Addressing the Issues Behind Too Much Barking
Too much barking can be a nuisance for dog parents. When we witness a child having a temper tantrum or a dog tearing into a bark-storm, it’s hard not to want to yell at them or punish them.
The reality is that the child and the dog are both expressing an unmet need. As the more reasonable and responsible adult, it’s your job to pinpoint the issue, resolve it, and be consistent in conditioning a new response.
Fixing too much barking is not as simple as buying an electronic (shock) collar on Amazon and zapping your dog every time they bark. That approach doesn’t resolve the unmet need. Counterproductively, it punishes the dog for trying to communicate with you.
Addressing too much barking starts with understanding why dogs bark and what factors may cause a dog to bark excessively.
What is Normal Barking Versus Too Much Barking?
Spoiler alert: dogs bark to communicate.
Like humans, dogs communicate for various reasons: to defend their territory, sound an alarm, initiate play.
As pack animals, barking is helpful when they are away from the pack and need to figure out how to return. They may also issue barks to send a warning to the entire pack, such as when a predator is on the prowl.
Pet owners should consider themselves members of their dogs’ packs. Consider that too much barking as a message to you. How should you respond? Definitely not by amplifying your energy, yelling, or making frightening gestures. Forego the emotional response and instead focus on the root of the issue. A dog may bark because they are:
- Bored or lonely (I wish there were something to do other than lay around all day. I wonder if the dog next door is home – let me find out!)
- Excited (Watching all the squirrels eat the birdseed from my window gets me all ramped up! There’s a lot of pedestrian and traffic noise outside my home, and I don’t know what it means!)
- Frustrated (If I bark louder and more frequently, will my parents hear me and come home to play with me?)
How Do I Help My Dog Stop Barking?
As we mentioned previously, if you can identify the root cause of your dog’s communication, and then address it consistently, you have a formula for reducing too much barking.
Let’s go through several suggestions based on the potential cause of your dog’s barking.
Many Dogs Bark Because They Are Lonely or Bored
Too much barking is often a response to being alone for a string of long hours while pet parents go to work. You might be barking, too, if you didn’t have a way to entertain yourself.
And that’s the resolution here: providing alternative sources of entertainment. You can do that by purchasing toys and enrichment activities designed (safely) for dogs. It’s also wise to take your dog on a long walk before leaving them alone for hours at a time. The visual stimulation they receive from a walk alone can, in essence, “wake them up” to the sights and sounds they can anticipate throughout the day.
You can also engage the services of a pet sitter like us one or several days out of the week.
Many Dogs Bark Because They Are Excited
The doorbell rings. The mail courier knocks on the door. The UberEats driver delivers a pizza. Let’s be honest, visitors are exciting! Unannounced visitors, however, can be alarming.
Start training your dog to go and sit in another area of the home to receive a reward anytime the doorbell rings or a knock sounds. Praise your pup with a delicious treat every time they go directly to the designated location, and for when they remain there as a visitor enters the home.
Noises like cars driving by or birds chirping can be heard more acutely by dogs than humans. Particularly for dogs left alone for hours on end, they may associate certain noises with negative emotions, like confusion or fear or panic.
There are two suggestions we have for parents of hypervigilant and oversensitive pets. First, create a relaxing space for them – like a crate – that they associate with safety, quiet, and restoration. This space should never be used with punishment, nor should other dogs have access to it. For example, they might retire to this space while their parents cook dinner in the kitchen, then emerge when they hear the clang of dishes going into the dishwasher.
The second recommendation is to add some sort of barrier between the dog and a visual distraction. Consider purchasing blackout shades, blinds, or a privacy window adhesive. If your dog struggles with auditory distractions, try leaving on a playlist of classical music. We recommend Beethoven radio!
Excited dogs are like the kids in the classroom who blurt out their answers instead of raising their hands. Their zeal and participation is admirable, but we just need to channel their energy in a more socially appropriate way. You can condition your dog to harness their excitement for good by appealing to their desire to be a “good boy/girl.”
Many Dogs Bark Because They Are Frustrated
What do you imagine would frustrate you as a dog? Being cooped up in a crate? Being gated out of the dining room area during mealtimes? Maybe being dragged around the neighborhood on a leash?
Okay, the last one was a little dramatic. Like humans, dogs aren’t always content with the status quo. Lovingly condition your pup to cease barking by rewarding them with treats every time they respond to the command, “Quiet.” As they improve, increase the number of seconds between issuing the command and delivering a reward.
Whatever you do, make sure you ignore their barks when they go on a “tirade” of way too much barking. For example, your dog might be causing a ruckus in the crate when it’s bedtime and they’re supposed to be settling down. Instead of opening the crate and swaddling your puppy by the window like it’s a “perfect baby” for ten minutes, which in the puppy’s eyes is 1,000,000% a reward for barking, ignore the barking and give verbal praise for silence.
Before we conclude, we want to share that dogs, in rare cases, may bark excessively due to a physical malady: anything from a fire ant bite to lung cancer. If you suspect that your dog may be barking due to pain, consult with your veterinarian immediately.