Dog Behavior - Barking

We at Family Pooch care about the relationship between you and your dog.  Today we are starting a series of blog posts on doggie behaviors, what causes them, and what to do about them. The topic for this blog entry is Barking.

Barking is one of those habits which can be extremely annoying, not only to the dog owner but others.  We had one neighbor who would put his dog out every night and the dog would bark all night long!  Eventually, we needed to talk to them since they worked at night and wasn't even aware of the behavior.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Now, dogs make noise. Unlike some cats, very few people expect a dog to be silent.  They may whine, bark, howl, etc, but excessive barking is a problem that normally needs to be addressed.  Now why they back comes down to  several root causes, and it is important to understand which is applicable to your situation:

  • Warning or alert.  This is the one most common, and why some people get a dog in the first place ... to be a watchdog.  This is usually not too much of a problem, except for what they are alerting you about.  As an example, we used to have a small Jack Russell who thought it was terribly important to tell us about leaves blowing in our yard.

  • Attention-seeking.  Like with other behaviors, if your companion feels they are not getting enough attention from you in a positive way, they will find ways to get attention any way they can.

  • Anxiety/Boredom.  If your companion has excess energy, is anxious or bored, they may also bark just to feel good about doing something.

  • Responding to other dogs.  We are currently surrounded by dogs on three sides of our property and we know ALL about this behavior.  If the Pug who is living with us isn't responding to one of the others, the other three will "talk" all the time.

  • Age or sickness.  As dogs age and/or their health starts to fail, they will bark more.  This is why it is important not to ignore excessive barking, it cam, literally, be a call for help.

What to do about it?

First, don't yell at your companion, or hit them.  Outside of the ethical/legal issues, it isn't going to work and may encourage more barking.  Though there are lots of devices on the market, I have never found any that work, so I'm not even going to list them.

The first step is to talk to your Vet, especially if this is a new behavior.  It can be a sign of an underlying health problem which you need to address!

The next two steps are to eliminate why they are barking excessively and to train your dog to have Speak./Quiet commands.  Training isn't the simplest option since it will probably take weeks for the training to work, but it is the most long-lasting.

Remember to give your companion plenty of exercise of both his/her brain and body!    Snuffle Mats and Snuffle Bowls are one way to train them to forage (most dogs need to be trained, so please see our blog entry on this).  Still, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise which will help with boredom and anxiety!   Take long walks, play, and enjoy time with your companion, especially just before you go away for a while.

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