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Dogs bark for a number of reasons. They may feel territorial, scared, anxious, or frustrated. It can also simply be because they want your attention. While it’s normal for your dog to bark every now and then, excessive barking can become a problem for some pet owners. In this post, Dutch will help you determine why your dog might be barking, and what you can do about it given the likely cause.
Remember: it will take time, effort, practice, patience, and consistency to train your dog to bark less. It won't happen immediately, but with the right approaches and patience, you can notice results. In some cases, your dog may need medication to deal with chronic conditions like anxiety.
Read on to find out more about dogs barking and what you can do to help your furry friend feel a little more calm, relaxed, and less likely to bark.
- Why Do Dogs Bark?
- How Do You Train a Dog to Stop Barking?
- Training Your Dog to Stop Barking: Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Notes
Use one of the links above to jump straight to the section you need, or read through for a deep dive into dogs, barking, and possible solutions.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
There are many reasons why a dog might bark. One of the simplest is that it’s just what dogs do. Much like humans speak using language, dogs communicate their thoughts and emotions through barking. Barking a few times a day in a way that isn’t angry, agitated, or confrontational is totally normal for any dog. Your dog might just be saying “hi!” or reacting to something they see out the window.
However, there are some cases where barking is an indication of a problem. If your dog barks excessively, to the point where you begin worrying it may be a problem, it’s important to take some time to get to the bottom of it. Keep an eye on your dog to assess when they might be barking, what they might be responding to, and what their mood seems to be when they are barking.
Barking might be caused by any of the following factors.
Dogs are territorial and protective by nature—that’s what makes them such loyal companions to us humans. However, sometimes, overprotectiveness and territoriality can be a problem in dogs. For example, your dog may bark excessively when friends come to visit, or if someone (or, often, another dog) passes too close to you on the sidewalk. In these cases, ordinary protectiveness has gone too far and has become a behavioral problem.
Just like humans screech and scream when afraid, dogs bark. It’s normal for your dog to bark when they get surprised, or when there’s a loud noise. When dogs are afraid, their barking may be accompanied by other behavior, such as whining, tucking their tail between their legs, and putting their ears back.
If your dog is in an environment with many agitating stimuli, they may bark all the time. For example, construction, thunderstorms, loud traffic, loud neighbors, other barking dogs, frequent visitors, and deliveries could all be causes for dogs’ fearful barking. If your dog suffers from chronic anxiety, this may also be a cause for barking as they will be more likely to react negatively to minor events if they are anxious.
Greeting or play
As mentioned above, dogs often bark as a greeting, when they’re excited, or when they want to play. Happy barking like this will usually be accompanied by running, play stances , and a wagging tail. While a little barking in response to their owner coming home or seeing a doggy friend is normal, it can definitely get excessive. If your dog barks for a long period of time, doesn’t respect visitors’ physical boundaries and has a hard time calming down after an exciting event, it may be a behavior problem worth looking into correcting.
Boredom or loneliness
Dogs are highly social creatures that crave attention and the company of their friends, whether that’s their owner, other dogs, or even other furry friends like cats. So, just like people, dogs can get lonely when there’s no one around to keep them company. If a dog is lonely, it may bark, whine, or whimper to get attention.
Dogs that are bored may also bark and whine if they want to get their owners’ attention. For example, many dog owners are familiar with their dog bringing them their leash and whining because they want to go outside for a walk. In small amounts, this is totally normal—and may even be a sign that you should listen to your dog’s advice and take them for more walks. However, excessive attention-seeking behavior can be a behavior problem, and may even be a sign of a deeper problem like separation anxiety.
Lastly, as mentioned, dogs are highly social. That means that many dogs suffer separation anxiety when their puppy-parents leave them at home during the workday. Dogs suffering from anxiety will bark excessively, whine, whimper, pace, run in circles, or have inappropriate urination and defecation.
