My Dog Barks Too Much. What Do I Do?
Veterinarian Reviewed on October 24, 2008 by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM
Posted in Behavior Management
Your dog’s barking can be more than just a little annoyance. Some dog owners will recognize many problems associated with barking including upset neighbors and lost sleep. One of the most important first steps to getting barking under control is to recognize why your dog is barking. For the most part, barking is a natural canine activity that occurs when your dog is scared, upset, frustrated, or lonely.
Types of Barking
Normal barking will normally fall into one of two basic categories. Barking for attention and barking out of frustration are two of the most common causes of barking.
Attention seeking – In many situations your dog is barking to get your attention. It is important to ensure that your dog is being fed properly, has easy access to water, and is able to get outside for toileting. When your dog is hungry or thirsty he will likely bark to try to communicate these problems with you. In a lot of cases you may find you can get barking under control by more carefully attending to your dog’s needs. In addition, when dogs feel lonely or scared they will bark. Perhaps they are even barking to warn you of what they feel may be potential danger. Make sure you spend an adequate amount of time with your dog. Companionship is very important to them.
Barking out of Frustration – Obviously if your dog is unhappy he is likely going to try to express his discontent. Barking is their method of communication. Often if dogs are confined or continually leashed they will bark to try to tell you they don’t like it. Moreover, because of their confinement they can often become more agitated by other dogs or people because their defenses are compromised. Unfortunately, it can be nearly impossible in some situations to allow your dog room outside to roam. In these cases, it might be best to bring your dog indoors overnight or to provide some kind of sheltered area that is out of view. A dog house or a kennel can be a good place for your dog to escape and this might relieve some anxiety thereby decreasing barking behavior.
Some Tips for Controlling Dog Barking
There are some simple activities that you can employ to help you get dog barking under control.
1. When you’re away from home for long periods of time, ensure that your dog has sufficient food and water.
2. For outside dogs, it is important to give them an opportunity to learn about their environment. Walks around the neighborhood where the dog can familiarize himself with the common sights and sounds will allow your dog to feel more comfortable and will likely reduce barking.
3. Exercise is important. If your dog is not getting enough exercise he will become more easily agitated and in turn will bark more. Having a large yard for your dog to roam is not equivalent to having a well-exercised dog.
4. Give your dog something to do when you are not home. There are some excellent feeding toys which can be packed with food so that your dog has to work for his food while you’re not home. This can be a great distraction to barking. In addition, if you leave your dog indoors consider turning on the television or radio so that he doesn’t feel so lonely.
Finally, be sure to praise your dog whenever he stops barking. You can even use a verbal command, such as “stop barking” to train your dog not to bark. In this case it would be important to praise the dog whenever it responds to the command. Eventually, he will learn that not barking is the preferred behavior
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan