Photo of dog barking

Key takeaway

Barking is how your dog communicates with you, other humans, and other animals. Dogs bark for several reasons, including protection, anxiety, and even excitement and boredom. The best way to prevent nuisance barking is to start positive reinforcement training to teach your dog the desired behaviors.

Dogs bark for several reasons, including greeting humans and other animals and for protection. However, sometimes a dog's barking can be out of control. As a pet parent, you know that sometimes your dog might bark at absolutely nothing (or so you think). But, of course, your dog could be barking at a sound outside that you can't hear since they have more powerful ears than you do.

A dog's bark is a reaction to something, whether it's a sound or a new person. While barking can get annoying when it goes on for too long, it's important to understand that barking is your dog's way of communicating, but it can easily become a nuisance if your dog is barking too much.

The best dog barking deterrent isn't a product you can buy online or at a pet store—it's positive reinforcement training. Positive reinforcement training is a proven method used by behaviorists, dog trainers, and pet parents that can help your dog learn the desired behaviors easier.

Unfortunately, many pet parents want a quick fix, so they reach for barking deterrent products. However, collars that vibrate or zap your dog, scolding, and yelling, are all forms of negative reinforcement, which can do more harm than good. If you truly want your dog to learn when it's appropriate to bark and when it isn't, try positive reinforcement instead. This article will dive into why dogs bark and how you can stop nuisance barking and train a dog to stop barking.

Reasons why dogs bark

Understanding Why Dogs Bark

While you should never try to stop your dog from barking because it's how they communicate with you, other humans, and other dogs, if you want to teach your dog that barking in certain situations is not appropriate, you must first understand why dogs bark.

  • To offer protection: Dogs bark to alert you of potential danger. If you've ever been out on a walk and a stranger walked by, your dog might be alerting you that this person could be dangerous. Dogs are smart, and they know that strangers can be dangerous, so they're trying to protect you. Additionally, your dog may bark more when they're inside the home.1 Many dogs are territorial, so if a strange person or dog comes into the home, they want to protect their home and their humans.
  • To greet humans or animals: Dogs like to say hi to humans and other animals, especially on walks. If your dog is barking at someone outside, it's up to you to determine whether or not it's safe for that person to approach. It's important to understand dog body language to help you determine when your dog might be barking because they're anxious or scared or when they're just trying to say hi to another animal.
  • Out of fear: Dogs bark out of fear, especially when they're meeting new people and animals. Dogs who are afraid don't always cower behind their owners; instead, they may show stiff body language and try to scare the scary person or animal away. Dogs will also bark out of fear to alert you that something is scaring them so you can get them out of a frightening situation.
  • Because they're bored or lonely: Dogs may also bark to get attention.1 In some cases, you may have accidentally trained your dog that they should bark at you whenever they want to be pet or given a treat. Dogs can also whine or howl when they're lonely, especially if you're not home.
  • Due to separation anxiety: Dogs who bark excessively when you're not home may be suffering from separation anxiety. 1 If your dog has separation anxiety, they might also have accidents inside, have destructive behavior when you're gone, or start to pace. Separation anxiety is fairly common in dogs, and it's something training and medication can help with.

Tips to help stop nuisance barking

Tips To Help Stop Nuisance Barking

1. Practice Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement is the best dog barking deterrent because it allows you to teach your dog. Dog bark deterrents, such as ultrasonic dog barking deterrents and other collars that vibrate when your dog barks, are not as effective as proper training and in some cases, may harm your dog physically or emotionally.

When training a dog, you should never punish them in a way that can cause pain or discomfort, which is exactly what a dog bark deterrent can do, especially to dogs that may already have reactivity and aggression associated with fear. These types of devices can cause your dog to become more aggressive on walks, which is counterintuitive to the training goal.

While reinforcement training will take time, it won't harm your pet, and it can ensure they have a happy, safe walk every time you go outside. Positive reinforcement training allows you to help your dog associate experiences and positive behavior with delicious treats. Once your dog has learned the desired behavior, you'll wean them off the treats. Dogs learn more effectively with positive reinforcement than they do with negative reinforcement or punishment.

2. Never Use Punishment

As we've already mentioned, you should never punish your dog for barking. Barking is their natural way of communicating with you and other animals. Since dog bark deterrent products use negative reinforcement or punishment, your dog might learn that they'll be punished for barking, and they can easily become depressed since barking is part of how they communicate. Additionally, punishment is not effective, especially because it requires you to act immediately. For example, if your dog urinates on the rug and you notice it hours later and yell at them, they don't know what you're yelling at them for because they don't speak your language.