Separation anxiety can grow to be a serious problem if left untreated. Dogs should always be excited to see their parents arrive home at the end of the day, but it’s not healthy for your dog to experience anxiety, stress, or even depression when you’re out at work or with friends in the evening. If you think your dog is struggling with separation anxiety, engaging with your veterinarian for training, and scientifically-backed medication may be helpful solutions.
How Do You Train a Dog to Stop Barking?
Like any behavior problem, the solution to stop dog barking will depend on what’s causing them to bark. If they are simply agitated because they are bored, it may be as simple as getting your dog to the nearest dog park for a play date. However, in many cases, the solution may require a combination of training, patience, and potentially medication.
Here are some steps that you can follow when learning how to train a dog to stop barking:
- Determine the problem. Before you know how to stop a dog from barking, you need to know the root cause. If your dog is barking excessively, your first step should be to figure out whether they are experiencing any distress. You can start by looking at the list above to see if there’s a clear solution. However, in some cases, you may need to have your dog assessed by a professional veterinarian. This is especially true if your dog has a persistent barking problem that doesn’t seem to be affected by training techniques or relaxation.
- Start a training program. Dogs are fast and eager learners, and training them to avoid barking can be done just as effectively as training your dog to fetch or come to their name. The key is to find the right regimen of positive reinforcement that will help your dog realize when it’s appropriate to bark and when it’s not. (Treats can be a huge help here!) For example, training your dog to respond to the word “quiet” is an effective way of controlling barking at strangers, cars, and other dogs.
Avoid punishment. Dog training techniques like collars that deliver a small electric shock should not be used. If dogs bark compulsively due to fear, agitation, or stress, the painful stimulus will only add to their distress. Training your dog through positive reinforcement, rather than with punishment, is usually healthier for you and your dog, and is likely to result in more behavior improvement.
- Seek medication where applicable. Not all dogs bark because of anxiety, but if anxiety is the cause of your dog’s barking, the right medication and training may be able to provide them with relief from their symptoms—and stop the barking as a result. It’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian or schedule an appointment with a Dutch-affiliated telehealth vet, to determine whether anxiety is the cause of your dog’s excessive barking.
Other strategies to limit barking include ensuring that your dog is adequately exercised and socialized (i.e. gets to hang out with other dogs in a fun and healthy way), and spending enough time with your dog by taking them for walks, taking them to play, and just hanging out.
Training Your Dog to Stop Barking: Frequently Asked Questions
How do you stop nuisance barking?
To get the best results, it’s important to remain patient, stick to a positive reinforcement-based training program, and consult with your vet to ensure that underlying pain or behavioral issues aren’t the source of your dog’s barking.
How do I train my dog to stop barking so much?
A little bit of barking is normal for most dogs. However, barking too much can become a problem. You can train your dog to stop barking so much by using “quiet” training—training your dog to respond to your command to be quiet. You can also help them learn when barking is appropriate (like playing at the dog park) and when it’s not (when a delivery person comes to your door) by using positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning techniques.
Is it too late to train my dog to stop barking?
You may have heard that an old dog can’t learn new tricks. However, this isn’t actually true! It may take longer to train an older dog to stop barking so much, but even dogs that have been excessively barking for years can be trained to have a healthier relationship with barking.
Dogs barking excessively is a common problem that many pet owners report. Luckily, there are plenty of solutions. The most important thing is to correctly identify the source of your dog’s excessive barking, then design a training program that suits its needs—it’s the only way to train a dog to stop barking.
In cases where barking is tied to separation anxiety or other forms of dog anxiety, getting a consultation with a telemedicine vet can be a great choice. Anxiety is a chronic condition that can be hard to be seen for at a traditional vet, but with Dutch, it’s easy to get an affordable prescription that can help soothe your pet in a safe and science-backed way. Let anxious barking become a thing of the past by investing in the right steps for your dog today!
Dr. Evans is the Clinical Director of Dutch and the owner of Coastal Animal Hospital.