Dogs naturally bark, and that is why many of us want to stop dog barking. It is part of their natural and healthy communication-related behavior. Dogs can bark for good and appropriate reasons, such as when they hear an odd noise, when strangers enter or approach a house, or when they are herding animals. Most of us want dogs to alert us to danger when necessary as a companion “watchdog.” Barking can also be inappropriate. In two surveys conducted with dog owners, about 1/3 of owners reported a problem with excessive barking.
The first step in solving the problem, it is important to know why dogs are barking in the first place (see reasons below.)
- 1 Vocal Communication in Dogs
- 2 Why Dogs Bark
- 3 Dog Barking Characteristics
- 4 Behavior Modification Exercises to Stop Dog Barking
- 5 Controlling Barking Through Corrective Dog Barking Collars
- 6 Best Bark Collar
- 7 Anti-barking Outdoor Dog Bark Control Devices
- 8 De-barking
- 9 Nuisance Barking Prevention in Puppies
- 10 Free Brochures
- 11 References
Vocal Communication in Dogs
Dogs are similar to wolves regarding the type of vocalizations used to communicate. Animals learn when they are young how and the reasons for vocalization. Puppies produce a “mewing” sound when looking for warmth or food. They vocalize even louder when frustrated or hurt. As an adult, they evolve into making five types of sounds. The type of sound made is situation dependent.
Sounds Dogs Make
Why Dogs Howl
Howls are used to communicate over longer distances and in several types of circumstances. Howling is closely linked to wolves but also seen in dogs.
Howling is used in many circumstances for long-range communication. Howls are usually linked to wolves, but dogs also howl.
Why Wolves Howl
- To signify territorial boundaries
- Locate other pack members
- Coordinate activities such as hunting
- Mating to attract other wolves
Why Dogs Growl
- In reaction to sirens and other similar stimuli
- To threaten, warning or as an act of aggression. Body posture and snarls or stares are accompanying signs. Dogs are usually stationary.
- In defense
- In a show of dominance
- Play: Play growling is usually accompanied by movements such as tail wagging and play to entice others to participate.
Why Dogs Grunt
Sighs in people when they are content is similar to dog grunts. Grunts are also heard when dogs greet people or another dog.
Why Dogs Whine or Whimper
Whimpers and whining are short and medium types of communication. Whines are used:
- To show submissiveness
- When in pain
- When frustrated
- To get attention
- In defense
Whining is seen more often in dogs than wolves. The whine is meant to get the owners attention along with some reward. Puppies learn this behavior when they use a whine to get a parents or owners attention. When the puppy receives some affection in return for whining, the behavior is reinforced and continues.
Like whining, barking is also more common in dogs than in wolves. The reason is similar to whining where humans might strengthen and encourage the behavior. There is also a tendency in some breeds to bark as part of their herding or watchdog instincts/training. Barking is a warning alert and also used in defense when staking out some territory or area. It is also a way to:
- Define a territory
- Call out for play
- Warn others
- Identify oneself to another dog
- Fight boredom
- React when excited
- React when startled
- An act of loneliness
- Respond when teased
- Act out when anxious
Why Dogs Bark
- Alert/warning barks are encouraged by owners when they want their dog to act as a watchdog for themselves and the family. They want to be alerted to the actions of a suspicious person or any danger. Barks that serve as a warning accelerate in frequency and volume as a stranger gets closer.
- Aggressive barks are often combined with growls and sound low in pitch. For the owner, it is essential that we understand what barks sound like out of fear vs. those associated with an act of aggression. Sometimes, aAttention-seeking barks in puppies (and adults) get your attention and focus. These barks are difficult to ignore, but we have to avoid reinforcing the barking behavior.
- Play/excitement barks are usually sharp and short. If a dog gets excited when playing, then consider a time-out to prevent the action.
- Self-identification barking is what is heard when one dog is communicating with another dog.
- Barking out of boredom is nothing more than a cry for a more stimulating environment and an energy outlet. Barking due to separation anxiety occurs If a dog is anxious or lonely. As the dog becomes anxious and more stimulated, barking becomes self-reinforcing.
- Upset dogs use anxious barks. Upset dog barks become higher pitched as the dog gets more anxious.
- When startled, barking is a reaction to a sudden or an unfamiliar movement or sound. As with a warning or alert bark, we must stop, control or discourage this type of barking.
Dog Barking Characteristics
Researchers have studied why some dogs frequently bark while others do not. They found that there are no differences between females and males. There is a difference between breeds.
