Why are dogs barking mad?

Posted by Betty. April 24th 2014.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons and it is a normal part of the way a dog communicates with the world around them.

However, when barking becomes excessive, it can become a problem. It’s really important with any behaviour issue to work out the motivation for that behaviour, before trying to solve the problem.

Barking may indicate a dog is excited, warning owners of someone approaching, or wanting you to throw a ball, he may be frightened, alone, frustrated. The bark may be a warning or a greeting.

However, when dogs bark a lot it may be an indication of a problem, both for the dog, and certainly for the neighbours and anyone else in earshot.

barking dogs

Five reasons why dogs bark

Excitement

Often dogs bark during exciting events, the door opening to visitors, going for a walk or chasing a ball sometimes re-training him to go and fetch a ball or toy, as having something in his mouth will prevent him from barking. If the rest of his day is dull, try and keep him stimulated by giving him puzzles to do, for example searching for a treat, take him for shorter more frequent walks rather than one longer one, give him plenty to chew to keep him occupied and use puzzle balls instead of a bowl to feed him, so he has to work out how to get his food rather than it being eaten quickly. Ignoring his barking may also work; putting on his lead or throwing a ball only when he stops barking can also help.

Frustration

Sometimes dogs bark because they are unable to get to something they find exciting. If an owner can identify what it is that the dog is trying to get to, then often preventing the dog being able to see, hear or smell it can help. Providing the dog with another form of distraction that he enjoys can also be useful, e.g. a chew, a toy, a game.

Ensuring the dog has enough mental and physical stimulation throughout the day is also important. Frustration is often amplified if the dog is not stimulated physically and mentally. Doing some training with your dog can be beneficial in many ways. Reward-based training can help a dog feel more confident and less confused, because there is a clear signal in the form of a reward when he gets it right. It can help build confidence and a bond between owner and dog. It stimulates the dog mentally and helps him focus and concentrate.  Most obviously it helps an owner teach a dog how he should behave in certain situations.

Initially do short, simple, sharp bursts of training until the dog is able to concentrate for longer periods of time. Start with asking your dog to do something he knows how to do already, “sit” for example. Then move on to teaching him other tricks,  such as roll over, lie down, spin around, jumping on and off objects. Always reward the dog for success. Rewards depend on the individual dog and what motivates him. Many dogs will work for different types of food, but you could also try a game, a ball, a squeaky toy, a scratch behind the ear, or even a “good boy”. Never punish a dog for getting it wrong, just ignore the behaviour and ask again, or use a different way of asking to help him understand.

Always remember that a dog is never being naughty or trying to rule the world. They are just being dogs and carrying out behaviours that have reaped rewards in the past and that come naturally to them.

Barking dog

Guarding

Many dogs will bark to alert owners to potential threats and to protect themselves and their families. Some breeds have more of a guarding instinct than others and are more likely to bark, especially in their own territory. Sometimes providing your dog with a space away from the front door so they are unable to guard entrances can help. If a dog is anxious, excitable, bored, scared or frustrated, guarding behaviour is often much worse.

Boredom

In the same way a dog is destructive due to boredom, barking also can indicate that he is bored. Ensure a dog has his needs met through mental and physical stimulation, has company throughout the day (or a dog walker or visit from a friend or neighbour) and plenty of appropriate items to chew.   This can go a long way to reducing barking whilst the owner is out.

Fear

Some dogs are genuinely fearful in certain situations and will bark. In these circumstances, a dog will become aggressive and may even bite if they are frightened and unable to escape. The owner must seek help from a behaviourist.

Never shout at your dog for barking as he may think you’re joining in.If a dog is barking and wagging his tail, it does not necessarily mean he is happy or friendly. Dogs wag their tails for many different reasons and often a worried dog will wag his tail because he is alert rather than happy.

Always contact a veterinary surgeon or APBC registered behaviourist if any issues persist or the dog appears to be aggressive or fearful.

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