Barking is a very normal canine behaviour, one used by our dogs to communicate. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, such as excitement, anxiety, alarm or attention – to name a few. While a certain level of barking is normal, excessive barking can result in huge problems for owners. When our dogs bark, there is always a reason, and so the first step to addressing the problem is to understand WHY your dog is barking – what are the triggers?
Reasons For Barking
Our modern dogs can sometimes lead a relatively un-stimulating life in our domestic homes, repeating behaviours such as eating, sleeping and going for a walk. Dogs that were specifically bred to work, for example, if not mentally and physically challenged, can become very bored, very quickly – and barking relieves boredom. With this type of barking, increased mental and physical stimulation will help refocus your dogs mind and tire them out, so there is less of a need to bark!
Does your dog bark or whine at you until you focus your attention onto them? This is attention barking, and 9 times out of 10, we make it worse! By stroking your dog or shouting at him in attempt to quieten him, you are inadvertently rewarding him for barking.
Our dogs sometimes bark when they become over-excited, such as before a walk, as they’re about to be fed or maybe when they see another dog or person. Sometimes this can be a little harder to work with, as our dogs pick up on our routine (such as putting our shoes on before a walk) and their excitement builds for what is about to come!
Some dogs will bark as soon as you let them into the back garden, or when somebody approaches the front door (e.g. the postman). This type of barking is territorial and is meant to alert you that somebody is here, and can sometimes stem from anxiety due to the lack of socialisation and desensitisation to the triggers.
Some dogs bark when they are anxious, typically as a warning to tell a perceived threat to ‘go away!’ Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety may also bark when they are left alone, as an attempt to ease the anxiety and make you come back. If your dogs barking is based on anxiety, this needs to be treated with behaviour modification techniques that work to desensitise and recondition your dog to a perceived threat, so that he becomes more confident and no longer feels the need to bark.
Once we have identified the trigger for our dogs barking behaviour, we can then begin to work on retraining their behaviour using positive reinforcement to guide them into ‘good’ behaviour, therefore resolving the issue quickly.
If you would like to know more about how to work on your dog’s excessive barking, please send me a message!