Terrier, beagles and herding breeds bark more. They have been bred for this behavior, so the finding is not surprising. Excessive barking is seen in mixed breeds and purebreds.
How to Control Undesirable Dog Barking
Here are some guidelines for controlling excessive barking behaviors.
For barking control, we need a dog who can relax and obey. The dog needs to seek the owner for behavior clues. If we call the dog, have her lie down (dogs do not bark as much when lying down) and stay, we are on the path to finding a solution to nuisance barking and in modifying the barking reaction.
Most of the time, shouting “No” only makes the barking since the dog’s reaction is to think that you are barking and just joining in on the fun.
Always be consistent. Select a one-word command such as “Enough.” Use it to refer to the behavior you want. Always utilize that word in the same tone of voice. Teach all people that come in contact with the dog to use an identical command and to act in the same way.
Be patient yourself and your dog. Altering any behavior takes time. Work slowly, one step at a time. If the lack of progress makes you angry, don’t take it out on your dog since any progress you made will be lost.
When you see good behavior, be sure to reward the dog. Always use positive reinforcement instead of punishment. The only thing Physical punishment does is to make your dog fearful of you. It also breaks down any bond you wish to have with the dog. A good reward when starting out is a special treat or food. Many dogs respond to a piece of hot dog or cooked chicken. After awhile you can only provide a treat on some occasions, instead of using food as the reward, use affection such as a pat on the head or scratch of the stomach with a reaffirming command such as “good dog.”
When your dog is barking, do not respond with play or a hug. The dog will quickly associate these acts with a reaction to the barking. Note that when barking a dog might believe that there is something to be anxious or alarmed about. Responding with a hug or play may also reinforce that idea, resulting in even more barking the next time a similar situation occurs.
Situation control. Whenever possible, set up a training situation. When practicing, do it during short sessions (5 to 10 minutes). Practice frequently.
Consult with an expert if you are not making progress. Behaviorists and animal trainers (and even your veterinarian) encounter these types of problems all of the time. If you can, have the vet see a barking episode so they can interpret what is going on first hand. If you can’t do it in person, secretly film a video of your dog barking for playback in front of the professional.
Behavior Modification Exercises to Stop Dog Barking
Dogs that bark at joggers, people on bicycles or mail carriers are having the barking behavior reinforced. They are alerted by the stranger and bark. In a dog’s mind, they are thinking “boy am I smart when I bark that person goes away.” To modify the behavior, it is essential that the positive reinforcement is eliminated.
One approach is to keep the dog from seeing the mail carrier in the first place. Next to be sure not to provide a reward for any barking. If the dog barks at meal time and then is fed, the barking is being rewarded. If you ignore the barking for a long stretch and then acquiesce, the dog will learn that long periods of barking is rewarded.
When a dog barks as an “intruder” alert, we need a way to tell the dog that after a few barks, she has completed the warning, and now we are in charge. One approach is to use the command “enough” as a signal that the goal has been accomplished.
To get your dog to react to the word “enough,” put your dog in a circumstance where it tends to bark, such as in reaction to someone knocking at the door. After you hear one or two barks, stop knocking and distract your dog or make a sound that shifts the attention to you. If the barking immediately stops, say “enough” and provide a praise or treat based reward. If the barking does not stop, but a treat in front of your dog’s nose. When the barking stops (even for a second), say “enough,” If the barking continues to stop, provide a reward. Be sure to make sure the word “enough” is during a quiet period or else your dog will think it is time to bark again for another reward. Eventually the word “enough” will be sufficient to stop the excessive barking behavior.
Barking Out of Fear
Many dogs use barks to warn or alert, but then move on to use them as a reaction to fear. For example, this occurs when dogs react to a stranger.
If a dog barks when fearful of people, it is important that they learn to be obedient to you and to look to you for clues regarding how to react. If you are relaxed, then the dog should be relaxed.
For training in this situation, have people approach you from far off. Provide treats as the person approaches if the dog stays relaxed. Over time (weeks or days), have people approach a distance where the relaxed state is maintained. Provide rewards during this time.
When people come even closer, throw your dog a treat so that the positive event of getting a treat or reward is associated with the approach of new people.
Always maintain control of your dog during training. For example, do not do this type of training on a busy street.
Never encourage barking at people, particularly when a dog is young. The encouragement of barking at people sets up bad habits for the future. The dog may become increasingly fearful and suspicious of new people.
