Excessive Barking

Why is the dog barking?


Some dogs were bred to bark, such as hounds and guarding type dogs. However, getting a sporting dog is no guarantee against a barking problem. Almost all breeds have some tendency to engage in alarm barking, although there is a great variation among individuals.

Physical need

The dog is hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, or has to eliminate. Barking is the dog's way of requesting that you accommodate one of these needs.

Emotional need

The dog is bored, anxious, or excited. Barking can be a request for attention, or a compulsive behavior resulting from a frustrated need for social and mental stimulation.

What can you do?

Barking is one of the most difficult canine behaviors to modify. It is a "self-reinforcing" activity for the dog, which means that the act of barking is its own reward in many instances. But there are steps you can take to minimize barking. Analyze the conditions in which the barking problem occurs and try some of the following techniques:

  1. Don't park your dog in the backyard. Dogs are highly social animals and have an intense need to be with their "pack." Dogs left outdoors are very prone to developing barking problems.

  2. Make sure your dog's physical needs are met.

  3. Increase play and exercise so your dog will be less bored and may sleep more. Enroll in a training class to build your dog's confidence and emotional control.

  4. Do not reinforce anxiety-induced barking or whining by comforting the dog or talking to him in a soothing voice. Talk to him, take him out of his crate, pet him, and play with him only after he is quiet for at least a few seconds.

  5. If you have been "giving in" to your dog by letting him out of his crate when you can't stand the barking any longer, be aware that you have strongly reinforced him to bark to be released from his crate. This behavior will get worse before it gets better, as the dog now thinks he need simply try harder to get what he wants. If you hold out, eventually the dog will give up. Wait for a lull in the barking and praise him quickly before opening the crate.

  6. Corrections can be given for barking but the timing has to be perfect. Most dogs will show a change in body language before they actually make noise. THIS is the time for a leash correction. Another technique is after one bark, say “good dog” and then “enough”. This helps direct the dog to appropriate barking. Too much barking correction and you could end up with a dog that never warns you of an intruder!

  7. Prevent the dog from seeing or hearing things that trigger barking. This is actually the simplest solution. If your dog barks at passersby or vehicles, find some way to block your dog's view (keep the drapes closed, confine the dog to another part of the house, etc.).

The goal is to modify the environment so that you remove the stimulus to bark. Socialize your dog to new experiences. Take her lots of places and praise her for appropriate behavior. Expose her very gradually to sights or sounds that seem to cause her to bark. Reward her for being quiet and relaxed.

Train an incompatible behavior, so you can give your dog a command to do something else instead of barking. Your dog could fetch a toy or come to you and sit when the doorbell rings, for example.

Written by Melissa Smith