Dogs usually bark when they have a reason to do so. There’s something they need to communicate to the world.
- A warning: “Hey! Get off my territory!”
- A greeting: “Hi Mom!”
- Sheer excitement: “I smell treats!”
These are logical reasons, but in some cases dogs seem to bark for no reason. They just bark — constantly.
This can cause problems for both you and your dog. The police may be called to your house. Your neighbors may not be so neighborly when they’ve had to listen to your dog bark for hours on end.
What do you do when the police show up for the umpteenth time to tell you to quiet your talkative dog? To answer that question, I talked with dog trainer and behavior consultant Jonathan P. Klein, CDBC, CPDT-KA.
A dog who is dealing with a stressful situation, such as a move, may bark more. “Being a country dog and moving to the city, for instance, might cause something — it’s the stress of the change,” says Klein.
Stressful situations could also include a new member of the household — whether that’s a person or an animal — or a sudden change in routine (you used to work days but started working the midnight shift, for example). With any new situations, your dog needs time to adjust.
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I asked Klein if his experience has shown certain breeds to be more talkative.
“Hounds and beagles tend to howl. We have had a number of very barky goldendoodles and poodles of all varieties. That said, there are certainly breeds that bark more, but based on anecdotal experience rather than data I think more barking is human-caused,” he says. “We just don’t breed dogs to bark nonstop — maybe with the exception of a dalmatian who was bred to run and bark along with a fire wagon.”
Although you may have a breed of dog that barks a bit more than others, you can take charge of the problem by learning what it is that is stimulating your dog.
Dogs share a wide range of emotion with us, and that includes loneliness. Some dogs simply don’t like to be alone, and this is expressed in constant barking. According to Klein, “Not being comfortable being alone is a very common issue. Dogs reacting to a passing stimulus would be likely to bark only in the presence of the stimulus.”
If your dog misses you, your absence could be the key to his barking problem. He’s looking for your attention. Try to spend more time with him. Don’t leave him outside when you have to leave him alone.
Finding the Right Solution
Klein suggests that you “look at and eliminate the cause.” Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- “Does the dog need more confidence?”
- Does he need “to learn some degree of comfort being alone?”
- “Is there a barrier frustration issue, such as fence or crate barking?”
- “Is something going on that the dog is reacting to (construction noise, neighbors, schoolyard, etc.)?”
Trying to suppress the barking through forcible means won’t help — and may cause your dog even more stress.
“No collar corrections, no ultrasonic bark preventers. All of those only suppress the symptoms, not make the dog able to live comfortably. Confidence-building exercises, cognitive games or toys, and enriching the environment all might help,” says Klein. “For barking at family members, teaching the dog to settle on a mat, wait for attention and to accept some degree of separation is really important.”
A dog barks for a wide range of reasons. Take the steps to determine the cause, and then handle it with appropriate training. For one-on-one help, contact a credentialed dog trainer or animal behaviorist in your area.