Young puppies and adults quickly come to understand that barking can be an attention seeking behavior. Dogs are natural attention seeking, both positive and negative. Even when you say “stop” or “no” you are providing a form of attention. When you see attention seeking barking behaviors the best advice is to ignore it.
Forms of remote correction can be helpful. For example, but a few coins in a soda can or use something that makes noise (fog horn) to startle the dog when barking. If the dog stops barking when startled, provide another outlet such as a toy or even go for a walk. Do not provide a toy if the barking does not stop. You cannot have the dog think that the reward for barking is the toy.
If play causes excessive barking, then slow it down and let the dog calm down. If barking continues, then end the game until a state of peace is reached.
It is instinctive for dogs to use self-identification barking, particularly when other dogs live in the home. In this case, one dog start and the others join in on the fun. Use the method described for warning or alert barking described above. Use relaxation and obedience approach and offer a replacement behavior such as a toy.
Barking When Bored
Boredom-related barking is similar to barking when lonely or when looking for attention. These dogs just require an alternative to barking. In this case give them alternative forms of stimulation such as more exercise, a walk or a toy. When a dog is tired, they are less likely to bark out of boredom. Try an engaging toy such as Buster Cubes or Kong Toys that intrigue does with treats hidden in a puzzle that they have to solve. Think about working your dog’s body and brain as a solution to barking boredom.
When alone, dogs may bark as a form of separation anxiety. The lonelier they are, the more they are going to bark. The circle feeds itself since the barking gets them even more upset.
There are several approaches to address separation anxiety. The way to address this problem is to teach the dog how to be more obedient and importantly how to stay relaxed. Once this occurs, the separation anxiety can be addressed.
Training starts by leaving the room or home for a short period. When the dog starts behaving nervous and starts to bark, come right back into the home or room. Your return is not a reward for barking, but rewarding the fact that the dog for a period was silent and relaxed.
Slowly, stay away for longer periods of time. If you can’t even leave the room for a second, just take a few steps away. There is no such thing as going painfully slow in this process.
Sometimes we need to alter our routine or habits. For example, if you grab your keys before leaving home, the sound could be a trigger for the separation anxiety. Instead of grabbing the keys or putting on shoes, alter your routine and do something else like go to the kitchen for a glass of water.
If your alarm is the trigger, use it on weekends when you stay home to break the association. Change your personal habits until your dog does not pay attention.
When out of the house, ensure that your dog stays comfortable. Ideas include a nice blanket, new toys, or keeping a TV or radio on. Some dogs remain content if they can look outside. That said, other may get anxious when looking outdoors when you are not home or when they see animals such as a squirrel. You know your dog and can make the decision regarding any potential anxiety triggers.
For dogs that tend to destroy the house while you are away, do not punish your dog when you come home. The risk is that punishment becomes associated with destruction, adding to the dog’s anxiety.
We suggest setting up a hidden camera to observe your dog when you are away. Note when the destructive behaviors start. Many dogs start just before the owner comes home. In this case, they become anxious before you return and even the possibility of more punishment.
To correct his behavior DO NOT punish your dog when you get home. Also, do not increase the amount of attention you give the dog. Just make your return ordinary and not a big deal. It is ok to acknowledge your dog but doesn’t overdue it. Once your dog is acting relaxed, then spend some quality time.
When implementing a behavior modification program, consider using a pet sitter or neighbor to come into the house while you are away. A visitor will provide some needed stimulation and will break up the boredom.
In cases of chronic separation anxiety, a veterinarian may prescribe medications. These drugs will calm your dog so that he or she will be more receptive to behavior modification. Medication is not a cure, only a means to an end. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation or consider a natural product such as Pet Calm.
To address barking when a dog is startled, use the same technique that was described for warning or alert barking. Teaching an association to stop with the word “enough” should correct the behavior.
If you observe that a particular sound startles the dog, make a recording of the sound. To start the behavior modification, play back the sound at a low volume, so your do stays in a relaxed state when listening to the recording. Provide a reward for the relaxed behavior. Over time (days, weeks) play the sound at an increased volume followed by rewards for calm behavior. Eventually, the startled reaction will subside and disappear.
Pathologic Barking Behavior
Nuisance barking is not the same as pathologically excessive barking. When barking is pathologic or abnormal, such as due to a case of separation anxiety, it can be caused by an obsessive-compulsive disorder. In an obsessive-compulsive situation, a dog will excessively bark at inappropriate things such as when a leaf falls from a tree. It is also obsessive-compulsive to excessively bark at other dogs or people. If the barking is overly aggressive then the dog will first need training for the aggression before any barking behaviors are modified.
