Dog barking! (Causes & How to stop training)

Barking is complex and dogs love to bark as it is helpful and within their nature but sometimes it can be plain annoying especially for your neighbors if it becomes incessant. What do you do when it becomes a nuisance? How do you stop it?

Barking is a key type of dog vocal communication with humans, the world around them, and other dogs although it may not sound very sophisticated there is more to it than we think and should be interpreted within the context of circumstances. Barking could mean different things depending on a wide range of situations, body language, and other visual cues that most dog owners can understand depending on the matching physical behavior. Sometimes dogs bark in ways owners cannot explain or hard to neatly categorize and seems to occur indiscriminately

Barking could be externally triggered by a visitor ringing the doorbell, loneliness, or demand, and can vary depending on how the dog feels and could have different meanings. The barking may sound like noise but can convey the dog’s emotions to humans such as happiness, playfulness, despair, fear, and aggressiveness. It may also be compulsive barking where the dog listens to his bark.

Did you know that you may be unwittingly teaching your dog to bark when you do not want him to? You might be yelling at him to stop barking and the dog thinks that you as the pack leader are joining in with them and thinks he is doing the right thing

This guide is aimed at helping you learn why your dog barks excessively and how to train them to stop barking from home.

Why dogs bark

Your dog mat be may bark whether you are present or absent due to stimuli. This barking stimulus should be identified and controlled through counter conditioning and desensitization techniques to change the dog’s behavior as you will see later on.

Some dogs may bark more than others because of their breed or past experiences.

Dogs bark for loads of reasons such as falling leaves, a postman at the door, to come in and out of the house, when they want something, when there is a problem when someone approaches their territory, or when they can’t get food, a toy or a friend, social barking in response to other dogs or a pigeon resting on the fence. The list is endless. It is vital to correctly assess the underlying cause of dog barking as not all barking is the same as it. Incorrect assessment may worsen the behavior and end up frustrating you. It is crucial to work out why your dog is barking. You will also need to rule out whether you have a vocal breed or not. Addressing the underlying cause will give the best results.

Excessive barking does not develop overnight as it is a learned behavior component and becomes intolerable. This may develop due to a change in the environment, new family additions, a change in the schedule where the dog has to be left alone for extended periods, or a neighboring dog. The problem can become intolerable when legal action is threatened due to the escalation of barking to the point of being compulsive and disrupting your bond.

Barking may also depend on the dog’s gender, age, breed, when the problem occurred, and circumstances that trigger barking. A medical condition can make the barking worse and will need to be ruled out by a vet if barking is problematic.

Types of barking;

  • Barking-alerting warning, attention seeking. Play barks are usually of higher frequency. Higher pitched noises are also common in cases of isolation. This could be a loneliness bark with deliberate pauses in between or a stutter bark followed by a playful posture.
  • Growling- warning, distance increasing. Dogs use a low-pitched growl as a warning to animals to stay away from their territory. The dog may also be suggesting that they are much bigger and more dangerous. It is an indication of a threat, anger, or possible aggression and can be interpreted as saying stay away from me in disturbance situations
  • Crying/whining/whimpering- pain, discomfort, fear, a solicitation. A whimper is a higher-pitched signal and is used to show that they intend no harm when approached by other animals. asking to be allowed to come close or saying that it is safe to approach.
  • Howling– elicit social contact, anxiety situation (social contact- reassure

So, why does your dog bark and how can you stop it?

Barking at strangers

As far as your dog is concerned, if he barks at the food delivery guy and he/she goes away the barking works and has kept you safe. As far as your dog knows knocking or ringing the doorbell means danger and might be a potential risk to the household must be told to back off. This is more prevalent in guard dogs such as the German Shepherd that just want to keep you safe from the outside world. This is known as protective/alarm/alert barking as they are trying to warn of possible danger. This barking is done to startle the perceived danger. Alarm barking can happen anywhere not only in their territory. This is your dog’s way of ensuring you are aware of possible danger and telling the danger to go away.

The dog will bark louder as the threat gets closer and will look alert or even take an aggressive posture

Dogs can bark at moving intruders such as joggers, passers-by, and passing vehicles that may be approaching or entering the area where the dog considers to be his territory. This is known as territorial or alert barking.

