Barking is a normal aspect of doggy communication, but there’s no doubt that it can be irritating for both you and your neighbours.
It can also be stressful and anxiety-inducing for you when your dog has a habit of barking at the wrong times, for example when a guest comes to visit or when you leave the house. If left unchecked, your dog can develop serious issues that are much harder to treat — so it’s best to address them sooner rather than later.
The good news is that there is always a reason for excessive barking, and with a bit of doggy detective work, you should be able to get to the bottom of it. You and your dog will be happier and less stressed when the root cause of the barking has been addressed.
In this article, we’ll discover how to train your dog to stop barking using simple strategies and tried-and-tested techniques.
What causes excessive barking?
All dogs bark as a means of communicating with you and other dogs, but some are prone to excessive barking, either all the time or in certain situations. This could be down to several causes, including boredom, attention-seeking, anxiety, fear, or territorial behaviour.
The first step is to figure out why your dog is barking so much. At this point, it’s a good idea to get a veterinary checkup to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing it. Then, write out a list of ‘triggers’, or things that set off the barking.
Some common triggers include:
- The doorbell ringing/a knock at the door
- The post being delivered
- Being left alone in the house
- Passing people or other dogs on a walk
- Seeing a cat or bird in the garden
Once you have identified your dog’s triggers, you can move on to the next step: determining the most appropriate technique to tackle the issue.
What can you do about your dog’s barking?
Like most things when it comes to dogs, barking can be managed and controlled with the right approach and training methods. Remember, your dog is trying to communicate something by barking — when you figure out what it is they are hoping to achieve, you can teach them how to get it without barking excessively.
Here are some techniques that can make all the difference to your dog’s barking habit. Every dog is unique, so try a few different things and see what works best.
Keep your dog active and tire them out
Many dogs bark out of sheer boredom. Without an appropriate outlet for their pent-up energy, they can also sometimes resort to making their own fun by chewing up the furniture or scratching the door!
A tired dog is a calm dog, so your dog must be given ample mental and physical exercise every day. This can include a combination of:
- Long and short walks
- Games of fetch
- Interactive toys like stuffed Kongs, snuffle mats, puzzles, etc.
- Swimming in a lake or the sea
- Treat dispensing toys
- Chew toys that are the appropriate size and hardness for your dog
Avoid scary things
Try to reduce your dog’s exposure to triggers as much as you can.
For example, if your dog barks excessively at people and other dogs when you’re out and about, then you could try walking them at a different time of day or find a quieter place to walk. If you have to leave the house for work and your dog is scared of being alone, you could enlist the services of a local dog walker, dog-sitter, or doggy daycare provider.
This might not be enough, however — if your dog has severe separation anxiety, then you may need to get help from a behaviourist. In the meantime, there are some great tips here and here to help your dog learn to get comfortable being alone.
Don’t reward the barking
If you give your dog attention while they’re barking — even if it’s negative — this can be an incentive for them to keep doing it.
By rewarding your dog for barking, you are inadvertently teaching them to do it again the next time. If they bark while you’re preparing their dinner, don’t give it to them until they stop. Over time they will learn that they don’t need to bark to get your attention, and that being quiet can bring about much better results for them!
Don’t admonish them
When your dog starts barking, it may be tempting to shout ‘stop it!’ or ‘sssh!’ in the hopes that they’ll quieten down. But this is actually more likely to have the opposite effect, causing your dog to either (a) bark even more due to excitement or over-stimulation, or (b) feel anxious as to why you are shouting at them and continue to bark out of confusion or fear.
Simply ignore the barking until it stops, then give your dog lots of praise and attention for being quiet and calm.
If anxiety is triggering your dog’s barking, try our Calming Healthy Treats. These low-calorie treats help to reduce anxiety in stressful situations and can help put your dog in the right headspace for training, making them the perfect companion to the techniques outlined above.
A happy dog means a happy owner, and here at Mark + Chappell, that’s exactly what we strive to achieve with our no-nonsense advice and expertly curated products. We care about the welfare of your dog, so visit us today for everything you need to keep them happy and healthy!