Some dogs like to bark more than others. This isn’t always a problem, but if you have a dog that explodes into a frantic fit of barking, clawing, and jumping whenever somebody knocks on the door or walks outside your window, this is a behavior that should be curbed. This not only gets very frustrating and annoying for dog owners, but it also contributes to a higher level of stress and agitation for your dog.
Luckily, this type of barking is often due to a few simple causes that can easily be addressed.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Dogs bark for numerous causes. Not all barking should be discouraged, and, in fact, much of their barking is a sign of a healthy personality. Many dogs bark when they are engaged in play, when they need to get our attention, or when they are in a situation which makes them afraid and/or aggressive. Much of the time, when a dog barks, it is simply an indication that they are bored and need more stimulation.
It’s not always easy to tell exactly why your dog is barking. However, most dog owners will be able to distinguish the various types of barks their dog make after awhile, and be able to determine what the different barks signify, based on the situation and the sound of the bark.
What is Problematic Barking?
Not all barking is a problem, but most people can identify the type of bark that is. This type of barking is characterized by sudden and violent fits of furious barking that occurs after a dog sees or hears a stimulus that sets them off. The barking often happens with the dog bolting to the door or window, followed by posturing, growling, or scratching.
Once the “intruder” has left, the dog will gradually calm and eventually go back to their usual routine. This aggressive behavior is very frustrating for dog owners whose dogs get triggered frequently. It can also lead to the dog destroying things in your home or hurting themselves.
This type of triggered barking behavior is usually a type of territorial aggression. Your dog is communicating that this is their home and the intruder is not welcome here. For many dogs, and particular dog breeds, this type of behavior can be more natural. However, it should still be reduced or eliminated. It not only makes your home more peaceful, but helps to reduce your dog’s stress and agitation, making them more happy and calm, in general.
Best Ways to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking
Don’t Let Your Dog to See Out Windows
If you have a dog that is triggered by seeing people, cars, or animals outside, rather than hearing them, there is a very simple solution that often works miracles. Basically, just close your blinds or curtains, or cover up your windows some other way. This straightforward, common sense solution can be highly effective for dogs that bark on sight. If there’s nothing to see, there’s nothing to bark at. For many dogs, there are few things more rewarding and entertaining than sitting by the window and scaring off intruders all day long. If you can’t, or don’t want to, cover your windows, you can try restricting your dog to rooms that don’t have a window, using a gate.
Use a Masking Noise to Cover Up Sounds from Outside
Similar to dogs that are triggered by sight, other dogs tend to be more triggered by sounds and noises they hear from outside the house. A simple way to combat this is to try to mask outside sounds with noise inside your house. It can be as simple as leaving your TV or stereo on. Make sure it’s loud enough to cover up noises from outside. Using a fan or machine to create white noise can often be more effective at reducing the level of outside noises inside your home.
Give Your Dog Sufficient Exercise
Many dogs are high energy and need a lot of activity and stimulation to get rid of that energy. Unfortunately, many dogs are trapped inside their homes all day, which makes them grow bored and get a lot of stored up energy that needs to be released. To release their energy, many dogs develop the habit of barking at intruders outside your home. If you have a dog that needs a lot of exercise and activity, make sure that they get enough time outside each day, along with plenty of play to burn off their excess energy needs. This will increase the likelihood that they will spend their time resting and relaxing in the house, rather than waiting for a stimulus to chase away.
Reward Your Dog for Not Barking
Be sure to pay attention to your dog throughout the day and evening for times that they do not bark. If they don’t bark or run after sensing someone outside the house, or if they have a reaction that is less severe than usual, be sure to say “yes” and treat them. A treat that they really crave is good to use in this way. Using positive reinforcement to change behavior is a highly effective technique.
Try Using a Treat Puzzle to Keep Them from Getting Bored
Puzzle toys that you put dog food or treats inside are an effective tool to keep your dog occupied, so that they are paying attention to the puzzle instead of noises outside the door or windows. The dog has to work at it in order to receive the food reward. This helps to keep them focused, as well as reduces their boredom. Food is highly rewarding to most dogs, so these tools are especially effective for issues with barking.
Things You Shouldn’t Do to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking
Punishing Your Dog Won’t Make Them Quit Barking
Punishing your dog or hollering at them to quit barking rarely has any positive results. If you scare them enough, you might quiet them into submission momentarily. However, the next time they hear or see an “intruder,” the dog is more than likely to start barking once again. An agitated and stressful state fosters further stress and agitation, possibly worsening the barking. Always keep calm when interacting with your pet. This is more calming for you and your dog, and is more likely to get better results in the long run.
Never Use a Shock or Bark Collar
A shock collar (or a bark collar), is a collar that is used to transmit a painful electrical shock to your dog’s neck when they bark. These are not only bordering on abusive, but are also considered to be mostly ineffective. Shocking your dog doesn’t address the underlying issue. This type of barking is a signal that something needs to be fixed. Also, these collars tend to frequently be activated by sounds other than your dog barking. Dog barking on TV or outside can often result in your dog undeservedly being shocked over and over again. This teaches them nothing, and will likely increase their overall fear, stress, and aggression levels. Positive reinforcement methods are generally more effective than punitive methods like this. They also serve to create a positive and loving bond between you and your dog, instead of one based on fear and control.
Hiring a Dog Behaviorist
If you’ve attempted to use these various methods for a number of weeks and you still haven’t had any success, you may want to consider hiring a professional dog behaviorist. It’s possible there are variables or triggers contributing to your dog’s barking that a dog trainer or behavioral specialist will be able to identify. Also, they are likely to be able to provide useful instruction regarding how to more effectively apply the methods you’ve already tried. If you do want to hire a professional, perform sufficient research and be sure that who you hires is someone who specializes in modifying dog behavior, not just someone who performs dog training.