“How do I stop my dog from barking?!” is a common question. Barking dogs can be frustrating and sometimes embarrassing.
The first step to resolving excessive barking is to work out why your dog is barking in the first place. This means you can then help them out to reduce their need to bark. It’s helpful to think about how we can help them, rather than suppressing the barking. Suppression can cause worse problems down the line.
One reason dogs bark is because they’re alerting the family to someone approaching or passing by the house. Some because they are frustrated that they want to go and say hello to the neighbour across the street. Perhaps because they are scared of a dog coming towards them. Some dogs bark for attention because they know when they bark their owners will do something to stop them!
Addressing why your dog is barking – Feeling Worried
If your dog is barking out of fear or worry then it is important to be careful about how you train so you build their confidence. It is easy to accidentally scare your dog even more! Avoiding scary things and building confidence gradually is important. Learn about dog body language, look for signs such as:
- Ears held back
- Lowered head or body posture
- Tense muscles
- Lip licking
- Looking away
These are signs that your dog is uncomfortable and may be too close to what worries them. Give them more space to process things from a safer distance.
In the picture below you can see how tense Henry’s face is. You can also see a slight paw raise and lip licking; signs of anxiety. Capturing his focus with treats or a game, if he isn’t too anxious, may help to increase relaxation.
In this picture you can see ears are held back, body posture and tail are lowered, muscles are tense and he is leaning backwards. Again, these are all signs that he is uncomfortable, and ready to take action if needed. You can see just how much space is needed in some cases for dogs to feel safe. Work with the dog you have and observe them closely.
Feeling Excited or Frustrated
For excitable dogs, and those that are barking for attention, think about what you would like them to do instead. Spend time training that behaviour. Remember, we all need practise to learn new skills. Start where there are no triggers for the barking, and increase distraction gradually. Give your dog lots of positive things to do instead of barking, before it starts. Always reward behaviour you like! Be proactive with helping your dog focus on other things.
If appropriate, use the goal of their barking as a reward for calmer behaviour. Teach them how to get what they want calmly, rather than denying them access to it. A great example of this is teaching a dog to sit calmly in order for a visitor to give them fuss. Or, someone will only approach your dog if they are quiet.
Your dog may be bored and has found himself a job to do! Barking may be a way of asking for something to do. Check out some enrichment games online via the YouTube channel for some inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyXiT8PAfSxXbE7ze-9J5ow/
So in answer to the oft asked question “How do I stop my dog from barking?!”. The real take home message here is to make sure you are meeting your dog’s needs before barking starts. Barking is a symptom so understanding what your dog needs is vital in order to preempt it and help them to reduce barking.
If you are struggling to find out what your dog needs, or how to go about helping them at these times, then don’t be afraid to reach out to a qualified professional for help. We deal with barking dogs frequently and will have lots more tips for your individual dog to get you on your way.
I am a Clinical Animal Behaviourist based in the Nottingham area – however, with the success of online training you can be anywhere in the world as long as you have your dog and a device with an internet connection! Get in touch to see how I can help https://weteachpets.com/contact-me/