Dog owners tend to view barking as an extremely irritating behavioural trait in their pets, despite the fact it can also be useful. Excessive barking can deter intruders and other dangers, whilst providing a way of alerting you to someone else’s presence, such as visitors to your home. It is the way in which dogs communicate with each other, their offspring and their owners, and it can be used to signify a variety of feelings and emotions including excitement, pain and anxiety. Barking also acts as a warning in various situations and can even demonstrate aggression. Every owner expects their dog to bark at some point or another, but when it becomes a persistent problem the reasons for the behaviour need to be explored.
Type of breed
Some breeds are simply more prone to barking than others. If this is something you are concerned about, thoroughly research which ones have a reputation for the behaviour before getting a dog. However, every individual animal is different and there is no guarantee that choosing a breed statistically less likely to bark means your dog won’t do the opposite.
Do they have everything they need?
A dog that won’t stop barking may be trying to tell you they need something such as food or water, or they could be too hot or cold. It might be due to a lack of exercise, as barking can be a way of releasing high levels of excess energy. If they are doing it continuously, check you have provided them with all of their essentials. Fill your dog’s food bowl as appropriate, and make sure they always have access to fresh water should they need it. If it is a particularly warm day why not shut your curtains or blinds to create a shady area for them to lie in? Your house needs to be heated sufficiently during cold weather, and the dog’s bed should be kept away from any windows and doors where a lot of heat can escape. Ensure you provide your dog with regular exercise every day, as this may help to tire them out enough not to bark any longer.
Anxiety and behavioural issues
If your dog appears to have everything they need, you have to consider what else might be the cause of the barking. It could be due to anxiety, as many dogs can bark if left alone for long periods of time, which can develop into compulsive behaviour. Similarly, the dog may be expressing boredom. Taking them out for a walk before you are due to leave will make them less likely to do it. Where you keep your dog can also make a large difference to their behaviour. For instance, leaving them isolated and cooped up in one room all day whilst you are out of the house can induce anxiety. This also applies if the dog is kept outside and tethered, or without appropriate shelter. Never ignore a dog’s continuous barking, as this means there is a problem and is their way of calling for help. Visiting a behaviourist may help to resolve the issue. If it is someone else’s dog in question such as a neighbour’s, you need to take note as it could be indicative of maltreatment.
Your dog may bark to illustrate their excitement, for example, if they know they are going for a walk or before they are about to be fed. Getting your dog too excited through playing or riling them up can also encourage excessive barking. Don’t exacerbate the problem by getting them unnecessarily excited, as they will then become confused as to why the behaviour isn’t acceptable. Speaking to your dog in a calming manner and training them to understand when it is and isn’t ok for them to bark will encourage them to behave appropriately.
Noises such as the doorbell or vacuum cleaner can also trigger a spell of barking. Don’t shout because your dog may think you are trying to join in with their behaviour, and it could also cause an anxious or frightened animal to behave aggressively. Remain calm but firm when speaking to your dog, and train them to respond to a certain word that instructs them to stop barking, such as ‘quiet’. If they stop even for just a moment, praise them and perhaps provide them with a treat. Repeating this process will eventually encourage them not to bark when they hear certain sounds.
A medical problem or old age might also be the reason for a dog’s persistent barking, so ensure you take them to the vet for a check-up.