Dog Barking (Excessive)
Learn about causes and corrective actions for excessive barking in dogs.
Signs of Excessive Barking
- Dog barks habitually at traffic, people in the household moving about or other everyday occurrences
- Dog consistently barks for more than two to three minutes
- Dog continues barking after stimulus such as squirrel or cat disappears
- Dog barks enough that neighbors complain
Causes and Corrective Actions for Excessive Barking in Dogs
This barking stems from the canine's natural instinct to alert those in the "pack" that someone or something approaches, a valued trait in the watchdog, but one that easily goes awry if owner over encourages the behavior or leaves it unchecked.
ALARM Corrective Actions: Never praise dog for barking at the mailperson, passersby or other daily activity unless you want this everyday alert. Block views of daily activity if dog stimulates to bark easily. Allow only short alarm barks, then divert dog's attention toward acceptable outlet such as a safe chewy, treat-stuffed toy or another quiet activity. Teach "Quiet" by keeping treats handy, tell dog "Quiet" when stops barking and feed a treat, repeat regularly until dog responds readily to command. Instill good obedience habits, such as training "Spot," a place your dog must lie down and stay quiet. Train dog to greet guests calmly and politely so he understands visitors are not a threat.
Dogs often bark excessively to pass the time when left alone for extended periods, particularly outdoors. Many bark to burn off energy because they receive inadequate physical or mental exercise despite the owner's steady companionship.
BOREDOM Corrective Actions: When possible reduce amount of time you leave dog alone. If dog must be left alone during the day, rotate between treat-stuffed rubber toys, safe chew bones and other toys within the dog's confined area. Leave inaccessible radio on to provide comforting sound of human voices and drown out insignificant noises. Come home at lunch, enlist family members, ask neighbors or arrange for a pet sitter to walk dog midday. Increase physical exercise and obedience, tricks or other training. Don't leave dog unattended for extended periods outdoors. Use fencing and landscaping to block views that especially stimulate barking. In extreme cases, a collar that sprays dog with citronella when triggered by excessive barking may help.
Dog barks at owner expecting to be fed, go for a walk or receive other pleasant attention and owner complies.
DEMANDING ATTENTION Corrective Actions: Ignore demand barking. Pleasant things only happen for the dog when behaving quietly and you initiate the action.
Especially common in the on-leash dog, reactive barking stems from fear or possible aggression toward other dogs due to under-socialization, genetic tendencies or other causes.
REACTIVE Corrective Actions: For non-aggression-related reactive barking, "counter condition" dog to perform an alternative learned behavior, such as Sit, upon seeing another dog by use of generous rewards for sitting quietly and then moving away from approaching dog before dog reacts, a combination that can very gradually progress to where the dog sits as another dog passes. For aggression issues, work with a professional trainer.
Often confused with boredom barking, separation anxiety barking frequently couples with destructive or escape attempt behaviors and relates to the dog's extreme discomfort in being left alone even for relatively short periods.
SEPARATION ANXIETY Corrective Actions: When separation anxiety involves behaviors that destroy furnishings or potentially harm the dog, enlist a professional trainer. For milder cases that revolve around barking, introduce an "I'll be back" cue that tells your dog you will return, starting with leaving the house only a few minutes that you gradually build to longer time periods. Keep comings and goings on an even emotional keel, do not say goodbye when departing or excitedly greet dog upon returning, simply give a treat-stuffed toy before going and casually take dog out to potty after coming home.
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