Barking is usually a dog's main form of vocal communication. A dog barks for many reasons. Fortunately, you as the owner usually understand why your dog barks. Dogs bark because they are happy to see you, scared, uncomfortable or frustrated. The key to stopping unwanted barking lies in how willing you are to understand your dog and to follow the steps to stop the behavior.
Types of barking
Territorial barking occurs when your dog barks excessively at other people, dogs or other animals that are threatening their territory. This is usually the area around your home. To help stop this behavior:
- block your dog's view of the area that he guards
- don't allow your dog to greet people at the door or gate
- train your dog to go to another location and remain quiet
Alarm barking is when your dog barks at noises or sights for no real reason. You dog will usually have a stiff body and move forward a couple of inches while barking. These dogs might bark at sights or sounds anywhere and for any reason. The steps to stopping this behavior are very similar to those of territorial barking.
Dogs seeking attention will bark at people or other animals for attention or rewards such as food, toys or play. You should consider the following:
- do not unknowingly reinforce attention-seeking barking by acknowledging your dog
- ignore your dog until the barking has stopped
- when your dog has stopped barking you can then ask him to sit and give him attention
- never reward a dog for barking
If your dog barks when he sees people or other dogs, and is excited with a relaxed body and tail, he is barking a greeting. To help keep your dog calm and quiet in this situation:
- teach your dog to sit and stay
- keep the greeting low-key
- give your dog a toy if possible; he will be less likely to bark with something in his mouth
Compulsive barking may be one of the most frustrating types of barking that your dog does. He may bark excessively and repetitively for no apparent reason. He may run back and forth along your fence or pace endlessly when indoors. This is often the hardest barking behavior to break, but you may try the following:
- increase your dog's exercise, mental stimulation, and social interactions
- seek help from a certified animal behaviorist or your vet
Socially facilitated barking
Socially facilitated barking occurs when your dog barks excessively when he hears dogs around him barking. To prevent this:
- keep your dog inside when other dogs start to bark
- play the TV or radio to muffle the sound of the other dogs
- distract your dog by playing with him or giving him treats
Success in preventing unwanted barking depends on how willing you are to work with your dog. If you are a dog owner with a low tolerance for barking behavior, you should be advised against adopting breeds that are known for barking.
Recognizing and avoiding situations that trigger barking are the responsibility of you and your vet. Providing your dog with proper training and behavior modification is key in stopping nuisance barking.