Since negative reinforcement can harm your animal, give them fear and anxiety, and be done improperly easily, it's not worth it. Instead, positive reinforcement training allows you to mark behaviors you like so your dog can learn without having to be afraid.

3. Make Sure Your Dog's Needs Are Met

Sometimes dogs bark to alert you to something. For example, a dog might bark at you when they're hungry or thirsty or if they want a toy or attention. Dogs bark for all kinds of reasons, so one way you can prevent nuisance barking is by meeting their foundational needs and ensuring you feed them properly and they have access to clean water.

Additionally, your dog might be barking because they have too much energy. When your dog has a lot of energy, they might want to play more, and dogs can bark during play. Your dog might also bark while looking out the window because they see a human or animal they want to say hello to. You can prevent some forms of barking, such as those caused by too much energy, by ensuring your dog gets enough physical activity and mental stimulation.

You can also use toys as dog barking deterrents, which will act as positive reinforcement and a distraction from whatever your dog is barking at.2 Distraction toys can help you prevent barking or distract your dog from barking once they've already started. Toys are most effective when they're something your dog will stay interested in for at least a few minutes, and you must know your dog's triggers.

Of course, if your dog barks out of boredom, a toy should solve this problem. However, if your dog barks at guests in the home, you can prepare a treat-dispensing toy for them and give it to them a few moments before your guests arrive so your pet is distracted, and your guest can enter your home without all the barking.

4. Continue Regular Vet Checkups

Sometimes dogs bark because they're in pain. Some dogs can even become aggressive if they're in pain and you touch them. If your dog is barking and they don't normally bark in certain circumstances, it could be because they are injured. Continuing to go to regular vet checkups can help you catch illnesses that could be causing your dog to bark more.

Additionally, if your dog is barking due to fear-based aggression towards people or other animals, you may need the help of a veterinary behaviorist. Many dogs have anxiety that triggers their flight or fight response, which can cause them to become overly reactive to people and dogs they don't know. Adopted dogs who have suffered abuse may have fear-based reactivity towards strangers, but any dog can have anxiety that causes them to bark excessively and appear aggressive.

If you choose to work with a vet behaviorist, many offer telemedicine for pets that allows you to have training and check-in visits from the comfort of your own home, which is typically ideal for dogs with reactivity issues.

Dog Barking Deterrent: FAQs

What is the best deterrent for barking dogs?

The best barking deterrent is positive reinforcement which can help you teach your dog desired behaviors. It's important to remember that barking is part of a dog's natural response and instincts, so most dogs will still continue to bark. However, you can prevent them from nuisance barking or get their attention to get them to stop barking easily through the right training based on rewards.

Do dog bark deterrents work?

Bark deterrents can stop your dog from barking, but that's because they'll be afraid to bark. By using a barking deterrent product, you can actually make an already fearful dog more fearful when they're meeting new people or animals, which can cause them to react negatively to those situations for the rest of their lives. Positive reinforcement training allows you to help your dog associate new people and other scary things with a positive experience rather than a negative one.

How do I get my dog to stop barking at the neighbor's fence?

If you want your dog to stop barking at anything, you must first determine what your dog is barking at. If your dog is barking at your neighbor's fence, either at their dog or your neighbor, your dog might be barking out of fear, or it's being territorial. In most cases, you can use behavioral training to teach your dog not to bark at people and other animals. For example, you'll give your dog a treat every time they look at your neighbor's fence and don't bark.

Photo of dog and owner in training session

Final Notes

Barking is one way your dog communicates with you, other humans, and other animals. Barking should never be punished since your dog could be barking for several reasons, including fear and anxiety, excitement, or to offer protection. Bark deterrents are a form of negative reinforcement that may teach your dog to associate situations with an uncomfortable or painful experience, making anxious dogs even more anxious. Instead, use positive reinforcement training to teach your dog the right behaviors and prevent anxiety. Additionally, if your pet is barking due to fear and anxiety, you should consult a veterinary behaviorist who can help you manage your dog's anxiety.

Dutch offers pet behavioral services that can help you manage your dog's anxiety that may be causing them to bark or become aggressive towards people and other animals. With Dutch, you can talk to a licensed veterinarian who can help you learn more about your dog's behavior and recommend medication to help ease anxiety and improve your dog's quality of life.

References

  1. “Barking.” ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/barking.

  2. Staff, AKC. “Bark Control Tools to Help Stop Nuisance Barking.” American Kennel Club, 3 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/bark-control-tools-to-help-stop-nuisance-barking/.