How To Manage Your Dog’s Barking

dog barking outdoors

During dog training sessions, we often talk about the importance of building strong communication channels between dogs and their owners. This is usually in the context of humans communicating clearly to their dog – whether they want them to perform (or stop performing) a given behavior.

However, by its very definition, communication works both ways. For your dog, the most obvious way to communicate is through barking. They can use it to communicate displeasure, to attract attention, or out of sheer boredom. While barking is a natural and often instinctive reaction, the reality is that barking can easily escalate from a minor nuisance to a major annoyance in quick time.

In this article, we’ll look at reasons why your dog may be barking, and solutions you can implement to help curb their habit.

A general approach when thinking about dog barking

Before we look at specific scenarios where your dog may be barking, there are some general principles that can be applied in most situations to help ease this behavioral issue. Perhaps surprisingly, these ideas are predominantly ‘owner-focused’ – meaning it needs a mindset shift for the human, rather than applying any teaching to the dog.

First and foremost, from an owner’s perspective, it is important to be realistic about to what extent you can actually ‘resolve’ your dog’s barking. Your dog is a dog, not a human child. They are teachable, but they are also impulsive creatures. For example, some high-energy, high-drive breeds have been developed for generations to react quickly when they spot a small prey animal in their sight. For this reason, it can often be difficult to completely eradicate your dog’s barking – and nor should you want to! A dog’s bark can signal danger or alert an owner to unusual activity – a common trait of protection dogs.

Another way that owners can help is through their own approach and energy levels. If a dog barks, and their owner yells in response, it does nothing to de-escalate the situation. If anything, the owner is making the situation worse by heightening the dog’s reaction. It is therefore imperative that owners remain calm when their dog is barking, and provide a solution that reduces the energy rather than turbocharges it.

Aside from those tips, there are also other ways you can help to reduce your dog’s barking. These are mostly related to providing an outlet for your dog’s energy, reducing the potential for boredom, and socializing and generalizing behavior. For example, ensuring your dog has the opportunity to explore the wider world through walks and other focused activities can help them to expend energy; a dog puzzle or snuffle mat can offer much-needed mental stimulation. Of course, this isn’t just the right approach for mitigating barking – these are the core fundamentals of a healthy, well-rounded and well-behaved dog.

beagle dog barking indoors

Why is your dog barking?

Preventing your dog from barking – or at least, managing the behavior – means understanding why they are barking in the first place. As dogs do not have the ability to vocalize their wants and needs in words (although there’s no denying that would be pretty cool!), they have to use their bark to communicate in a variety of scenarios. It is then up to humans to interpret their dog’s bark and understand the meaning behind it.

To manage the barking, we must understand the cause and then apply an appropriate solution to manage the behavior. If no action is taken, then the dog will continue to bark in that particular situation – becoming self-reinforcing in the process. 

You may have noticed your dog barks in one (or more) of the scenarios below.

1) Your dog barks at people passing your window

Cause: If you live in a subdivision with pedestrians regularly walking by, kids playing in the front yards of neighboring houses, or other dogs being walked, your dog may feel the need to bark from the window. This can also occur if you live on a busy road with lots of traffic.

Solution: If possible, close the curtains or blinds to reduce the potential for your dog to stare out the window and bark. You can also move your dog into another room and block off access to the window.

2) Your dog barks when someone rings the doorbell

Cause: When a visitor to your home rings the doorbell, your dog excitedly barks to alert you of the guest’s presence (usually coupled with sprinting around the house, or charging towards the front door).

Solution: Teach your dog to perform an alternative command, such as asking them to go to a designated place in the home that is far away from the front door. You can also train them to become desensitized to the sound of the doorbell.

3) Your dog barks when they are left alone

Cause: If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, they may bark if left alone at home or inside of their crate for prolonged periods of time.

Solution: Separation anxiety is a behavioral issue that will take hard work to resolve – there are no quick fixes. Training must be systematic and teach the dog to gradually become more comfortable when left alone.

4) Your dog barks at dogs or other people on walks

Cause: Barking on walks could have a couple of root causes. If on a leash, your dog may be frustrated by being unable to get to the other dog or person – this is barking out of frustration. Alternatively, your dog may be reactive, nervous or fearful, and barking to express their discomfort with the situation.

Solution: Working with a professional dog trainer can help to determine the root cause of the barking. This will likely require several ‘out-in-public’ training sessions where your trainer will work to help you and your dog manage situations when encountering dogs or people on walks.

5) Your dog barks to go outside

Cause: When your dog needs to go outside to use the bathroom, they come up to you and bark until you let them outside.

Solution: By teaching an alternative communication method – such as ringing a bell near the door you use to let them outside – your dog is still able to communicate their needs, without the chaos and noise associated with incessant barking.

6) Your dog barks to get your attention

Cause: If your dog is particularly understimulated – either physically or mentally – they may resort to barking in your direction to get your attention.

Solution: The worst thing you can do is to raise your voice or yell at your dog in response to their barking. This gives them the attention they are craving! Instead, take proactive steps to keep them occupied (regular walks; exercise; mental stimulation games; etc.) and ensure you only interact with your dog when they are calm.

7) Your dog barks for no obvious reason

Cause: You have no idea. Your dog’s barking appears to have no particular trigger or pattern, and you are at a loss on how to resolve it.

Solution: In this situation, enlisting help from a professional dog trainer can help you to identify what exactly is causing your dog’s barking. From there, you can work together on a management strategy to help mitigate the effects of their barking moving forward.

In conclusion

Even if it is a totally natural reaction for dogs, there’s little doubt that barking can be one of the most frustrating behaviors that dog owners can encounter.

If you are still struggling with your dog’s barking, reach out to one of our professional dog trainers. Highland Canine has locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico – and our trainers are committed to improving the human-canine relationship.

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