This barking can be self-reinforcing when people move in and out the area that the dog considers as his territory as he pair the intruder leaving his presence as a retreat and good performance. This could escalate and the dog may exhbit signs of more aggressive behavior such as lunging at the door or window or attempts to bite.

What to do

Acknowledge the dog’s alert and check what the dog is barking at to address the distress.

If your dog sits on the windowsill and bark at everyone, a solution may be as simple as preventing exposure to the barking stimuli by bringing the dog outdoor or blocking the view by means of a solid barrier such as a window curtain or an opaque film to lessen exposure to the stimuli and relax them into something else.

If the dog is in a fenced yard outside use wood fencing. If your dog is in the garden and barking the best thing is to ensure you supervise him until he realizes he is not allowed to bark at people and things passing by. You can also send the dog to bed or another room to remove them from the trigger area to calm them down. It also disconnects their brain from the stimulus

It is recommended not to say anything if your dog is barking at something he see through the fence or window. Instead walk over to where the dog is, calmly look around signaling to the dog that you have taken note of his alert and have the situation handled.

If your dog is barking at something at the door, distract him with a toy or fetch or something more exciting for them which is easier said than done. This is where trained tricks such as sit or rollover can be handy. if your dog stops barking, reward them in some ways with praise, hugs, a special toy or food treats to let him know that he has done well. Train them to listen at the door without barking reactions.

Counter condition them to the noise and any bad habits. Set up a training scenario and have a friend knock at the door. If the dog barks, ignore him but if he keeps barking try distraction techniques such as calling him to you.

If they are quiet and ignore the knocking reward them and give them loads of fuss and whichever reward they are most motivated by. Once the dog is used to knocking at a certain loudness volume, get the person knocking to do it a little louder to eventually get him used to the same. Once you have done this enough times distraction will be much easier and some may stop barking at things in the garden completely.

Curb any urge to shout at your dog when your dog starts barking its brains out. If you shout the dog thinks you are joining in and carries on as it interprets it as danger coming. Be calm, consistent, patient, and fun. never smack your dog.

Barking at other dogs

You may be walking your dog and he barks at other people enjoying their outdoor time with their dogs as he pulls on the lead which can be embarrassing and frustrating. You will need to understand whether this is aggression or frustration barking because he really wants to check them out and say hi because he finds the other dog interesting as a potential friend.

Playful and greeting barking is usually a happy bark accompanies with jumping and tail wagging. You will need to teach the dog another behavior to redirect this happy frenzy and teach them to be calm.

Frustration barking is often accompanied by tail wagging and leash pulling and means no harm. You can either take your dog to say hi, turn around and calm him down, try distraction techniques or ask your dog to sit.

Conversely, an aggressive posture will be followed by snarling, snapping of mouth, growling, and raised hackles, and pulling strongly on the lead. This may be fear-related barking if your dog walks forward to pull the leash then circle around you or even try to hide behind you to tell the other dog that he is scared and means no threat.

Calm your dog down in this situation or try to get their attention by calling him or walking in the opposite direction to get out of the situation. Keep space between you and the other dog and do not reward him if he is in a frightening state. Ensure you are not rewarding the unwanted behavior and try to remain as calm and strong as possible.

If you are nervous or fearful, the more hightened state will become worse ad the dog will think you are vulnerable and need protection. If you are tense, your dog will sense it and be on the lookout for trouble You can also ask the other person to lead their dog in the opposite direction to diffuse the situation as these situations can be scary, especially if it happens out of the blue.

An aggressive dog may also pace back and forth. An aggressive barker should be walked during the time of the day when there are less people or dogs. Keep your dog leashed or use a muzzle during walks if you are afraid the situation may get out of hand and seek professional help.

Barking at cats & birds

Chasing is a part of the dog’s natural instincts even though most dogs do not need to hunt anymore. Some breeds such as Terriers have a stronger propensity to chase and will be harder to stop from barking at other animals in the garden.

This does not make them dangerous dogs but this will be one of the harder things to stop barking at as you have less control of what animals come into your garden.

Most of the time the dog might not be out with you as it is not realistic to be out with your dog all time and will be unsupervised if the area is safe and if you have no quirms on digging. Without your supervision, training may not amount to much. It is best to go out with your dog until they realize that barking at birds and cats is not acceptable.

