Generally, cries from human children are (relatively) easy to understand. Are they hungry? Hurting? Sleepy? Just ask! They’ll tell you. However, understanding why your dog is barking or crying can be a little more difficult to decipher.
There are a lot of reasons why your dog may be barking excessively. If they’re young, it’s best to figure out your dog’s triggers early to help them not develop bad habits. Here are some of the most common reasons why dogs have barking problems:
- They’re experiencing separation anxiety
- They’re protecting their territory
- They’re fearful
- They’re excited
- They’re bored or lonely
How To Get Your Dog To Stop Barking
First and foremost, there are a few general rules to follow no matter the reason why your dog is barking. To get your dog to stop barking, you need to resist yelling at them to be quiet. Dogs don’t naturally understand this human behavior, and likely, they’ll think you’re there barking right along with them.
During your training, keep a positive attitude instead of using anger or fear as training tactics. And if you live with other people, make sure everyone is on the same page on the training methods you’re using so the training is consistent. Receiving different treatment from different family members confuses dogs and renders training efforts useless.
If your dog has separation anxiety…
A certified animal behaviorist may need to be consulted. Just like kids experience separation anxiety when their parents drop them off at school or daycare, your dog can struggle with separation anxiety when you leave them for the day. This anxiety can manifest itself in a lot of different ways like chewing up your furniture, uncontrollable urination around the house, and excessive barking.
Talk to your vet first to rule out any medical problems that may be causing these anxiety symptoms. Once those concerns are out of the way, you need to slowly get your dog used to your absence. It may seem counterintuitive, but not making a big fuss when you come home at the end of the day will help keep them calm and help them understand that you leaving is normal. Give them a special toy or treat they can only get while you’re away so they can stay entertained during the day. If they still struggle with anxiety, consider giving them over-the-counter natural pet calming supplements. Stopping your pet’s separation anxiety barking will take time, so be patient with them and you’ll slowly see them get used to being away from you.
If your dog is excited or looking for attention…
Don’t reward their barking by giving them the attention they’re looking for—it only teaches them that barking will get them what they want. Instead, find ways to help your dog communicate with you instead of barking. If they want to go outside, teach them to ring a bell instead of barking. If they are hungry, train them to bring their food dish to you.
It’s important to note that scolding your pet for barking won’t stop them in the long run since they still perceive that as attention. Giving any attention to their barking will only exacerbate the problem. Ignore them so they know that barking won’t get them what they want—they’re smart, they’ll find a different way to communicate with you.
If your dog is bored or lonely…
Give them more toys or activities to do while you’re gone. Doggie day cares are a great way to give your pet attention, exercise, and interaction with other dogs during the day. If you don’t have one nearby or can’t afford to send your dog to a daycare, giving them stimulating activities at home will keep them from barking or wrecking your home while away.
Some dog breeds need more exercise than others, and keeping them cooped up all day may be a reason for excessive barking. With those breeds, you need to make sure they have sufficient exercise and stimulation throughout the day. Walking your dog several times a day, living somewhere with a closed-in backyard, and playing with them in the evening can help keep them active, release energy, and stop them from barking.
If your dog is protecting you or their territory…
Limit visual access to the things they are protecting you from. If they’re barking at people on the other side of the fence as they pass by, upgrading your fence to one they can’t see through can curb their barking habit. Covering your windows during the day can also keep them from barking while you’re away.
Unless they’re a guard dog doing their job, your dog needs to understand that not everyone who gets close to you is a threat. If they’re protecting you from other people while on a walk or at the park, show them that other humans aren’t going to hurt you. Keep them on a short leash and teach them commands so they don’t attack or hurt nearby people—if they continue to perceive other humans and animals as a threat, professional dog training may be necessary so your dog doesn’t accidentally hurt others while trying to protect you.
If your dog is scared…
Give them lots of love and cuddles. Some dogs are simply more fearful than others—making sure they feel safe and protected during scary situations can stop them from acting out and barking excessively. If they’re barking from external stimuli like New Years or Fourth of July fireworks or a big storm, try creating a cozy area where they can feel safe. Play white noise to cover up the startling noises, comfort them throughout the night, and make sure they have proper identification in case they get startled and escape.
Your dog won’t stop barking overnight. Training any dog or pet to stop doing something that comes naturally (like barking) will take a lot of time and patience. Don’t be afraid to use a dog trainer if you’re struggling to get your dog to stop barking. The sooner you teach your dog good habits, the easier it will be to snuff out the bad habits and the more you’ll be able to enjoy having a pet in your life.