Excessive barking is a common problem among dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds. According to the North Shore Animal League, of the roughly 10 percent of dogs adopted at U.S. shelters that are ultimately returned due to “behavioral problems,” about 41 percent of these issues involve distracting, excessive, and sometimes hostile barking.
Barking is a form of communication for dogs but they use these vocals for different reasons. Barking in excess can occur due to fear, boredom, loneliness, territorialism, or a host of other causes. In some cases, your dog will bark to simply get your attention or to greet people or other animals.
While the occasional bark is normal, some dogs can take it too far. Excessive barking can quickly become a nuisance when it occurs frequently and at the wrong times. Learn why excessive barking in dogs occurs and how to stop this behavior the proper way.
Top Causes of Excessive Barking in Dogs
Dogs bark in an attempt to communicate with their owners. However, unlike the human language which is comprised of many different words with different meanings, dogs only have their “bark” to communicate.
Dogs can bark at different frequencies and tones to display how they’re feeling. For example, your dog may have a deeper, louder bark when he is angry or scared and a lighter and rapid bark when happy or excited. Barking may also be accompanied by other signs, such as mouthing, jumping, or pawing.
Some of the most common causes of excessive barking in dogs include:
- Disturbances – Dogs enjoy their routines and can become alert or frightened when there is a disturbance. Territorial dogs will often bark at people, animals, or things that are new or pose a concern, such as a squirrel in the yard.
- Excitement – Your dog may bark constantly because he’s excited about something. Maybe it’s almost meal time, your pup wants to go for his afternoon walk, or there is a new toy on the counter that he wants.
- Boredom – Just like children, dogs can sometimes get into trouble when they are bored or under-stimulated. If your dog frequently approaches you and barks for no known reason, it may be simply because he’s bored and wants to play.
- Anxiety – Sometimes dogs will bark when they’re feeling anxious. Dogs that are left alone for extended periods of time may suffer from separation anxiety and partake in destructive or irritating behavior, such as excessive barking.
- Excess Energy – Some dog breeds have more energy than others. Younger pups may also have a surplus of energy. Dogs will often jump, run, and bark in an attempt to burn off this energy.
How to Stop Excessive Barking in Dogs
- Teach Simple Commands
Teaching your pet simple commands like “stop” and “quiet” can go a long way toward diminishing excessive barking behaviors. Verbal commands are often the most effective as your dog will be able to hear them even when turned away from you. Treat-based training that involves rewarding your pet with a treat each time he follows a command often works best. Over time, your pet will begin to follow the command without a reward.
- Put Up Barriers
If your dog excessively barks due to things he sees outside the window, blocking his view can be an easy solution. If your pet is seeing people or another animal in the neighbor’s yard, consider putting up a privacy fence or commercial-grade privacy screening. As an alternative, plant privacy hedges to make the yard both bark-proof and beautiful. Inside, installing blinds or putting up curtains may deter your pet’s behavior.
- Practice Desensitization
It is possible to desensitize pets to things that may trigger them to bark. For example, if your pet barks each time the neighbor kid rides his bike past your window, sit near the window with your dog and each time the child rides by, use your command word. If your pet doesn’t bark, reward him with a treat. He’ll soon discover that not barking at the passerby will earn him a tasty reward.
- Create a Safe Place
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety need a safe place where they can find comfort while their human companions are away. This could be a spare bedroom, laundry room, or another area of the home where your pet can go and relax. Consider setting up a crate with a comfy bed and a privacy cover. Place a stuffed Kong or another interactive toy in the area to keep him busy. Music or sounds from a white noise machine may help drown out disturbing sounds from the outside.
- Release Pent Up Energy
If the cause of your dog’s relentless barking is too much energy, find ways to help release this energy before it causes a problem. Aim to bring your dog for multiple walks a day and allow him plenty of time to play in the yard if possible. Engage in physical activities like frisbee or hiking. Exercise is especially important before you plan to leave the house and before bed.
- Hire a Professional
If nothing you do stops your pet’s excessive barking, it may be time to call in the professionals. A professional dog trainer will get to know your dog and its triggers. He’ll then develop a plan to help your dog stop the behavior. Training will typically take a few weeks to a few months, depending on the severity of the problem.