Start by being out with your dog every time and distract them if they bark at a cat or pigeon with toys, a game, or tricks. Make being with you more interesting than the bird. Reward if your dog joins in the distraction and no reward until he stops barking. Breaking their focus on the cat is just you need to stop the barking. reward the dog at the moment he stops barking to build an association. the dog has to overcome their impulse to chase and come to you. try to encourage your dog to look at the object without barking or chasing

You will not be able to completely stop your dog from barking at objects in the garden and correcting the behavior will not happen overnight

Barking when left outside

A lot of dogs will bark when put outside alone

If your dog is barking when outside alone, check the area to ensure that everything is fine and that the area is clear of birds, cats, or any other intruders. He might just want to come into the house and wait until he stops barking before doing it.

Praise and reward him for being quiet before letting him in. Ignore them if they keep barking and do not even look at him until he stops. As soon as he begins barking again, ignore him by turning your back on him or distracting him to quiet him. Let him know you are unhappy.

As soon as he quietens to catch his breath, reward him and let him in. Sometimes it takes a while for the dog to stop barking, but he will eventually get used to it. h may still disapprove but wait. If you let your dog in at the wrong time it will create a bad habit Once they get better at staying quieter for longer make them wait quietly for longer before allowing them in. Ask him to sit and wait until you give a release command to allow him in. Also, do this when coming back from walks to make life easier and less frantic.

Start by being outside with your dog before reducing the amount of time you spend with him. Then stay inside but within his sight and reduce how much he sees you gradually

Demand barking

Demand barking fits are common in pampered dogs and are usually unintentionally encouraged by the owner to manipulate for resources.This requires that the behavior is completely ignored. Even scolding could be rewarding for the dog.

This is done when your dog wants something such as your attention, to go outside, to play, or for a treat or favorite toy. They bark to get what they want or simply because they want you. You will need an alternative communication style that does not involve barking.

For example, if he barks to go outside, ignore him until he stops barking and gives him zero attention. Read a book, watch TV, or do anything that give no attention to the dog. Do not subconsciously encourage the behavior by shouting or scolding them as they bark as this will be fulfilling their innate desire for attention and is rewarding.

Any attention is good attention including negative attention. Do not respond by playing with them, shouting, rewarding with treats, or stroking them as this reinforces the barking and the dog will learn to associate barking with getting what they want and she will think she must be doing something right. The barking may get worse for a moment but this is normal due to desperation he thinks he is not barking enough but will eventually learn that barking gets him ignored. Lead your pack with calmness and clarity.

Ignoring a persistent barker can be difficult but responding to it in any way will make it worse.

If ignoring does not work as them to sit or take them to bed. If he obeys and is quiet, praise him and only give attention if he has stopped barking. Only reward the dog if he is in a submissive state. Barking is self-reinforcing and rewarding for the dog and things could easily go downhill if not done right. Count any improvement you make as a win as this type of barking can be a pain to deal with but contact a specialist if things feel like they are getting out of hand.

Barking when you leave

Dogs are social animals hardwired to feel safe and secure among their pack and this is one of the reasons they follow us to the bathroom they will easily get uneasy when left alone. If your dog was used to being around you and your suddenly get a commitment such as a full-time job, he will feel like you have abandoned him and will miss you like crazy

Barking when you leave is often due to separation anxiety when the dog feels like he has been left alone as he tries to call to you as he thinks you can hear his cry. It is usually accompanied by other signs such as pacing, depression, inappropriate elimination, panting, drooling, chewing, destructiveness, pacing, whining, howling, and whimpering. Symptoms of separation anxiety can vary from mild to severe. Barking may be a way to ease their boredom, because he feels vulnerable or because he is scared of something outside.

This type of barking can be difficult to treat since you are absent but the neighbors will certainly be angered by it and complaints will be coming your way. The barking may also begin before you leave as the dog anticipates your departure. In some instances, the dog may try to escape confinement by directing the destructiveness toward the barrier which could be a pet barrier, door, or window.

If you suspect your dog is barking excessively as distress from being left alone contact your vet or a behaviorist for some tips on how to deal with it.

