What causes dogs to bark excessively?

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Why Dogs Bark And How To Train Them Not To

Barking is as normal to your dog as talking is to humans and is a necessary, important avenue of communication. However, when barking becomes excessive it can be a sign that your dog is unhappy. Additionally, it can cause problems with your neighbours and make your home a less pleasant space to be in.

To avoid excessive barking, manage barking and avoid unhappy outcomes such as rehoming your dog, we’re here to help.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Ever found yourself annoyed and wondering ‘why is my dog barking at nothing?’ The answer is likely that they're barking at something, you simply cannot see, hear or smell it. Dogs have acutely sensitive senses and interpret things differently than we do, so to them, there is likely a very good reason for barking.

Some dogs are also predisposed to being more vocal than others due to their breed. This is down to some dogs being specifically bred to be hunters and protectors and barking is a mechanism for performing these tasks.

No matter the breed of dog, however, barking can also be a sign of:

  • Boredom
  • Anxiety
  • Attention seeking
  • Aggression
  • Fear
  • Wanting to play or
  • Age-related decline. Reduced sight, hearing or the onset of dementia is a common answer for why dogs bark at night or seemingly bark at nothing.

The reason for barking can be different depending on the circumstances and more than one reason could be responsible at a time. Pinpointing when your dog barks and why is essential to understanding how to stop a dog from barking unnecessarily and can help your dog and household be happier.

Why Is My Dog Barking?

To understand why your dog is barking, we recommend paying close attention to triggers for a week. That is unless you already know what causes it! If it is something as mundane as the postman ringing the doorbell, it could be due to fear or aggression towards a stranger.

Are they alone and barking non-stop? This could indicate either anxiety or boredom. If you suspect the former, be sure to speak with your vet as anxiety in dogs can be quite debilitating and damaging to their quality of life.

No matter the cause there are some effective solutions you can try to stop your dog barking.

Remember, if barking occurs in short bursts with an obvious cause such as needing to go out to the toilet, this is perfectly normal. Your dog is simply communicating with you about something and shouldn’t be cause for concern.

How To Stop Dogs Barking

When trying to stop your dog from barking, it can require some trial and error to find the right solution. There are several methods used to stop dogs barking. You may like to try one or more of the following:

  • Enrichment Toys

    Also known as puzzle toys, these toys keep your dog busy and entertained while seeking a reward. This could be a literal puzzle mat with food hidden behind a special hatch that your dog needs to learn to open, a toy with peanut butter inside, an ice block with a treat inside and more.

    The toy does not need to be expensive or over the top, the goal is simply to engage the dog's mind and keep them busy seeking a solution for how to access the treat. While they’re busy, they’re less likely to bark.

  • Exercise

    Wearing your dog out so that they're too tired to bark or be a nuisance is a lot easier than teaching them to stop barking. Exercise keeps your dog healthy, lets them spend valuable time with their much-loved owner and helps burn up pent-up energy that is so often responsible for excessive barking.
  • Training

    Training your dog not to bark is possible and can be a lot of fun. Many owners will train their dogs to ‘speak’ on command and then also teach them to be quiet as part of the same process. This is an excellent method involving positive reinforcement that also strengthens the bond you share with your pet.

    Teaching your pet alternative behaviours to barking can also be beneficial, for instance, redirecting them to a toy when the trigger occurs. Always reward and praise your pet when they follow your instructions for being quiet.

    If you’re not sure where to begin with this type of training, speak with your vet about trusted trainers in your area.

  • Attention

    Dogs are social creatures and they crave your love and affection. If you don’t give it, they’ll actively seek it out!

    Be sure to make time to spend with your dog each day that isn’t only during exercise. Giving your dog ample attention can help them to feel more secure and as a result, bark less.

    If you are going to be away from home for long periods and this is causing your dog to bark due to boredom or anxiety, consider having a friend or dog walking service spend time with your pet till you can return home.

Things You Should Never Do To A Barking Dog

We understand that a barking dog can be frustrating and distressing. However, when seeking a solution, you should never use punishment. Yelling or hitting your dog is only going to lead to other behavioural issues and is unlikely to stop the barking.

Likewise, the use of shock collars or similar punishment devices should be avoided. This does nothing to treat the underlying cause of the barking and only serves to cause distress to your pet and make matters worse.

Where To Find Help

If you need assistance with a dog that is barking incessantly, your first port of call should be your vet. They will rule out any underlying causes such as their sight, hearing or cognitive abilities and recommend treatments for anxiety or other issues as needed.

For further help subscribe to Bondi Vet’s YouTube Channel and take advantage of our excellent video guides on this topic.

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