that pesky cat up the tree, call your pooch inside as soon as they begin to bark. It sounds simple enough, but you need to act quickly to create the desired effect.
If your pooch is barking at visitors or the doorbell, you need to remember that you probably don’t want to stop them from barking completely. Ideally, you want your dog to bark once to alert you, then to back off and let you deal with it. So, let your dog bark once, then immediately answer the door to show them you have dealt with it. Once you have, redirect them to stop their barking.
Correcting Anxiety or Loneliness Barking
The first tip here is to always leave your puppy alone for short periods during puppyhood. Otherwise, they become dependent on your constant company. Start with 15 minutes, and gradually increase it until you can leave them alone for a few hours. Never leaving your puppy’s side is the main cause of separation anxiety, and it can be difficult to correct this.
However, this is no help if you are trying to correct the excessive, lonely barking now when they are older. But fear not, the problem can be solved! This issue also ties in with boredom when you are not there. So, always exercise your pup vigorously before you go out to leave them feeling tired. Leave them with toys and activities to keep their mind occupied too. More times than not, this can solve the problem altogether.
If it doesn’t, your pooch is probably just anxious that you are not there. Invest in a crate and spend time crate training your pooch. Once they have gotten used to their new crate, always reward them for being relaxed and quiet when inside. Also, try using the training technique we described in the ‘quiet command’ section.
You should also consider hiring a dog walker to take your pup out halfway through your absence. Or drop them off at a doggy daycare center. Even if it is a few times a week rather than every day, they are less likely to be bored and bark all day long. You can also try turning on a familiar sound to comfort them, such as the radio or the television.
Correcting Fearful Barking
Like we have said before, training a dog’s natural reaction out of them is often difficult. But not impossible. And if you can change their way of thinking, you can be sure that it will immensely improve your life and your dog’s life.
Correcting fearful barking takes time and patience. Never scold a dog for being fearful because it’ll only make matters worse. Sometimes, they are not barking out of fear. Instead, they might only be barking at a once feared thing because they are just used to barking.
If your dog is scared of, say the vacuum, leave it out in the room. Let your dog sniff and investigate it for a few days. Treat them when they go near it. Then, turn it on and leave it stationary, and again, let them investigate it.
Your dog will probably bark at this point, but try using the ‘quiet command’ or the redirection techniques we mentioned earlier. Make the interaction with the feared stimulus as positive as possible. This method slowly desensitizes them and makes them realize there is nothing to be scared about.
Sometimes, things are scary for no reason. Like us humans, nothing will convince us that house spiders, or the dark, are nothing to be worried about. The same goes for Fido and their seemingly strange phobias. If you cannot convince them that the stimulus is not scary, simply avoid it when possible. If it’s not possible, you should speak to a qualified canine behaviorist.
Things NOT to do With a Problem Barker
Now you know what to do with an excessive, nuisance barker, here are the things you need to avoid at all costs. By doing any of these things, you can make matters worse and cause even more barking. In addition to educating Fido, you need to educate and keep yourself in check.
Yell at Your Dog
This is the most common mistake that dog owners make when trying to stop excessive barking. You’d think that telling a dog off for barking would make them stop, but no. Fido’s brain isn’t wired like that. Remember, your pup cannot understand what you are saying. And they’ll think that you’re shouting along with them, leading them to think that their ‘shouting’ is acceptable.
Positive reinforcement training is much more effective at teaching better habits than punishment is. So, ignore the barking, and reward them when they are quiet and relaxed. Never, ever yell or scold a dog for barking.
Praise Your Dog
Another mistake dog owners make is to praise their dogs for barking. This is a big no-no! Petting your pooch to ‘calm them down’ is seen as praise to them. It doesn’t comfort them in any way. Instead, it bigs up their ego to carry on barking. Ignore them, or teach them the ‘quiet command’ or use the redirection techniques.
Use a Shock Collar
Although some dog trainers will disagree with this one, shock collars are cruel. Yes, the use of a shock collar does work to prevent a dog from barking. But sending hundreds, sometimes thousands, of volts into any living thing would prevent them from making a sound. If you wouldn’t use it on yourself, you shouldn’t use it on Fido.
Plus, shock collars do not resolve the underlying cause of the barking, it only masks the problem. Plus, they can also cause further problems because the dog has to release their anxiety or fear somehow. And if they cannot bark, it will come out in the form of behavioral problems. Such as digging up your yard or destroying your homely possessions. Please do not use this cruel ‘training’ method.
Additional Tips for Problem Barkers
Here are a few other tips and tricks of the non-barking trade that you and Fido might find useful. They might work on their own, or they are often effective when using them in addition to the barking training above.
Dogs are creatures of habit. If you know your dog barks when you are out, try using a familiar sound to distract or calm them. Sometimes, it’s the silence that drives dogs crazy, not the loneliness. Put the radio or the telly on when you leave. The sound of human voices and calming music can be enough to ease the tension and reduce barking. Put the radio on when you are there so that when you aren’t, the familiar sound will comfort them.
Alternatively, some dog owners find success with a doggy monitor. This is similar to having a CCTV system inside your home designed for you to interact with your pooch while you are gone. Some systems even dispense treats! Remember to only speak to Fido when he is in a relaxed and calm state. Otherwise, he will just keep barking until he hears your voice.
The use of noise correction techniques is saved for those owners who cannot distract their pooch or redirect their barking behaviors. If Fido completely ignores you despite your commands or silliest voice, you need the help of something more distracting. It needs to be something other than your voice and something that will startle them so they cannot ignore it.
Find something that makes a loud, startling noise, such as a horn or a tin can filled with coins. Rattle it as soon as they bark, and the noise will disturb your pooch’s barking. When they look at you, you can then use your quiet command and treat them when they obey your command.
Some experts use a citronella collar as a last resort. It acts in the same way as the shock collar, but instead of shocking them with volts, it releases a citronella spray when they bark. Citronella spray is harmless, but the substance is unpleasant. This should only be used as a last resort where the other training does not work. Because, like the shock collar, it does not deal with the underlying cause.
If All Else Fails … Call the Experts
If you have tried all of the above, and your pup is still showing no sign of giving up the barking ghost, it’s time to call in the experts. Sometimes the cause of the excessive barking is so deep-rooted that it requires someone with extensive knowledge and training to deal with it. Or, if you cannot link your dog’s barking patterns, there could also be a chance that it is caused by an underlying medical concern such as dementia.
Whatever the rhyme and reasoning for your dog’s nuisance barking, do not feel like you have failed your pupper in any way by speaking to a professional. Sometimes things are just the way they are! Getting in touch with a certified dog trainer is the best thing you can do for your pup and everyone’s quality of life. When searching for a trainer, be sure to do your research. And only work with a trainer that uses positive reinforcement-based training with verifiable qualifications.
So there you have it, everything you need to stop excessive, nuisance barking, and why it happens. As you can see, there are many options available to you. Some are simple changes, and some methods take time and patience.
By implementing one or some of these techniques, you can be sure to stop Fido’s nuisance barking. Nuisance barking is not only annoying, but it does affect your and Fido’s quality of life. As well as everyone else around you too. So, it’s worth the time and effect to resolve it. Good luck!