If you often find your dog barking at sounds and disturbances such as the doorbell, television, thunder, or seemingly nothing at all, you are certainly not alone. We simply cannot expect our dogs to never bark. However, some dogs bark excessively and unnecessarily. Our barking best friends can cause several problems for us humans including noise complaints and frightening small children or visitors. In addition, it can also cause chronic stress or a lack of sleep for your dog.
Thankfully there are several methods that can effectively help your dog limit barking at inappropriate times. The first step to accomplishing this is to understand WHY your dog is barking in the first place Continue reading to learn why dogs bark as well as how to stop them from barking at every noise they hear.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Dogs bark as a means of communication for several reasons. What are they trying to say? While figuring out the exact reason may not always be possible, if we can narrow down the reasoning your dog has for wanting to be vocal, it will be much easier to fix the problem.
Dogs with separation anxiety often bark excessively when they are left alone. You may find that you have successfully trained your dog to behave while you are at home or out walking around the neighborhood, yet still receive noise complaints while you have left your dog alone at home. This can be a compulsive behavior and tough to spot, as you are not there to notice the barking.
If you think your dog may have separation anxiety, you may notice that your dog exhibits other warning signs as well. These include depression, destructiveness, chewing household items, and repetitive motions such as pacing around the house or along the fence.
2. Territorial Behavior
When a person or animal comes into an area that your dog considers their “territory”, this can trigger excessive barking. The closer in proximity to their territory, often, the louder the barking. When dogs are feeling protective, they usually look alert and exhibit behavior that is more aggressive than normal. They also bark to alert others in the house that there is something they have seen or heard. After all, many dogs believe that it is their job to protect us.
It is natural for a dog to bark at any noise that may startle them or catch their attention, and it does not necessarily have to be within their territory. Sometimes noises may frighten your dog. Signs of fear in dogs include tucking their tail between their legs or holding their ears back, among others.
4. Loneliness and Boredom
For centuries dogs have existed in packs and are inherently not used to being alone. Barking can be the result of boredom, sadness, or unhappiness from being left alone with nothing to do.
5. Playfulness and Greetings
One of the most common causes of barking is greeting anyone who may come to the door, especially after being left alone. This is usually a happy bark that comes with tail wags, kisses, and sometimes jumping.
6. Attention Seeking
Dogs often bark when they are trying to get our attention for something, such as to play or go outside.
The 7 Ways to Stop Your Dog From Barking at Noises
1. Prevention and Desensitization
Preventing your dog from barking to begin with is much easier than stopping the barking once it has started. There are several ways that you can prevent your dog from hearing certain noises. This is not recommended as a long-term solution, but it is effective when you have not yet trained them not to bark and are not around to provide feedback.
The idea behind this is that your dog will likely become used to these noises over time and will no longer be as sensitive to these sounds while you are out of the home.
These solutions may not completely drown out the noise but may be beneficial in reducing the barking. In some cases, having the TV on may only increase the barking depending on your dog’s personality.
Also keep in mind that your dog may have anxiety about being left alone, which will only increase the barking. In these situations, it is important to address the underlying issue of separation anxiety, which ultimately will help with barking in the long run. Providing extra exercise and mental stimulation before leaving the house will also promote sleep for your dog and help them to relax while you are gone.
2. Noise Training
Figure out which noises your dog is reacting to and work on creating these noises yourself to get your dog used to hearing them. If your dog is reactive to stomping feet, jingling keys, or doorbells, it is easy to recreate these noises yourself. Start out these noises at a low volume while calmly speaking to your dog. As they behave and calm down, reward them with a treat.
Slowly increase the level of volume as your dog improves their reaction to the noises you are making. This type of noise training will take a few sessions to condition a new type of response from your dog, so having patience is important.
3. Positive Reinforcement
If you can hear a noise BEFORE your dog picks up on it and begins to bark, apply the same noise training method above. While we are all guilty of raising our voices to stop our dogs from barking, this not only contributes to the noise level but is also highly ineffective. Speak to your dog calmly and in a positive manner, telling them they are good while feeding them a treat.
