How to Stop Your Dog from Barking
There’s nothing like the feelgood factor you get from hearing your dog barking excitedly as you return home, waiting to greet you at the door. But what about when that barking goes beyond excitement at a particular situation, becoming frequent, relentless and a source of concern?
Excessive barking is a problematic issue for pet owners (and their long-suffering neighbours) who are desperate to get to the bottom of the matter and find a solution. When it comes to this particular dilemma, there is unfortunately no quick fix; it’s a journey of discovery that involves pinpointing the cause of excessive barking and treating it accordingly in a patient, loving way.
So, where do you begin?
Why does your dog bark excessively?
There are numerous reasons as to why this problem is a recurring one.
First of all, by their very nature, certain breeds of dog will bark more than others. Your first port of call should be to do your research on this topic to find out if your pooch comes from a family of barkers.
Another potential reason is an underlying medical issue that may be causing your dog pain and distress. In this instance, barking is a way for them to express this discomfort and to alert you that something is not right. To rule this out, it’s always best to get your pet checked out by a vet before considering any other possibilities.
If your dog’s breed is not a relevant factor, and they are thankfully in good health, it’s back to the drawing board.
Consider the times and places that your dog engages in consistent barking. Do you notice a pattern emerging? There are a handful of reasons and situations that are common causes of such behaviour.
Much like a toddler, a dog will often bark continuously to get the attention of a parent. They may be looking for a playmate, feeling the pangs of hunger, or simply looking for some facetime and affection. Whatever the reason, they want your attention, and they’ll keep barking until they get it!
If your dog tends to bark a lot when his or her territory is being infringed upon, this is likely a sign of a territorial barker. The barking may be initiated by a family member coming to visit, a neighbourhood cat strolling through the garden, or crossing paths with another person on the usual walking route. Essentially, if there’s a strange presence in any of their most familiar territories, they’ll continue to bark until normality is restored.
Alarm barking refers to the reaction of your dog to situations they may find scary or anxiety-provoking. It differs from territorial barking in that it can happen anywhere, but it is also similar in nature. A dog may raise the alarm through barking if they are nervous about certain things such as a stranger in the home or a loud, repetitive noise, like fireworks. Aside from barking, their anxiety will also be evident in their body language, as they will likely be stiff and ‘on guard’.
A big reason for excessive barking, howling or whining is separation anxiety. If your dog hates the prospect of you leaving for any space of time, they may bark as a way to notify you of this, only stopping on your return home.
How to get your dog to stop barking
Once you have unearthed the reason for your dog’s excessive barking, it’s time to put measures in place to resolve the problem.
When it comes to attention seeking, the key is to ignore their behaviour. When they bark at you to come and play or to hurry up with their midday snack, act as if they’re not there. Don’t look at them, talk to them, or pet them. It’s hugely important not to reward this behaviour with any form of attention, because by giving in to their demands, they’ll continue to bark in this way to get what they want.
Instead, wait until they’ve stopped barking, and once there’s an audible pause, offer them a treat and plenty of praise for their calm, quiet behaviour.
Adjusting territorial behaviour is all about distracting your pooch from the object they are barking at. If your dog sits at a window and continuously barks at visitors, cars or passers-by, simply move them to another spot in the house or block their view outside. If they are barking at the many creatures that may pass through your garden, call them back to you and have a treat waiting for them to reward the fact that they’ve obeyed your call and stopped barking.
Alarm barking and barking as a reaction to separation should be handled gently, as these are both anxiety-driven behaviours. While distraction techniques can provide a short-term fix in these instances, opting for desensitisation and counter conditioning may be a more feasible solution in the long run. When used together, these processes help your dog to get slowly accustomed to and tolerant of the offending stimulus, while teaching them to positively alter their behaviour towards it.
A calming dietary supplement, such as VetIQ Serene-UM Calming Tablets, can also be used in conjunction with other training methods, to help alleviate any tension or stress experienced by your pet.
More top tips for dog owners
The most important thing to keep in mind throughout the process is not to shout at or scold your dog for their excessive barking. This may frighten them, particularly if they are trying to communicate something with you, or it may encourage them to keep barking along with your raised voice.
On the contrary, giving your dog lots of scope for positive interactions can have hugely beneficial effects. Time spent outdoors running, walking and playing with stimulating interactive toys will tire them out and offer distractions to keep them from barking.
Patience is key as you approach this problem – and that goes for the whole family. Keep everyone on the same page when implementing any training practices to ensure consistency and to give your pet the best chance at overcoming their issues.
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