Barking dogs are one of the most common noise complaints received by local councils. If your furry pal is exercising its vocal chords a little too excessively, it’s time to think about what you can do to avoid bad neighbourly relations. The last thing you want is a direction notice for nuisance residential noise or an on-the-spot fine. Even more importantly, if your dog is barking excessively, it’s likely it’s suffering some form of anxiety or distress. While barking is a normal form of communication for dogs, if it’s excessive, it could be trying to tell you something. Here are some of the most common questions we get asked from pet owners about barking.
Why do dogs bark?
It’s perfectly normal for dogs to bark. It’s how they communicate. Asking a dog not to bark is akin to asking a baby not to cry. Dogs can bark out of fear, excitement or if they perceive a threat (e.g. territorial behaviour). They also bark when seeking attention, such as needing to be let out to go to the toilet or wanting to be fed.
Why do dogs bark “excessively”?
Excessive barking can occur when a behavioural need of the dog is not being met. It might be bored, lonely or anxious over something like separation from its owner. Excessive barking can also occur when a dog is being overstimulated, such as if there is lots of foot traffic past the front of the house (territorial behaviour), neighbouring animals, or too much excitement when you get home.
How can I stop my dog from barking excessively?
The first step is to identify the underlying issue. This usually requires the input of your vet to help understand when and why the excessive barking is occurring. Sometimes in older dogs, excessive barking can relate to underlying brain disease, so it is worth having a check-up with your vet first. The important thing to remember is there is no quick fix – it takes time, consistency and patience.
For dogs barking out of boredom or loneliness, they obviously need more stimulation while you are not at home. This could be provided with toys or treats that occupy your dog for several hours. You could also trial having a family/friend’s dog stay at your house one day to see if this helps with the behaviour. Doggy daycare or dog walkers are another way to provide your dog with stimulation when you are at work. There are also apps available that allow you to ‘call’ your pet from work to check up on them or let them hear your voice.
Exercising your dog vigorously before you leave can help them to rest while you are away. For dogs barking due to separation anxiety, it is best to have the input of your vet. Many dogs require some form of medication to help manage the anxiety initially so that the dog becomes receptive to some of the positive behaviour techniques you use in combination, such as crating, toys, treats and adjustments to your routine of leaving the house.
For dogs barking excessively at people/dogs/vehicles going past the property, limiting what your dog sees can help. You could try confining them away from the front of the property, changing to a solid fence or using curtains/blinds inside.
For dogs that bark excessively when you get home or when they get excited, avoid patting them or making eye contact when you walk through the door. Wait until they are sitting quietly and then give them some attention and praise them. You could also try training your dog to sit and stay at a particular spot when they hear the door open or the doorbell ring.
What should you NEVER do to stop your dog from barking?
A barking dog can be frustrating, but it’s important to avoid shouting at your dog. Instead, speak firmly and calmly if needing to give a command. Avoid rewarding your dog with food or treats while they are barking as this may positively reinforce the behaviour. And never use a bark collar – whether it be citronella, audible correction or shock. This will often heighten anxiety, fear and aggression.
When should you see a vet about barking and how can they help?
In instances of excessive barking, it’s always best to consult with your vet. Together you have a better chance of identifying the underlying cause, which will then allow you to implement the correct techniques to stop the behaviour. If you implement the wrong techniques, you will only cause frustration for yourself and your dog!