Dogs and barking seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, it can actually be helpful when your pet barks to alert you to a dangerous situation or an unknown visitor. However, unprovoked bouts of barking or prolonged periods of barking can be difficult to manage. 

Of course, no pet owner wants to completely eliminate all forms of barking. Fortunately, you can focus on correcting the behaviors you don’t want so your dog can engage in natural barking behaviors that benefit the whole family. 

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Dogs in the wild bark a lot less frequently than their domesticated kin, preferring to save their vocal cords for times when they really need them. Why, then, do pet dogs seem to bark so often?

The first step in getting your pup’s vocalizing under control is to pinpoint the cause. Dogs bark to communicate their needs and/or to express their emotions. For example:

  • Territorialism – Barking at the mail carrier, door bell, or someone walking by the front yard all fall into this category.
  • Alarm – This may be a response to being startled by a loud or unexpected noise.
  • Attention-seeking – Some dogs bark when they want or need something, such as attention or food. 
  • Fear – Barking out of fear usually sounds different from other types of barking and is often misconstrued as aggression.
  • Boredom – This repetitive barking may be a way for a lonely dog to get some stimulation or self-soothe.
  • Excitement – This is a “happy bark” that’s correlated with getting ready for an activity they enjoy, such as grabbing their leash or lacing up your dog-walking shoes.

Training a Dog Not to Bark

Depending on the source of your dog’s barking, there are a variety of techniques you can use to curb the behavior. Never punish a dog for barking, as this will only ramp up their energy and can exacerbate anxiety. 

Learn to identify your dogs various barks and how to discipline through our classes with our pet training expert, Derrick Rollerson. Training classes run throughout the year and are available for many stages and all ages.

Teaching Them to be Quiet

Territorial and alarm barkers may benefit from learning a simple command, such as “hush,” “quiet,” or “tch.” Have a treat ready, and the next time your dog barks, walk up to them and place the treat near their nose. Say your command, and give the treat as soon as the barking stops. Consistency is key – eventually, you’ll be able to say the command and get the desired response without a treat.

Environmental Enrichment is Key

Training your dog not to bark while you’re home is one thing, but what if they’re barking when you’re away? Dogs who bark out of boredom or separation stress/anxiety need appropriate outlets for their pent-up energy.

Commit to walking or exercising your dog every day before you leave and again when you get home. Leave them with plenty of fun (and safe) things to do, such as puzzle feeders, sturdy chew toys, or a treat-filled Kong (freeze it first to make it last longer).

If your dog is regularly left at home for long periods of time, consider hiring a dog walker to stop by in the middle of the day. Doggie daycare is another great option for social, active pets.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital are always here for you and your pet!