Why Do Dog’s Bark?



WHY do dogs Bark? 

HOW do I train a dog not to bark?

Barking is a perfectly natural dog behavior.  Humans talk, cry, yell, and whisper; Birds tweet, sing, and screech; and dogs bark, whine, and howl.  If you have a dog you should expect some barking.   It is unrealistic and simply not fair to think you can train your dog to stop barking altogether.  However, you, your neighbors, and your dog will all be happier if the barking is under control.

Did you know that dogs use different types of sound to communicate?  These sounds range from whimpering to barking to growling.  Dogs various sounds have different meanings.  For example, a dog can use one bark if it is being defensive, and a slightly different bark when he is afraid of something.  Dogs communicate vocally by whining, grunting, screaming, yelping, howling, growling, barking, and so much more.  Dogs are great at barking and enjoy barking, just like some humans enjoy talking.  However, dogs do bark for a variety of reasons.

Dogs bark at people or things passing a window, fence, etc…

  • Barking seems to scare them away or so the dog thinks.
  • If you “Yell” the dog thinks you are barking too and you both scared them away.
  • Barking will continue under those circumstances, in addition will add more stress to the dog and the family.
  • Teach an alternate behavior – Down, go to crate, or come and find you.
  • Praise, pet, and or give a treat to the dog for not barking or before he is able to bark.
  • Have strangers, “mail carriers” come and give the dog a cookie when he is quiet.
  • Most of the time if a dog is barking and the person stops to talk to the dog’s owner, the dog will eventually stop barking, and at that moment click and treat the dog, praise the dog, or simply toss the dog a treat.  As the dog is still quiet, randomly reward that quiet behavior.
  • I have a theory that if a person walks past the house of a barking dog and happens to know the dogs name but does not really know the dog, saying the dogs name and acting like you know the dog, will help the dog to stop barking.  I have been experimenting with this theory, but of course it is just a theory.
  • Make the triggers less easy to see – blocking views or moving the dog to another room to limit access to the window or fence can help manage the barking.  Please keep in mind that this is a management technique and will not magically cure your dog from barking.  Using management will prevent the dog from being able to practice the undesired behavior and keep the barking from becoming a learned habit.  A self-reinforcing habit.

Dogs bark for attention…

  • Bark; let me out, Bark; let me in, Bark; give me a treat, Bark; I want to meet that dog or person, etc.  The dog barks to get attention.
  • Don’t YELL!  Just get up, walk away and ignore or turn your back and ignore.  (To a dog, negative attention is better than none at all.)  Yelling or saying, “knock it off” is negative attention.  It is not any different than the kid in the classroom that taps his pencil on the desk to get attention from the teacher.  So, if you ignore, eventually your dog will learn that barking is not worth it and does not get him what he wants, which is attention from you.
  • Remove the item that he wants or remove him from the environment if you have to.
  • As soon as he is quiet – PRAISE and REWARD.
  • Praise for a few seconds of quietness and increase the time slowly.
  • You are now giving the dog the attention he needs, but on your terms and for the acceptable behavior of being quiet.

Dogs bark when they are stressed…

  • Do not YELL, this will only make the dog more stressed.  When you are stressed at work, it will make you more stressed if your supervisor or co-worker yells at you.  Too much stress can impact the immune system and cause illnesses.
  • Offer calming signals to relax your dog by yawning, lip licking, turning your head away, and using soft eye blinks.
  • Divert the dog’s attention if possible.
  • Train your dog to be calm, go to a mat or settle when distracting things are present.
  • Teach your dog to “check things out” and allow him to explore the “scary or weird” things in the environment.  If he is barking due to an object that is causing him stress.

Dogs bark when bored…

  • Dogs that spend most of their time outside or alone and away from their human pack.
  • Frustrated and lonely – Dogs are pack animals and need to be around you for a good portion of their day.  This does not mean just in the house with you.  Your dog should receive individual attention and play a minimum of an hour a day with you.
  • Bring your dog in when you are home and leave your dog in when you are not home. This way he can feel like part of the family. Do not leave your dog outside!  He is your dog, your best friend, and deserves to live in your home.  After all you would not leave your child outside all day, would you?
  • Provide daily social EXERCISE by walking in the neighborhood, 45-minute walk is great for most breeds. A properly exercised dog will sleep most of the day when you are not home. Allow your dog to sniff from time to time, which will give your dog some mental stimulation.
  • Having a large yard does not mean the dog is getting enough exercise – if your dog is dashing madly around the yard it is the equivalent of pacing, fidgeting, or other forms of nervous activity.
  • Dogs are social and need friends – schedule play dates with friend’s that have dogs.
  • Dogs left alone bark to rid pent up energy and take up barking as a hobby.
  • Provide your dog with fun things to do – digging pit, chew toys (stuffed or not), treat balls, things to find, and calming music.
  • Engage your dogs BRAIN by TRAINING him. (Tricks, Basic obedience behaviors (sit, down, stand, stay, come, are just a few examples and train your dog to do a dog sport (Agility, Canine Freestyle, Rally-O, Tracking, and so much more).

Dogs bark when they are afraid… 

  • There are various levels of fear, which range from unsure, worried, startled, extremely afraid, to panic attacks.
  • What are dogs afraid of?
  • Left alone (in home, car, crate, new place, or tied up) Such dogs are attempting to call their owners back home, but because the owner does eventually come back, the dog thinks that his barking was effective – so he may bark with more determination the next time.  This causes anxiety because the dog cannot cope without the owner. Videotape your dog during the day to see what is triggering his barking.  The more information you have the more success you will have at helping and training your dog.
  • Sounds and startling noises
  • Threatening behaviors of other dogs and humans (arguments, aggression, anger, coming directly at a dog, and raised voices).
  • Exposure to new items or “scary things”
  • Being held tightly in arms or on a leash, and loss of ability to escape if needed.

It is hard to say what will trigger a dog to be fearful of something or what the dog will associate that fear with.  If you jerk on the leash when the dog barks at something he is afraid of then you are basically telling the dog that he should be afraid of that particular thing. When he looks at it, he gets a correction and that thing causes him pain.  He will also now associate you with that “scary thing” he is afraid of and now he will become afraid of you as well.  Chances are the dog will not think, “oh, it is because I barked that I got corrected” and even if he did, that is not a chance worth taking.  You could be creating a fearful dog by giving leash or verbal corrections and now your dog could associate those corrections with whatever he was afraid of, to begin with (dogs, people, cats, kids, you, and the list goes on and on).

So, how do you start teaching your dog “NOT” to bark?  In order to train your dog not to bark, you must first figure out WHY he is barking.  What is triggering the barking and then go from there?

  • Many will say that teaching a dog to “Bark” on cue will decrease barking because the dog will only bark when given the cue to bark.  I have taught all my dogs to “Speak” on cue and to be honest, it does not prevent barking altogether but it does seem to decrease.  My dogs love being given the cue “Speak” which tells me that they really love to bark.  It is their favorite trick!
  • Reward is the best motivator!  Reward when the dog is not barking, and reward before the dog can bark, if something happens that he might normally bark at.  For example, if another dog barks, give your dog a treat for NOT barking back.
  • When your dog is lying quietly and allowing you to visit with neighbors or talk on the phone you can praise and reward him, which will encourage the dog to remain quiet the next time.

I wish I could tell you the magic word and you would have all your barking problems go away, but that is simply not possible.  Dogs bark!  The key is to manage the barking and work on rewarding your dog the times he is quiet.  We tend to ignore our dogs when they are being “good”, but give them attention when the are being “bad”.  Why not just reward and give them attention when they are doing the things you like?