You don’t mind when your dog barks at certain times– when you’re playing with them, training, or when they see your neighbour’s cat. But when it turns to excessive barking, you wish you knew how to stop them, as you (and your neighbours) are already disturbed by the noise.
Barking is normal for dogs. Your dog may be trying to communicate with you that they need something or that they need to be taken out of a frightening or difficult circumstance.
But if it happens more often and in longer periods of time, you need to take some action.
Identify the reason
Barking can be a very useful tool for figuring out what frightens or unnerves your dog. As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to protect your dog from situations that would cause them undue stress.
Before thinking of ways to stop your dog from their excessive barking, identify why they’re barking first. They could be barking because they’re bored, surprised, excited, worried, afraid, etc.
Knowing the real reason behind their compulsive behaviour helps you address the problem at the root and come up with long-term solutions, rather than immediate responses for instant but short-lived peace and quiet.
Observe their daily routine. If your dog has a lot of free time, or they bark more at certain times of the day, then you might have an idea as to what their barking triggers are.
Your dog reads and mirrors your energy. When they start nuisance barking, learn how to suppress your frustration– stay calm. Dogs don’t follow unbalanced leaders, so stay composed and maintain your cool.
If you’re frustrated, your pup will be frustrated– if you’re calm, eventually, they will be too.
Do not shout at them because sometimes, they interpret it as you joining them with the barking spree. At the end of the day, you don’t want both of you annoying your neighbours.
Give them physical and mental stimulation
Whether you’ve adopted a new puppy or an adult dog, keeping them physically and mentally active reduces excessive barking.
When your dog starts barking out of nowhere, they might be bored and need to have physical exercise. Make sure you spend quality time keeping them active.
Aside from boredom, they might feel stressed. Provide some mental simulation, especially when you’re away, like puzzle toys or brain games that dispense treats. They will become absolutely tired from using their brains, and are totally focused on the game rather than the stress they’re feeling.
Practise positive reinforcement
Don’t reward your dog for barking. Instead, reward them when they stop. This gives them an idea that what they did is good, and that barking doesn’t lead to rewards.
If your dog barks during meal time, wait for the barking to stop– that’s when you give them food. Prepare a distraction– a toy perhaps– when you’re going to give them a snack.
Everytime they’re quiet, give them a reward– pet them, play fetch or tag, give them treats. Positive reinforcement lets your dog know and remember which among their actions are worthy of rewards, and which are not.
Manage their triggers
When you know what triggers them to bark compulsively, assess whether they need to get used to it, or avoid it altogether.
- Get them used to it. If your dog barks whenever they’re outside, or when they see another dog, a cat, a child, socialise them. A dog is less likely to bark if they have confidence and familiarity with their environment and its other denizens: animals and people using wheelchairs, bicycles, and children, etc.
- Desensitise. Another way to get your dog used to their triggers is by repeatedly showing it to them. If your dogs bark when you go out, try walking out the door, and coming back in a few seconds. Then do it again from a short to long duration. This way, when you really have to leave, they already know you’ll be back, and that’ll mitigate– if not stop– their barking.
- Avoid the ones that stress them out. Another way to manage their triggers is to steer them away from it. If they’re new or curious about something, yes, get them used to it, but if they’re afraid of something, don’t expose them to it.
Fix their environment
Some dogs do alarm barking, and this means they bark at anything new or interesting to them. Alarm barks should be fixed by training or by fixing the environment. Simply block their line of vision of their triggers.
If your dog barks when they see people across the street, or when a cat passes by, you can have a screen or louvred windows so your dog won’t see them.
However, your dog might bark because they’re in a frustrating situation. If they’re stuck, or feel stuck, go to them. And ask yourself if you’re truly giving your dog the environment they need.
Another great way to control your dog’s barking is to train them. Training helps balance their mood and instil good behaviour.
- Use bark collars - Bark collars are better used with positive reinforcement. Bark collars correct your dog in a completely painless way– sounds, vibrations, and static shock stimulation. Once they stop barking, give them a reward to let them know what they did was good behaviour.
- Teach them calmer ways to get your attention - If your dog wants to get or do something, teach them calmer ways to ask for it. For example, if they want to play, instead of barking, teach them to give you the ball. If they want to make another dog go away, teach them to go to you and nudge your knee.
When you believe your dog is barking just to get your attention, try to ignore them. Don't speak and avoid making eye contact with them. Stay still and ignore them as much as you can until they stop.
This one could require some patience and consistency.
When they finally stop, calmly praise them and offer them the attention they requested, such as a fuss, some playtime, or a treat. Your dog will eventually realise that barking is not something they can use to command you and get what they want.
Living with your pooch is both enjoyable and challenging, especially when nuisance barking happens. Just remember that you are responsible for honing their behaviour, and with the right training, equipment, and mindset, you can raise them as good fur babies.