Barking in dogs is a normal and necessary behaviour for them as it is their way of communicating with other dogs, animals and humans. However, when the barking is excessive it can become a nuisance to the dogs owners and the neighbourhood.
The first step to stopping a dog from barking excessively is for the owners to determine the reason why the dog is barking. To determine the cause the dog needs to be observed when barking, sometimes this involves speaking to neighbours who may be around when the owners are not at home.
There are many reasons that dogs will bark excessively and become a nuisance. Once the underlying cause or trigger to the barking is discovered a way to control and/or stop the barking can be worked on. If the problem of excessive barking begins it is important to try and get it under control as soon as possible, as prolonged and habitual barking can be a lot harder to correct.
Boredom is one of the biggest reasons a dog will bark, quite simply they are bored so they bark. This boredom barking is often accompanied by other destructive behaviours like chewing or digging. The best thing to combat boredom barking is behavioural and environmental enrichment, ie. giving them something to do and keep them busy. Toys are the best form of enrichment as they give the dog something to play with and keep them busy. Treat toys, like Kong toys are great because you can fill them with a number different things like dog food, treats or peanut butter and they keep the dog entertained while they have to work to retrieve their snack. Alternating toys each day means that they are always new and exciting for them to play with and if you hide them around the yard it gives them something to discover. Providing dogs with plenty of exercise, particularly a morning walk, will help burn off excess energy meaning they will be happier to rest during the day.
Separation anxiety is another common cause for a dog to bark. Separation anxiety or stress and/or loneliness when the dog is left at home by themselves or without their master can trigger a dog to bark, howl and/or whinge. To reduce the stress of being alone try starting out by only leaving the dog alone for short periods. Give them a toy or bone so that they are distracted and it then makes the experience a positive one. Then lengthen the time away and hopefully the dog will gradually become use to you going, knowing that you will return. Make sure they have a safe place, like a kennel, to go to while you’re out and plenty of toys to keep them entertained. If the separation anxiety appears to get worse or you are unable to get it under control contact your veterinarian as there are some anti-anxiety medications that may help or a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist may be of benefit.
Territorial behaviour and protecting their territory from other dogs, animals, people or cars often results in barking. Dogs will often walk the fence line and bark at anything the passes by. Sometimes this is considered a good thing, because the dog is protecting the property and people inside, however it can be a nuisance to the neighbourhood. If possible, remove the dog from the area that causes the problem, like restricting them to the back yard and stopping them being able to see the triggers will help. Ultimately though behavioural training should be undertaken. Try and distract your dog from the triggers and reward them when they don’t bark at people, animals or cars that pass by. This positive reinforcement will have them thinking that when people walk by it is good because they might get a treat. Once again, providing them with plenty of exercise will help tire them out and toys will help keep them distracted.
Fear from people, other animals, loud noises, the dark, storms or any uncomfortable situation can make dogs bark as a response to that fear. If possible remove the source of the fear or try and remove the dog from the situation. Make sure the dog has somewhere to go that makes them feel safe and protected, you might want to bring them inside.
Attention seeking can cause dogs to bark in order to get a response from people and making people speak to them, even if it is in a negative or disciplinary way it satisfies that need for attention. The best way to deal with this type of barking is by ignoring it when possible and then reward good behaviour, like being quiet. The dog will soon realise that the best way to get attention is by being quiet and well behaved and that barking makes people ignore them.
For all types of excessive barking dog training can help. Training not only teaches the dog it also teaches the owner how to handle different situations and how to communicate with their dog. There are also a number of different Bark Control Collars available that work by sensing when a dog barks and then responding by issuing a negative correction like a spray, shock or sound, to deter them from barking. For more information on bark control collars please read the article in our help centre. If the excessive barking problem is not improving you can speak to veterinarian or consult a veterinary behaviourist for further advice.