Domesticated dogs have always been extremely social creatures – especially when raised in a loving home. And because a large number of pups spend more time around their owners than their own kind, the special bond that emerges often helps them to communicate with one another regarding needs, fears, whims and love - and as any owner can attest - when their pup gets a little excitable, barking is sure to follow and occasionally it can become a little excessive.
While it may seem hard to understand why certain dogs are prone to excessive barking, if you want to find out how to stop a dog from barking too much, a little research can go a long away.
Why do dogs bark?
Barking is a style of vocal communication that we are all familiar with, and can be associated with both negative and positive stimuli. If a stranger comes into a home or garden and the family dog finds it hard to trust them upon initial contact, barking is a way for them to establish territory to prevent the ‘intruder’ from making any moves that may threaten those individuals the dog cares for. In these situations, dogs will not only get louder, but more aggressive if the threat persists.
However, it is not always aggression that can trigger a session of barking. Some dogs are fearful themselves and that fear often manifests itself in a vocal fashion. The same reaction can occur if a dog is caught off-guard, or surprised – much in the way a human can jump when the unexpected occurs.
On the other hand, when dogs are overwhelmed by happiness as a result of their owner returning, or because they’re in the mood for playing, barking allows them to communicate their excitement – often with a ridiculous grin and a tail that won’t stop wagging.
However, as mentioned previously, dogs are incredibly social creatures, and when they are deprived of company for prolonged periods of time or if they are coping with separation or abandonment issues, barking is often a cry for help.
But what are the best ways to rectify the situation?
How to stop a dog from barking excessively
As one of the canine worlds’ key methods of communicating, it is first important to determine what exactly constitutes ‘excessive’ barking, and whether or not the fault lies with dog itself, or the owner. However, with consistent training, both you and your dog could see an immeasurable improvement in your own lives.
Don’t shout back
While you may a feel a little frustrated, shouting at your dog when they are barking will do nothing but encourage them to keep barking. After all, why should they be quiet if you’re being just as noisy? Dogs will always respond better to a source of authority that speaks softly but firmly with the aim of de-escalating the situation. Creating a calm environment is key to helping your dog relax.
Drain their energy
As with many dog behavioural issues, an excessive amount of pent-up energy can cause them to bark until that energy is expended – especially if they don’t have the physical space to release it through exercise. To counter this issue, ensure that your buddy has been taken on a long walk prior to any situation during which they would normally bark.
Tackle it early on
Excessive barking often becomes a habit for dogs who find themselves doing so from an early age. Comparable to most types of training, the sooner an issue such as this can be rectified in a dog’s life, the easier it will be.
Check that they aren’t in some sort of physical pain
For many owners, it doesn’t even occur to them that there may be a physical ailment that their dog causing their dog to bark disproportionately. Humans are not exactly known for being quiet when they are suffering from aches, bee stings, or physical injuries, but it is much easier for us than our canine counterparts to visit a doctor. For dogs, physical pain is much more confusing, and while many of them will try to grin and bare it, they rely on you to know when they need to visit a vet.
Remove the stimuli
Many dogs only start to bark as a result of a single stimuli. Maybe they hate the next-door neighbour’s cat? Maybe the way the washing line spins in the breeze makes them uncomfortable? By observing the world through your dog’s eyes, you can easily remove whatever it is that usually distresses them from their surroundings and help them to calm down.
Get them some company
Some dogs are simply born anxious, especially breeds such as Dalmatians and Pekingese. This anxiety is often heightened by extended periods of loneliness, causing them to worry that they’re being abandoned. If you work long hours, it can be a great idea to ensure that your dog is given some form of company during the day, either through some form of doggy day-care, or by having a friend pop in for an hour during lunch. Many individuals buy a second dog to prevent their pooch from being lonely - but without a decent amount of training, the new dog will simply learn the habits of the original.
Don’t keep them outside
With few exceptions, the majority of dogs are kept as house pets, and are bred as such. Consequently, keeping them outside is more likely to make them feel uncomfortable, unloved and more prone to anxiety issues. Dogs who bark obsessively when left outside, once brought inside, often learn in a short space of time that excessive noise is unacceptable in the home based on your verbal and non-verbal cues. After all, with few exceptions, dogs want nothing more than to please their owners
It’s never easy to learn how to stop a dog from barking, but those who love their canine companion and persevere with training will find that life for both the owner and dog will ultimately become easier, and help them to enjoy a life free from day-to-day stress.