Assessing the reason for your dog’s barking
Let’s get the first step underway and assess the nature of the barking your dog is exhibiting.
For that form of barking that occurs when you are with your dog, the following are the most likely reasons.
1. Anxieties and related conditions
The most common cause is likely to be an anxiety-based reaction to a stimulus that ‘worries’ your dog. You will find more information on anxieties and related ’emotions’ of pets on this link but such reactions include:
- Territorial threats where pedestrians, other dogs and unidentified noises occur beyond your property boundary
- Self-protective aggression where your dog feels threatened by nearby activities
- Human-protective aggression where your dog feels that you may be at risk
- An anxiety disorder such as a Generalised Anxiety Disorder where your dog startles easily and is over-reacting to stimuli that most dogs do not react to.
2. Attention-seeking or comfort-seeking
If your dog is barking at you it could well be attention-seeking behaviour which mostly means it wants to play or because he or she is bored. However, your dog may be barking at you for reasons related to aggression so be careful.
Comfort-seeking is different. A dog may bark at you when it is feeling distressed and wants you to help it with that distress – in other words, he or she wants comfort.
To tell the difference, examine the mood of your dog at the time. If he or she looks distressed, sad or agitated it’s likely to be comfort-seeking and not attention-seeking.
3. Compulsive barking
Compulsions are one of the rarer causes of barking. A compulsion is a purposeless behaviour which is often repetitive, and can occur for long periods. For dogs, compulsive barking often fits into a rhythm and is usually not caused by an identifiable stimulus. Dogs with compulsive disorders need professional attention and the best first step is to contact us for assistance.
4. Old dogs and barking behaviour
Some old dogs bark when they have a senile behaviour disorder similar to Alzheimer’s Disease. This usually occurs with dogs in their ‘teens’. For dogs this is called Canine Cognitive Disorder. There are many methods to reduce the effect of this condition (follow the previous link) but it’s one where your veterinarian will need to be involved.
5. Boredom-related problems
If your dog is an outside dog and does not spend much time with you, then the barking could be based on boredom.
Dogs need activity, guidance and leadership and one problem with ‘outside-only’ dogs is that you have far less opportunity to direct your dog’s behaviour to proper outcomes.
The solution is to provide boredom relief and to ensure your dog has activities to entertain him or her. Click here for our No Bored Dogs Pet Pick.
How can barking be reduced?
There are many ways to limit a dog’s barking behaviour but the most effective methods are those that treat the underlying reason for the barking.
Because you are reading this page, you are home when the barking is occurring so the therapies are usually very different to the processes you use when you are away from home.
So, the therapies for ‘at home’ barking mostly rely on:-
- Reducing the access to the stimuli that cause barking
- Setting a limit to the amount of barking you will allow
- Using reward-based therapies to strengthen quiet behaviour when you achieve it.
- And treating any underlying anxiety disorder, compulsive condition or medical condition if it’s present
Sadly, most dog owners rely on punishment to control barking.
When punishment-based methods are used to reduce an unwanted behaviour, they usually slow down the ability of a dog to learn the alternative good behaviours. Even the most intelligent dog is still fairly dumb compared to humans! When a dog is aroused by stimuli that cause barking it quickly loses the ability to learn and to remember the new techniques you are attempting to teach it.