How to stop

Find a dog-proofed safe space for the dog he can call his own whether it is a crate or a separate room he can feel safe in without fear. Use stair gates to limit the dog’s movement and place it where the dog can still see and hear you. Prep the room and ensure they have all essential supplies such as a bed, water, and toys and leave the TV or radio on with people’s voices to mimic your own. A piece of your clothing with your scent may also keep the dog at ease and reassure the dog and get them used to the space.

To get the dog used to their space, confine them at random times of the day and sit at the opposite side for a few minutes so that the dog realizes you are still there with him. If your dog is quiet and calm in their space after some minutes, let him out, reward and praise him with a treat or toy but do not go hyper crazy.

After a few attempts at this, move out of their eyesight and go make a drink or something. If he barks when you leave, stay out of sight and listen for the moment of silence before stepping back into sight to reassure him you are still there. Time it right even if the silence is only momentary. If you step into view while he is still barking, he will think you are there to rescue him and bark more. Stay close enough so that the dog can hear you and go back to the room while he is still quiet, open the gate without talking to him and go back to what you were doing.

Gradually increase his time alone of you can stay off his sight without him barking. Do not think you can leave the dog for 4 hours just because he managed 20 minutes of alone time. If your dog can stay alone for 45 minutes without barking, try leaving the house and wait outside where you can hear him and only go back in if he has been quiet for several minutes. Keep your return calm. Slowly increase the time you are out. If your dog can’t calm down or is destructive, take a few steps back and start training again

Your dog may start to recognize when you are about to leave. Desensitize him to events of you leaving by doing it at random times of the day. For example, you could randomly pick up your key and wear your coat then continue doing what you were doing without making a big deal of it or reacting to your dog’s nervousness. Praise him if he is calm and quiet. Ensure the dog is properly exercised and relieved themselves before you leave and give them a meal before leaving. The dog should never be left without water.

Downplay your departures to reduce the emotional significance of you leaving.

This will take time consistency and a lot of patience

If the dog barks even in your sight, turn your back on him and completely ignore him and try distracting him if this does not work

If your dog barks all day when you are gone, walk him in the morning before you leave to tire him and provide him with something to do while you are away such as a food-dispesing toy to keep him busy. You could also drop the in a doggie daycare two or three days a week for obedience and agility training.

Barking at nothing

Barking at nothing is known as compulsive barking and it seems like the dog barks just entertain himself. This type of barking is often accompanied with repetitive, ritualistic movements such as running and spinning that are performed out of context.

Sometimes the dog might just be bored out of his mind due to inadequate exercise if he is not stimulated throughout the day. If you suspect your dog is barking because he is bored you will need to exercise him more, training, play with him and take longer walks especially if you have an active working breed. Teaching tricks such as roll over, paw and so on will be fun for the dog and will keep them stimulated and you bond.

A tired dog is a quiet dog. So, if your dog barks when alone, exercise him before leaving using long walks, a trip to the park or play.

How to stop barking

After the barking stimuli is identified, the behavior can be modified through counter conditioning. Eliminate the dog’s exposure to the barking stimuli and desensitize the dog to the stimuli.

Remember that any training takes time for the dog to learn, so, give it time and expect a mess, especially in the beginning stages. Make training fun and stress free and be flexible working with whichever method works best for your dog. Be consistent and patient to manage the barking habit which can be hard to break, especially with dogs that are reactive to scents and sights.

Keep the training session fun and short to about 10 minutes twice a day or more often depending on your dog’s responsiveness and your availability. Work at the dog’s pace and avoid progressing too rapidly that the dog is aroused. The dog should be calm. Always end the session in a postive note and use high value food rewards to motivate the dog to repeat the desired behavior.

Training should be fun and non-confrontaional allowing the dog to receive a reward. Getting your dog to stop barking excessively will require practice, patient, consistency and a lot of work. This will not happen overnight.

Behavior Modification & desensitization

Desensitization and behavior correction is a substitution of the undersired behavior with one that is more acceptable.

Counter conditioning will involve reproducing and exposing the dog to the stimuli that elicits the barking in a controlled manner and rewarding the dog for being calm and relaxed. The intensity of the stimulus should only be increased if the dog remains quiet. if the dog’s response is inappropriate, terminate the session and turn the dog away from the stimuli using a gentle leader or slip leash. The leash allows you to deliver a potent correction is a humane way.

