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Dogs might not speak as humans can, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Dogs “speak” to one another and their pet parents with tail wags, body language, and barking.
Although barking is perfectly normal, it can become excessive. Non-stop barking can frustrate pet parents and irritate neighbors or anyone else exposed to it. Learning why a dog is barking and what to do about it can help pet parents regain control.
Here are a few of the most common reasons why dogs bark:
A foraging squirrel, wandering birds, or neighbors passing by on the sidewalk can set a dog barking. They’re letting the creature or person know that the area is theirs. In some cases, dogs may expand what they believe to be “their territory” to include the space around their pet parent’s car or the path they frequent when out for walks.
A dog that barks at every sound or sight and takes a stiff, more alert stance may be warning their pet parents of potential danger — even if it’s not dangerous.
Some dogs bark at their pet parents or other animals because they want something. That may be food, a treat, a walk, or playtime.
When accompanied by relaxed body language and a wagging tail, barking can be a greeting to people or other animals a dog knows.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to start barking because they hear other dogs doing it. Some canines will start barking along with others even when they’re far away.
A dog that’s tied up or otherwise confined — or can’t access playmates or toys — might bark to vent their frustration.
For some dogs, barking is compulsive behavior. They bark excessively and often in the same way, and they may also pace or run.
Dogs with separation anxiety may bark from the time their pet parents leave until they come home. These dogs will often exhibit other signs, such as pacing, property destruction, depression, or urinating indoors.
Pain can sometimes cause a dog to bark. A dog may have a medical condition the pet parent isn’t aware of.
Barking may be normal, but pet parents generally don’t want their dogs barking excessively. It can disrupt daily life and cause tension with neighbors.
The first step to curbing unwanted barking is determining why a dog is barking. When/where does the dog bark? What triggers the barking (animals, people, sounds, etc.)? What else is the dog doing while barking? Answering these questions can help a pet parent narrow down the cause, allowing them to find the best approach.
A thorough examination can help rule out any health issues. In some cases, treating an underlying problem is enough to stop barking.
If the dog barks at other animals or people outside, pet parents can remove the motivation to bark by closing the blinds. They may decide to do this when they leave to keep the dog from barking while they’re gone.
Pet parents can teach their dogs to react differently to a stimulus — like a knock on the front door — that triggers barking, such as laying in their bed, sitting down, or leaving the room. They should reward the desired behavior with plenty of praise and treats to reinforce it.
Physical activity and mental stimulation, such as puzzle toys, can help dogs work out extra energy or stress, reducing the likelihood of excessive barking.
Calming treats may relieve anxious dogs, including those with separation anxiety, and reduce their urge to bark.
If a pet parent has tried multiple methods without success, a professional may be able to help. A trainer can provide additional dog training tips that may be more effective.
When working with a dog to stop excessive barking, pet parents should avoid:
Punishing a dog for barking
Encouraging a dog to bark (responding to the bark by saying “who’s there,” getting up to check the window, etc.)
Using a muzzle for long periods, especially when they aren’t around to supervise the dog
It can take some time to curb a dog’s excessive barking, but it is possible. Pet parents need to be patient, persistent, and consistent. Exercise, training, and plenty of praise (including treats) for desired behaviors can all help. If pet parents have any questions or concerns, they can always consult a professional dog trainer or the Fuzzy veterinary team for further advice.