Barking is just one of many dog expressions. When a dog barks, it wants to communicate something to the other person or express its feelings. There can be many reasons why dogs bark. Watchdogs bark to report strangers and to defend their territory. Barking can also be an expression of joy, fear, or insecurity.
A dog that barks is not a problem dog. Dogs that bark excessively can become a problem for every owner. To get unwanted barking behavior under control, it is first necessary to find out why a dog is barking. For example, dogs often only bark when they spend too much time alone or when they are physically and mentally underutilized. Also, some dog breeds are naturally more willing to bark than others. In a poorly soundproofed apartment, you can run into problems with the neighbors if you have a particularly communicative dog (e.g. Beagle, Spitz, or Jack Russell Terrier ).
When and why do dogs bark
There are different moments when dogs bark. With a little practice, an owner can also conclude the reason for the barking from the sound and body language of the dog. High tones signal joy, fear, or insecurity. Low-pitched barks signify confidence, threat, or warning.
barking When barking defensively or defensively, a dog barks at strangers or dogs when they approach their territory. The own territory is the house, the garden, or the apartment. But also places and areas where a dog spends a lot of time, such as the car or a popular walk, are part of their territory.
- Barking for Attention
A cute puppy who barks gets attention. It is stroked, fed, and entertained with toys or walks. A dog learns very quickly that barking can attract attention. If each bark is “rewarded” with attention, food, play, or other desired responses, a dog will continue to bark to get attention. Plus, barking is self-rewarding in itself, through the release of endorphins.
- Excited Barking
Dogs also like to bark when they meet people or friendly dogs ( welcome barks ) or play with other dogs. Dogs often bark whenever they hear other dogs barking.
with fear When barking with fear, the dog barks regardless of location – i.e. also outside its environment – at unfamiliar noises or unfamiliar situations. The posture is usually tense, the ears are laid back and the gaze is averted from the “source of fear”.
- Abnormal barking
In addition to the typical situations in which dogs bark, there are also complex disorders that lead to excessive barking. Compulsive barking accompanied by stereotyped movements or behaviors (pacing, pacing, licking wounds) often results from difficult stressful situations that have lasted for a long period. Kennel or chain dogs often show this frustration by barking. However, dogs that suffer from a severe fear of loss can also be affected. In the case of such complex disorders, a veterinarian or behavioral coach should be consulted.
Discontinue excessive barking
First things first: Make sure your dog is given enough physical and mental exercise. A hopelessly under-challenged dog has to express its displeasure somehow. Don’t count on the fact that problematic barking behavior can be stopped within a concise time. Training in a desired alternative behavior takes time and patience.
Avoid situations where the dog barks frequently or reduce the stimuli that trigger the barking. When barking defensively, this can be done, for example, by optically reducing the area (curtains in front of the windows, opaque fences in the garden). The smaller the territory to guard, the fewer stimuli there are.
If your dog barks at passers-by or other dogs while walking, distract it with treats or a toy before the dog starts barking. Sometimes it also helps to get the dog to sit as soon as another dog approaches. It may be easier at first to cross the street before the encounter. Praise and reward your dog every time he behaves calmly.
When barking for attention, it is crucial not to reward the dog for barking. Dog owners often unwittingly reinforce the attention bark by turning to, petting, playing with, or talking to their dog. For a dog, this is a reward and a confirmation of his actions. Instead, face away from your dog or leave the room. Only reward him when things have calmed down. If he doesn’t stop barking, a gentle grip on his muzzle can help. If your dog starts barking while you are playing with him, stop playing.
Teach your dog a quiet command in a relaxed, low-stimulus environment. Reward your four-legged friend regularly when he behaves quietly and says a command (“Quiet”). Use this word every time the dog has stopped barking.
To reduce the greeting bark, you should also restrain yourself from greetings of any kind. Teach your dog the sit and stay command first, and use it when you have visitors. You can also place a toy near the door and encourage your dog to pick it up before coming to greet you.
Desensitization and counterconditioning methods can be used successfully when barking in fear. During desensitization, the dog is consciously confronted with the stimulus that triggers the barking (e.g. a noise). The intensity of the stimulus is initially very low and slowly increases over time. The stimulus should always be so small that the dog perceives it but does not react to it. Counterconditioning is about associating the stimulus that triggers barking with something positive (e.g., feeding).
What to avoid
- Don’t encourage your dog to bark with phrases like “Who’s coming?”
- Don’t reward your dog for barking by turning to him, petting him, or playing with him when he barks.
- Don’t yell at your dog. Barking together has a cheering effect on the dog rather than a calming one.
- Don’t punish your dog. Any punishment causes stress and can compound the problem.
- Stay away from technical aids such as anti-bark collars. These are extremely controversial among animal rights activists and dog trainers and, if used improperly, do more harm than good.
- Be patient. Breaking the habit of problematic barking takes time and patience.
A dog is and always will be a dog
With all training and education methods against excessive barking, however, dog owners must remember one thing: a dog is still a dog, and dogs do bark. A natural vocalization, such as barking, should never be completely suppressed. However, it makes sense to steer the barking into bearable channels as early as possible if you don’t want to have a constant bark at your side and constant trouble with the neighborhood.