Taking A Bite Out Of Excessive Barking

Dogs have a lot to say, and they usually bark for appropriate and good reasons. But dogs can also bark excessively and inappropriately, as 30% of dog owners report. To control this unwanted behavior in our dogs, we first need to understand why they are barking.

Types of barking

Alert barks are the type of barks some owners encourage, alerting them to the presence of a danger or suspicious stranger and is related to defensive barking at ‘intruders’. If left unchecked these dogs have their barking reinforced. They see the person or object, bark, and it disappears. In the dog’s mind he is very powerful as his barking made that person leave. Do not inadvertently reinforce such barking by giving reassurance.

Attention-seeking barks are typically seen in puppies, but adult dogs may soon learn that barking will incite attention from us, positive or negative. It is best to just ignore this type of barking, as yelling at the dog is still attention and you reinforced the behavior. Worse yet, If you ignore the barking first but eventually cave you just taught the dog that only excessive and extended barking will do the trick.

Play barks are common with excitement and best controlled by calming down and slowing down the game, even stopping until the dog settles.

Self-identification barking is when your dog answers another dog. This type of barking is instinctive and difficult to extinguish, especially in a household of multiple dogs.

Bored-frustration barking is a clear sign that you need to provide a better physical outlet and more stimulating environment for your dog. A tired dog is a happy owner. Physical exercise is great, mental exercise is much better. Let your dog search for items or food, and play games such as fetch with them.

Anxious barking is the hallmark of separation anxiety and often becomes self-reinforcing in a vicious circle of barking-upset-barking.

Startle barking occurs in response to an unfamiliar sound or movement and is best curbed by either teaching the ‘enough’ command or desensitization techniques for specific triggers.

Somewhat of an extension is fear barking and a common examples is a dog that barks at approaching people. Obedience and relying on your appropriate behavior cues are key. Relax. Tension travels down the leash. Last but not least, mental issues or deafness causes dogs to bark because their feedback loop is missing.

Dealing with barking

All of the above may also occur in combination and does not even factor in the environment or your behavior. Do not be afraid to ask an expert to witness your dog's barking episodes. You cannot observe yourself and having a neutral party watch will often give them valuable clues on helping you solve the problem. If you want to control barking, you need a dog that obeys and can relax. Be consistent and patient. Changing behavior takes time.

The longer your dog practiced the undesired behavior the longer it will take to change. First, you need to remain calm and composed. Shouting will only make matters worse since your dog will assume you are barking too and will happily join in.

Remove the motivation. Figure out what the dog gets out of barking and remove it. Ignore the barking for as long as it takes the dog to stop, then, and only then reward the dog. Desensitize your dog to the bark stimulus, teaching that the appearance of the stimulus will lead to good things only if without barking. Teach your dog a ‘quiet’ command. Ask your dog for a behavior incompatible with barking such as ‘down’ and ‘stay’ and reward that. Positive reinforcement is much more powerful than punishment. Control the situation and thus the outcome.

You will likely realize that seeking professional help may often be your best choice. Our team at North Edge K9 is comprised of active police K9 handlers and trainers with decades of street experience. We are available to help you finding the perfect K9 partner and assist in all your training needs. E-mail us at northedgek9training@gmail.com for more information.