How to Stop Your Dog from Barking Excessively
Is your dog a little noisemaker that likes to bark on seemingly any pretext or without reason at all? If the answer is "yes," you probably know what a nuisance it is—not just for you but also for anyone within earshot of your dog's endless yapping. (Sorry, neighbors!) You might think excessive barking is "normal" or a trait inherent to the type of dog you have or its unique background. But, in reality, it is a problem that many dog owners have to face.
Luckily, there are several ways to prevent your dog's overt vocalization from becoming a permanent fixture in your home. Herewith, we've listed possible reasons why your dog won't stop barking, how to prevent it, and when you might want to seek the help of professionals.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Barking is a means of communication, either between dogs or between dogs and people. A single bark can signify many things—joy, sadness, anger, fear, to name a few.
Simply put, barking is natural for a dog. But what does it mean if your dog won't stop barking? While it's hard to pinpoint why your dog is barking excessively, there are several reasons behind it. Situations that may trigger a dog to bark include, but aren't limited to:
- People, dogs, or other animals encroaching in its territory
- Unusual sights, sounds, and smells
- The need for attention
- Loneliness or separation anxiety
Observing the situations in which excessive barking occurs may rule out any potential reasons. Once you determine the possible reason behind your dog's excessive barking habit, you will better resolve the problem. Although incessant barking spells are often considered a behavioral problem, they may also stem from underlying medical or age-related conditions, like canine cognitive dysfunction.
Before tackling your dog's barking yourself, meet with a trusted veterinarian to address any health concerns. If such is the case, you can develop an action plan based on your dog's needs.
3 Ways to Prevent Excessive Barking
If you are treating your dog's excessive barking at home, there are many ways to deal with the problem. Some are more straightforward, whereas others might require more time and patience—however, all are suggestions backed by veterinarians and pet behavioral specialists alike.
Without further ado, here are three ways of how to deal with the issue. Just keep in mind that each of these suggestions isn't an overnight solution, but you are promised long-lasting resolve if the problem is dealt with consistently.
1. Socialize your dog.
Many socially stunted dogs tend to bark excessively. That's why it's important early on to acclimate your dog to the world outside the four walls of your home. One of the best ways to introduce your dog to new sights, sounds, and smells is to take regular walks. As your dog becomes more confident, you may gradually expose it to more personalities, both of the human and four-legged variety. It's also essential to make socialization a positive experience for your pet, using praise and providing an appropriate amount of treats. That way, your dog associates the pastime as something positive.
2. Stave off boredom.
A bored dog is often a noisy one. One way to curtail excessive barking, look for interactive toys that will keep them happy and engaged. Food-enrichment puzzles, for instance, can be stuffed with your dog's favorite treats. They put your dog's mind to work as it will have to earn its reward. Another way to stave off boredom is to provide your dog with ample exercise—the amount of which will be based on your dog's age and activity level. A well-exercised dog is more likely to rest at home rather than partake in destructive behaviors. If you're not often home, take your dog multiple times throughout the day or hire a dog walker.
3. Provide your dog with a safe place.
If a dog is lonely or experiencing separation anxiety, it may vocalize its discontent. Unfortunately, we cannot always be there for it. Many times, we have to leave the house to work or socialize with other human beings. To assuage your dog, carve out a safe place in it to stay. Leave the radio or TV on, which stand in as household sounds while you are away. You might also want to safeguard your dog against potential triggers—most especially if it's prone to being territorial. Opt to close the blinds, for instance, to keep your dog from seeing animals, strangers walking by, or anything that may cause it to bark unnecessarily.
How to Stop Excessive Barking as It Is Happening
While it's one thing to curb your dog's barking, it's a whole other story to stop your dog as it is happening. One of the most effective methods to stop excessive barking is to teach your dog to be "quiet"—a command that will help curtail your dog's habit once it's learned. When your dog is barking, use a firm voice and tell it to be "quiet." Repeat the command until your dog stops barking—and if successful, reward them with affection or treats to reinforce this behavior. Over time, your dog will learn to associate the command with something positive, thereby encouraging it to behave the same way in the future.
In any case, avoid yelling at your dog when attempting to correct it. Yelling is not only an ineffective method, but it could also work against you and trigger your dog to bark even more. You also want to avoid using your hands or objects to hit your dog, as well as shock collars to punish it when misbehaving. Such approaches are often harmful to your pet and may affect its behavior for the worst over the long run. If, despite your best efforts to train your dog, its barking habit continues to be a nuisance to you and those around you, you may want to call in the help of outside forces.
When to Seek Professional Help
A dog behavioral specialist may be able to identify the underlying cause of your dog's excessive barking. Once the specialist determines the specific reason why he or she can provide a feasible action plan and work together with you to reduce your dog's issue. The best way to find a dog behavioral specialist is to ask for your veterinarian's recommendation. Your vet can immediately point in the right direction and thereby help you resolve the problem as soon as possible. While you're at it, be sure to ask the vet to run a check-up on your dog to ensure it isn't symptomatic of a medical condition.
Barking comes part and parcel with having a dog. But, sometimes, it can be more of a problem than it is a natural response to the world around them. If you think your dog is barking excessively—and much to the dismay of you and your neighbors—it's imperative to correct it right away. As with most, if not all, dog behavioral problems, exercise patience and consistency. Above all, use the proper tools and techniques to address it head-on. Your dog will learn to tone down its barking soon enough. If not, don't be afraid to reach out for help when necessary.