Do this for a couple of weeks and feed them a treat every time this happens. It is important to be consistent. It may also be a good idea to incorporate a command such as “leave it” or “quiet now” while rewarding your dog. Once your dog gets used to these noises, slowly cut back on the number of treats until your dog reacts to your command and no longer requires a reward.
In the future, if your dog hears an unusual noise that they have not heard before, such as fireworks, reassure your dog that you have heard the noise as well. Smile and let them know that everything will be okay in a reassuring and calm manner. Dogs feed off human energy and often when we react in a relaxed and positive fashion, they will follow suit.
4. Puzzle Toys
If your dog barks to simply get your attention or because they are bored, try giving them a puzzle toy. This will keep them occupied while you are busy on a work call or simply want some time to yourself. These can be purchased online or at any pet store and are not overly expensive.
5. Redirect Their Attention
Redirecting your dog’s attention to a ball or treat in your hand can often be an effective way to get them to place their focus on something more appropriate and stop barking. This is most effective when you are anticipating a noise that triggers your dog to bark, such as noticing someone walking up to your door.
6. Bark Collars
Using bark collars is a controversial method and a personal decision for everyone. For something to successfully prevent negative behavior, it must be unpleasant enough for your dog to want to avoid it. Your dog may become fearful of the device itself, which although may be effective in getting the barking to stop, may not be good for your dog’s anxiety.
Bark collars do not hurt your dog; however, they do provide an unpleasant ‘buzz’ or ‘shock’ that your dog does not enjoy. After using a bark collar for a short period, you may find that your dog simply recognizes when you bring it out and will choose to hold in their barking all on their own without you having to even use the collar. This is certainly effective for dogs that are not inherently anxious or fearful.
7. Work with a Professional
This method is costly, however it can be the most effective if you are unable to put in the training time and have the financial means to do so. Professionals can help speed up the time it takes to train your pup and cater to their individual needs. They can also help to identify any underlying behavior that may be contributing to the barking.
What to Do When Your Dog Barks to Go Outside
If this is a behavior that you are looking to eliminate, train your dog to jingle a bell that hangs from the doorknob instead. You can do this by showing them the bell, ringing it, and giving them a treat. Whenever they touch the bell themselves, continue to reward them with a treat and let them outside. Eventually, you will no longer need the treat and your dog will know to ring the bell when they want the door opened.
What to Do When Your Dog Barks at Other Dogs
Many dogs bark or become excited when walking past another dog while out for a walk. Have a friend with a dog stand at a far enough distance so that your dog does not notice the other dog. As your friend and the other dog walk closer and come into view, begin to feed your dog treats.
This will provide your dog with a more important distraction as the other dog passes by. Once your friend and their dog disappear, stop giving your dog the treats. You will need to repeat this process multiple times and do not try to rush the process. It may take quite some time for your dog to redirect their attention to you and shift it away from the other dog.
A Few Things to Remember
Whether you are training a new puppy or an older dog, it is important to be patient. Barking is an ingrained response in dogs and will require effort and consistency to change. The longer that your dog has been practicing these behaviors, the longer it will take to change.
Remain positive. Rewarding your dog and positively speaking to them is much healthier and more effective in the long run. Do not yell at your dog when they bark, as it will confuse your dog and your dog may think that you’re joining in on the fun. It is also important to ensure that every member of the household is on the same page so that you remain consistent.
Remember, as a dog parent it is your job to advocate for your dog and take the best possible care of them as possible. This includes preventing them from being in situations that you know will make them feel anxious or overly stressed.
Our dogs bark because they are trying to tell us something—that they are overwhelmed or have an unmet need. The methods mentioned above may require trial and error depending on how your dog responds and their overall temperament and individuality. Figuring out why they are barking in the first place can give you a better idea of how to prevent the problem altogether.
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