Does your dog bark at everything? Are they so noisy that it’s disrupting your life, and making your neighbours complain?
Excessive barking is one of the most common reasons people surrender their dogs. The problem can range from mild annoyance, to having your landlord threaten to evict you.
Many people feel they have no choice but to turn to harmful training methods like bark collars to get their dog to stop barking. Their intentions are not necessarily cruel, but a last resort chosen out of desperation.
Unfortunately, bark collars tend to make the problem worse. Barking is often rooted in fear, and when you add an unpleasant stimulus to a scary experience, your dog’s urge to bark will only become stronger than the need to avoid punishment. This leads some people to resort to increasingly harsher punishments, which bring on negative side effects such as destruction, aggression or extreme fearfulness.
On the bright side, positive reinforcement is an effective way to control barking. You can keep your dog and your home without resorting to harsh training methods. The best part? Your bond will be even stronger once you’re through.
Why Dogs Bark
Whether your dog is barking on walks, or in your home, the root cause is usually fear.
When your dog barks at the mail carrier, the mail carrier disappears. Of course, we know this is because the mail carrier has continued on their route. In your dog’s eyes though, they were able to make the perceived threat go away by barking at it.
Your dog also barks to alert you. This is especially true if you have a “watch dog” breed. You may not be surprised if your Doberman, Rottweiler or Great Pyrenees feels the need to protect your property.
However, small breeds like most Terriers, along with Chihuahuas, were also bred to alert their owners to trespassers. Even tiny dogs can help deter home invaders, so you should not aim to erase your dog’s bark.
How You May Be Contributing To Excessive Barking
Whether your dog is barking to protect your home, or because they’re concerned about other dogs or humans on walks, you can greatly reduce the severity and length of their barking spells by changing the way you react.
When your dog barks, you may naturally want to carry them away from the window, or tug them away on their leash. It’s not unusual to feel embarrassed, annoyed, or even angry with your dog.
You too, will feel better once you change your perspective. If your dog barks, you can acknowledge them and even thank them for being alert. This can be enough to greatly reduce the length and severity of your dog’s barking spells.
At first, your dog may be so worked up that they may not be able to divert their attention to you. In that case, you’ll want to manage your dog’s exposure to triggers – not forever, just during the training period.
If your dog barks at dogs and people on walks, you can walk during quieter hours. You can change up your route, and cross the street when your dog sees someone or something they don’t like. Your dog may still react, but it’ll be much easier to work on their reactivity at a greater distance.
If your dog barks excessively at home, you can use calming music, put frosted window film at your dog’s eye level, and use baby gates to keep them away from high-stress areas like the front door.
Training Your Dog From The Inside Out
Have you ever tried to distract your dog with treats while they were in full-fledged barking mode? It probably didn’t work. But, that does not mean that rewards cannot be used to successfully reduce barking.
When your dog is overstimulated, their “fight or flight” response is at work. Their digestive system actually shuts down. They cannot accept treats, and may not even hear you trying to get their attention.
Your dog cannot learn when they’re in “fight or flight” mode. This is why we increase distance and reduce distractions before working with the dog.
Timing is everything. Try creating a fun, positive experience the moment your dog notices the trigger – before they start to bark, before they go into fight or flight mode.
If you miss the window between your dog noticing the trigger, and the start of a barking episode, you may have to wait it out or create more distance between your dog and the trigger. Stay calm and positive, and praise your dog once they do stop barking. With practice, it’ll take less and less time to regain your dog’s focus.
Is Excessive Barking Always Linked To Fear Or Anxiety?
Barking is a symptom of many different emotional conditions. It could be caused by reactivity, boredom or even excitement.
The tips above might not help reduce your dog’s barking, depending on the actual cause. We’ll cover tips related to different issues in the future, but if you need immediate help, feel free to reach out to Healthy Houndz on Facebook or send us an email.
Help With Excessive Barking
Managing barking is tough, especially if it’s been going on for a while. You’ll make much faster progress with the help of a professional positive dog trainer.