Why Dogs Bark: How to Stop Your Dog from Barking Excessively
Have you ever had your sleep abruptly terminated by the sound of loud, incessant barking? Remember how you felt about those pet owners, now it feels like you’re one of them…. Awkward. At the time you thought ‘how hard can it be to make a dog keep quiet, what’s the main reason why dogs bark?’ and now you realize it’s not as easy as you thought. But there is a formula for getting it right, which after you master, can then teach your suffering neighbors.
When it comes to dog training, nothing happens by accident. Whatever habit you wish to correct or instill has to be done by applying proven techniques, over and over, until you finally achieve the desired results. Then you do it a hundred times more. Teaching a dog not to do something as instinctual as the bark is like trying to make a bunny not look cute. Fortunately, while the latter is impossible, the former isn’t. There are two ways to keep a dog quiet, but we are only interested in doing it the right way, a positive way.
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Reasons Why Dogs Bark Constantly
The number one reason a dog bark is to get on your nerves. They see the frustration on your face and they are laughing inside! Nope, that may be how it feels, but really, dogs just love barking. They need to communicate, they have to express themselves and that is the only way they know-how. That and eating up your shoes. Dogs are not annoying jerks trying to drive you crazy or turn you into the neighborhood pariah. They just want to pass on a message, and the sooner you figure out what the message is, the easier it will be to deal with it.
So what are the main reasons for barking?
Happiness/Playfulness – for a dog in a loving, positive home, this is the most common reason why your dog would bark. When dogs are happy and they want to play, they bark. It’s not a loud continuous bark, it’s more like a nudge for you to come out and play with them. Dogs also bark when they are happy to see you. While some people still find this type of barking annoying and try to prevent it, I think it’s okay to allow this type of affection. Dogs won’t bark for more than a minute when they are feeling this way unless they just really love barking.
Anxiety/Stress – when a dog is uncomfortable, it could bark to signal something is wrong. This could either be out of fear, or it can hear a disconcerting sound or a terrible small. It could also be separation anxiety. This bark has a very different tone to it and can sometimes be mixed with howling. Other times it may sound like your puppy is mumbling, with intermittent spikes in volume.
Attention Seeking/Boredom – puppies in particular like seeking attention. After all, they are used to getting it from their numerous siblings and mum, so now that it’s in your home, it expects nothing less. It is an invitation to play with it, which may be accompanied by it trying to pull you or prance around, like some sort of gymnastic display.
Danger – this is one other type of barking you may not want to discourage. Even though not all dogs are guard dogs, they still have the need to defend their home, so even if they can’t fight, they will bark when they fear an intruder is at the door. This becomes problematic if your dog fears any sound at the door, including people walking past.
Territorial Guarding – whenever a person comes close to your home, to you or your dog’s property and it starts barking excessively, that could be a case of territorial guarding or resource guarding. Unlike the previous point, this isn’t limited to when your dog senses an actual problem, it just doesn’t like people or things near its space, not even butterflies.
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Ways To Help Your Dog Stop Barking
Training your dog not to bark excessively is as easy as baking a pie. I’ve never had to bake a pie before, but I imagine I just follow the recipe and try not to burn the house down. In the same way, follow these tips and try not to lose your cool.
Get Rid Of The Cause
Where possible, the easiest solution is to remove whatever is causing your dog to bark excessively. If your dog likes barking at people from your window, then shut the blinds. If she barks every time you sing, umm, it just means she has poor taste in music. If it is a particular person that makes your dog bark, then investigate if it is a smell. I walked into a house once and the dog started barking like crazy. Apparently, I was wearing the same trousers the vet used to wear, and he had just been vaccinated, so he wasn’t happy.
Teach Your Dog To Speak and be Quiet
One of the early basic training to master is speaking/quiet. It teaches the dog when to bark, just so you can teach it when to be quiet. You start off by offering your dog a treat, which she will only get if she barks. You can either get someone to make a noise that will elicit a bark. Alternatively, you can just wait for her to bark naturally, which is preferable, as this option won’t risk diverting your dog’s attention to wherever the sound came from. When she barks, offer the treat and praise her. Repeat the action a few times, then introduce the word ‘speak’ as or before she barks. Soon enough, she will figure out that speak means bark, and bark means treat.
Now that she knows how to speak, it will be time to teach her to be quiet. This time, don’t give the treat until she stops barking, then you say quietly. It would help to gesture for her to stop with your other hand. You can then alternate the commands: ask her to speak, then ask her to be quiet. You are teaching your dog that she only gets the reward when you command her to speak and she does. If she speaks on her own, no goodies. Do these a few times each training session until she masters it.
Don’t Give In
It’s not easy to resist the temptation to give your dog whatever she wants. The problem with this is it encourages bad behavior. If your dog barks to get something from you and you give in every time, she will keep barking. This training is easier handled by an outsider, as a qualified trainer won’t have the same soft spot you do. Not to say you deprive your dog of good things, but you wait until she is quiet before you give them.
If your dog barks a lot when she is put in her crate, don’t respond to her immediately. Wait until she is quiet before you go back to praise her and offer extra special treats. Indulging her cries for attention will only cause them to continue indefinitely.
Help Your Dog Overcome Fear
Desensitizing your dog to the objects that make her bark is also a handy tip. You do this by offering the very thing that makes her tick and rewarding her when she does not bark. Take, for example, other dogs. When you go out and see other dogs, give your dog a treat for not barking. Start giving your dog treats when the approaching dog is still out of sight, and continue giving her until the other dog goes past you. As soon as the ‘threat’ goes past, stop giving the treats. This will teach your dog that approaching dogs equal good treats.
Get some Exercise
Every dog needs to be stretched out daily. Exercise is at the core of a dog’s being and without it, your dog would be incomplete. All that excess energy going into exercise leaves little room for barking. When your dog is in this happy zone, it would not want anything to stop the fun, including other dogs that would normally cause her to get tensed and ready for a bark-fest. If you will be out of the home all day, it is advisable to enable your dog to exercise before you go or as soon as you get back.
Is There An Easy Way Out?
People always want the easy way out, but in this case, only someone who doesn’t love their puppy would be happy with these shortcuts. There are other methods people use to stop their dogs from barking, such as electric collars and debarking. Electric collars or other types of dissuasive collars cause pain or discomfort whenever the dog barks. Debarking is a medical process that involves removing parts of the vocal chord.
Both of these are controversial and very risky. While the barking might stop, the cause of the barking won’t be dealt with, and your dog will be hurt, confused, and frustrated. This leads to other issues, that could result in something much worse, like biting without the usual ‘heads up’ growl.
Remember that shouting is also ineffective, as it only encourages your dog to keep barking. Violent training is unacceptable and ineffective. Follow these steps, consult a trainer if needed, and remember it takes time for the behavior to be corrected. Don’t stop now. You can do it!
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