In cases of more behavioral issues or pathological barking, a team is needed to solve the problem. The team includes a behaviorist, your veterinarian and every member of the family. Everyone must be consistent in how they interact with the dog and must know the customized training program that will work for your dog. A veterinarian may supplement training with some medications to make your dog more receptive to the behavior modification training.
Controlling Barking Through Corrective Dog Barking Collars
Numerous collars on the market produce an electrical stimulation, an irritating ultrasonic sound, or smell (offensive to us, but not dogs) when the dog barks.
Collars are often used in addition to behavior modification training. That said, collars alone will not always solve the problem and are not a preferred approach since they use some form of mild punishment or negative experience to reach the desired effect.
That said, if you have a situation that’s hard to correct, then many people have had success using the dog bark collars described below.
For some dogs, a barking punishment for barking is not enough to get them to stop. They prefer to bark and be punished than to not bark at all. For dogs who bark when they are anxious, the collar’s correction may make them even more anxious.
Citronella Dog Collars
In some circumstances, collars can be helpful. One type of collar uses citronella to produce a smell when dogs bark. This also helps the owner since the smell lingers providing an alert that the dog has been barking.
Collars such as these can produce quick changes in behavior, a helpful factor when living in close quarters such as an apartment building. Collars also can work when you are not home, preventing some issues with the neighbors.
The key piece of advice is not just to punish barking with the collars, but also provide rewards when the dog is behaving correctly.
Halter Dog Barking Collars
The collars work via the pressure of the leash when pulled. The collar tightens around the muzzle. When quickly pulled, and then by saying “enough” when a dog has stopped barking, and then by providing a reward, training may be accelerated, then when using no halter dog training collar.
Dog Shock Barking Collars
You can also get a collar that uses static stimulation to reduce or eliminate excessive barking, such as the Petsafe Elite Little Dog Bark Control. While we prefer the citronella approach, if quick results are needed, any trainers find success here with dogs that are harder to train.
Best Bark Collar
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|Naturepets Advance No Bark Collar||No harm shock dog control with 7 sensitivity levels for any size dog. Safe and effective. Perfect for dogs 18lbs to 120 lbs. Value Priced.||Get Latest Price|
|Petrainer Rechargeable and Rainproof Dog Training Collar||Options to train with beeps, vibrations or light static shock. Up to 100 customization levels. Guaranteed to work by the manufacturer.||Get Latest Price|
|Petsafe Basic Bark Control Collar||6 levels of progressive static stimulation to reduce or eliminate problem barking. Vibration detection of dog's own bark makes sure another dog does not set off the device.||Get Latest Price|
Anti-barking Outdoor Dog Bark Control Devices
There are several types of outdoor devices available to stop barking. These outdoor dog bark control devices can be placed in your backyard and work up to 50 feet from the barking dog. The devices work by emitting an ultrasonic tone whenever the dog barks.
In extreme cases, a surgical approach called Debarking could be sued through either the dog’s neck or mouth to remove the vocal cords. This does not completely silence the dog. Dogs will still attempt to vocalize with a hoarse noise, which can be worse than barking.
Debarking is also not a cure for any anxiety, boredom or fear and is only used as a last resort.
Nuisance Barking Prevention in Puppies
Teaching your puppy appropriate behaviors from the start is easier than changing behavior that has become a bad habit. Some behavior we may think of as cute in a puppy will not be cute in an adult dog. So, think ahead to avoid potential problems.
Teaching a new puppy right way is hard. Start with crate training. If you keep the crate in your bedroom, the puppy will feel more secure. With security comes trust. Trust results in less separation anxiety.
Do not give the puppy attention when it is whining. This just reinforces that whining is rewarded.
Start with training in relaxation and obedience. Always try and figure out why the puppy is barking so that you can address the underlying cause.
Teach the idea that the word “enough” means to stop barking from the day the puppy comes home (see above in the warning barking section.
Proactively work on issues such as when you leave the house right from the start before you see signs of separation anxiety. Create an environment where the puppy is exposed to startling sounds such as an alarm or vacuum. Take the puppy out of people and noise. When the puppy is relaxed provide a reinforcing reward.
Consider taking the puppy to a puppy training program or professional trainer. At training, the puppy will naturally be exposed to other dogs and people. The trainer can teach you how to address any issues right on the spot.
Is Your Dog Barking Too Much??
Short and long term solutions to stop or reduce excessive dog barking.
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