It will be particularly useful to teach your dog to make eye contact with you to change its focus and be asked to do something else such as sit or stay before being rewarded for obedience. The dog should accept your leadership even reluctantly before gaining approval and a reward for the alternative behavior. teach the look at me or watch me command independently of desensitization then incorporated into the routine once learnt. Reward the dog for every response as he learns the command and reward at random after the command is learnt for reinforcment which should be coupled with verbal and physical praise.

You should also capitalize on instances when the dog is quiet in the presence of barking stimuli so he learns that being quiet gets him rewarded and earns your approval.

This will be time consuming and will prove to be a challenge

Teach the Quiet command

The quiet command can be used to reinforce the desired behavior and will be particularly useful when some degree of a alarm barking is desired to have a well-rounded watch dog. After the dog has alerted you on the presence of an intruder, he can be called and asked to sit and praised for obedience. You may need to snap a leash on the dog to change his location and command him to sit. Any further barking can be stopped with leash correction using something like a head halter to make it easier. Repeat the work “quiet” after each correction. Use a calm but firm voice waiting until he stops barking even if it is to take a short breath before rewarding. The dog can then be praised for being quiet and figure out that being quiet gets them a reward.

You can also incorporate hand gestures by holding your finger to your lips as you ask hm to be quiet as you dog is likely to pick up hand signals much quicker.

You can also teach the dog to bark on command so that he learn that barking only gets him rewarded only if commanded. Use the commands at random and routinely practice the commands in a way that reminds him you are the leader.

What not to do

A common mistake most dog owners make is reassuring a barking dog. Speaking, stroking or shouting to your dog only reinforces the behavior. Rewarding the dog by letting him out, treats, or petting teach the dog that vocalization gets the attention and rewards.

If you decide to ignore the dog for attention barking, do not give in even if the barking persists. This teaches the dog that extended periods of barking is what gets their demands met or to elicit a response from you.

Avoid shouting as this only stimulates the dog and gets them barking even more as they think you are joinging in. The dog does not know what you are trying to tell him by shouting at him to be quiet. Instead train your dog to understand the quiet command. Try to hide any frustration from the dog as much as possible and stay calm and patient

Punishment

The use of punishment in correction is controversial. But the correct form of punishment can be used as a last resort to interrupt the barking and should be well timed to diffuse overwhelming situations. This shoud not involve smacking the dog as this can lead to fear and confusion.

The idea is to startle the dog other than cause physical harm using something like an ultrasonic noise emitter that is activated by barking. Noise may not be effective on all dogs.

A different type of punishement is the use of a citronell spray collar that relies of a mic to pick up barks and trigger the release of citronella oil spray odor that that distracts the dog

I would recommend avoiding shock collars unless advised by your vet in cases where you may lose the dog and to avoid euthesia. Even then it should be the correct type of collar that is safe for the dog such as a remote operated collar. The result of incorrect use of a collar can be detrimental to the dog’s state and social interactions.

All in all, punishment does not chage the barking motivation and only inhibits the habit at that instance. Some dogs may also get used to the correction. Some may also revert to incessant barking when the collar is removed and fail to achieve the desired outcome. A dog only understand moderate punishement if it is administred immediately. And if you the barking is due to anxiety or worse, punishment may make the condition worse.

The wrong kind of correct will only serve to ruin the bond between you and makes the dog nervous and fearful.

Debarking should also be avoided at all costs and muzzles should not be used to keep the dog quiet for extended periods or when the dog is unsupervised.

Nothing works

It is easy to give up when nothing seems to work and give up your dog to a shelter but this may not be the best cause of action. Instead, seek professional help from a vet or behavior specialist and if nothing seems to work after that follow the proper rehoming methods to give the dog a chance for a second home.

Summing up

Barking is a communcation method that cannot be completely stopped nor shoud it completely stop. Dogs are meant to protect and warn as it is natural and instinctual. The tips above are supposed to help manage excessive barking but not give a completely silent dog. As a dog owner you have the power to stop the barking from becoming problematic.

Do not allow the barking to get out of hand as it gives the dog an adrenaline rush making it pleasant. Deal with any problematic barking as quick as possible.

Stay calm, be patient and keep trying.

I hope this guide stop excessive barking in your dog and helps you understand the dog’s behavior and your own.

There you go, WOOF!

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