We all need to communicate but sometimes your dog’s barking can be a nuisance. Dogs bark for many reasons and before you train them to stop barking, it is important to understand what they are trying to say. Some of the main reasons that dogs bark are excitement, attention seeking, territorial, boredom, anxiety, pain and reactive barking. The pitch, tone and duration of each of these bark types is often a great indicator of the meaning behind each of these types of barks. A low tone bark like a rumble or growl is usually a warning and sign of high anxiety or distress. Howling is usually a way of locating others and they usually mimic other sounds that are of similar pitch such a sirens. Whining is usually accompanied by worry or anxiety and is sometimes associated with begging for things such as food or treats.
Your pup loves when you come home, when he or she is about to go on a walk or even when it is almost feeding time. Excited barking is usually shorter duration, higher pitched and accompanied by tail wagging. If you pick up the leash and see this sort of excitement you can usually set the leash back down and see this behavior go away after a short period of time. Pick the leash up once more and the excitement comes back. This sort of behavior isn’t usually overly annoying since it is tied to a certain action and is generally not repetitive.
Long duration high moderate to high pitch barking is usually the most annoying because it is seemingly endless. This type of barking is usually related to boredom, loneliness and separation anxiety. Attention seeking type barking can often be accompanied by repetitive behaviors such as running circles or running up and down a fence line.
It may come naturally to shout or scold your dog when he or she is barking but this usually has the opposite effect because your dog will just think that you are joining in. You’ve probably already tried ignoring the behavior and found it to be ineffective especially for boredom and loneliness type barking.
Why is my dog barking?
Some behaviors such as territorial barking and anxiety or fear based barking may require the assistance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. Don’t be afraid to enlist a professional to get to the bottom of the behavior. A good trainer can often help you quickly diagnose the behavior and help to build a game plan for you to get the behavior under control. It is important to figure out the reasons behind the barking when you speak to a professional. Whom is your dog barking at? Where and when exactly does the barking happen? Any other information that you can provide to your professional will help them to get to the bottom of it quickly.
I am bored and therefore I bark!
The most common reason for barking is boredom. It may come as a surprise but mental stimulation is far more exhausting than physical stimulation alone. While physical exercise is essential, your dog needs to exercise his or her brain. This can come in many forms such as socialization, walks, brain games, hikes or accompanying you out of the house. How about a trip to a local dog park or one of the many stores that allow well behaved dogs. What about tricks? Teaching and practicing tricks with your dog can be fun, promote bonding and mental stimulation for both of you.
Controlling barking behavior
Controlling barking really requires that you understand exactly why your dog is barking. If your dog is barking because he or she is bored, a playmate, additional walks or some brain games might give some mental stimulation. That mental stimulation might be all your pup needs to feel satiated. If your dog is hungry, getting a playmate probably won’t help much because you aren’t addressing the correct problem behind the barking. If the answer isn’t obvious it might take some trial and error to figure out the reason your pup is trying to communicate with you.
You can work on controlling barking behavior with commands such as “Quiet”. To teach this command, issue the command in a stern but calm voice and wait until your dog stops barking. When he or she does, give positive reinforcement such as a treat or praise. With repetition, your dog will learn that stopping barking after hearing the word “Quiet” will result in a treat. As with most of the other commands that you teach your dog, accompany this command with a visual cue of some kind to reinforce the verbal command.
If your pup is getting overly stimulated when you come home, he or she may be associating your return with play and an excited greeting. Try ignoring your dog for a little while after returning home before a welcome home greeting. Set your keys or your purse down, take your shoes off and then sit down and give your four legged pal some love.