Dog Barking Explained

Make no mistake – if it’s a dog, it barks. Barking is the canine method of communicating and it’s hard for humans to miss that distinct sound. When you come home after a long absence and your dog barks to welcome you, it can be wonderful sound. It’s his way of saying, “You’re a special person and I’m glad you’re home with me now!” but if your dog barks excessively, others won’t think it’s so wonderful.

Why Do Dogs Bark?
There are many reasons a dog barks. Barking can mean your dog is having fun, is feeling frightened or lonely, wants attention or hears a noise. It’s also his way of warning you of danger or that a stranger is approaching. “The tone of barking changes with the dog’s motivation,” says David S. Spiegel, V.M.D., a veterinarian in private practice in Wilmington, Delaware, who specializes in treating canine behavior problems. “A panicked or anxious dog barks in a tone and pattern we recognize as distress. This draws us near to help him.”While most dogs bark to say something, others do it just for fun or out of habit. This kind of barking can go on all day and your dog will soon become the neighborhood nuisance.

How to stop your Dog’s Barking:
When you can decipher the barking code and understand what it is that’s making your dog bark, you’ll soon be able to control the excessive commotion. It just takes good listening skills and very close observation. If he just looks at you and barks without any other stimulus, he probably wants your attention. He might be hungry or want to play.

To help your dog expend the energy he might otherwise use for barking, give him lots of physical outlets for expression. Long daily walks will both satisfy and tire him out, as will taking him to a large fenced – in Dog Park where he can run, play bark in a controlled environment. If your dog starts barking for you to notice him, slip on his training collar and leash and give him a few obedience drills. He’ll have your attention but you’ll have his, too. After a few commands to “Sit” and “Down” he’ll forget all about barking.

If your dog is left alone for long hours, barking may be his (very loud) way of expressing himself. Dogs are companion animals so they should never be left alone for long periods of time. But if you can’t avoid leaving your dog home by himself, try turning on the radio or television when you leave. Some dogs associate the sound with presence of their owners and will be comforted and quiet.

You can also give him “puzzle” treats like a ball filled with peanut butter or cheese to play with while you’re gone. These will keep him busy for hours as he tries to extract the food. This mental stimulation will also tire him out, so he’ll probably spend the rest of the time snoozing.

If your dog barks every time he sees a stranger, keep your window shades drawn or make sure your backyard fence is solid to prevent him from seeing what’s going on outside. Don’t pet him or reassure him that everything is okay. If you do, he’ll think that you are praising him for his bravery and that barking is a good thing to do. Yelling at him to stop barking will just convince him that you’re joining his call to alarm.

If your dog barks because he’s frightened of something, such as the vacuum cleaner, the lawn mower or a larger trash can, try desensitizing him to those objects. If you feed him next to these common items or while the motors are running, he’ll eventually associate those big scary things with the positive act of being fed. Desensitizing him to objects he is frightened of will not only reduce his barking but will also give him confidence.

Another way to stop him barking is to make a sharp sound that’s at least twice as loud as his barking. He’ll think twice about barking the next time. Clang two cooking pots together or use an air horn, the kind that is commonly used on boats, suggests Dr. Spiegel.