How to Stop Excessive Barking: First Steps
The only place I want to hear non-stop barking is at the Browns stadium! Otherwise, excessive barking is a nuisance. It is also a common problem. In fact, so common that bark collars that shock or spray are now one of the biggest sellers in training aids for dogs. Of course, if those collars were a good choice and actually solved the problem, I would not be getting so many calls.
Besides how annoying it is, there could be more serious reasons the pointless barking must stop. Maybe you are in danger of getting evicted from your apartment, ruining your friendship with your neighbor or causing problems with your work because you do it from home.
So what can you do? There are lots of possibilities to end excess barking but the right choice depends on the cause(s), the dog and the people involved. There isn’t a solution that is “one size fits all”. You may find some solutions that claim to be all you need on the internet, on TV, in books, or elsewhere, honestly, they usually aren’t complete and won’t work well if you don’t figure out the cause.
Because there is so much to consider, I’ll divide the information into separate blogs.
Before You Make Your List:
It is important to note that there may be a trigger associated with the cause of the barking. A trigger is a situation, event or object including people, that can cause the excessive barking to begin. For example, your dog may be set off by a car so the car is the trigger. However, note that your dog may not be triggered by all cars but only ones that are moving. So be specific when you make your list. More examples include a dog walking by the house, a particular breed of dog or a dog that is running.
Once you identify a trigger, such as the moving car, it can provide a clue to the cause and will also have to be managed. For example, if your dog is only reacting to moving cars, it could indicate territorial aggression or it could be normal prey drive associated with his breed, kicking in because he has no acceptable outlet for that behavior The Sound of Barking:
Also, pay attention to your dog’s bark because it could be a possible clue to the cause(s). The sound, character and rhythm of your dog’s bark can change depending on the message. For example, when a dog is lonely, the bark is typically different than one used to warn you of danger.
A List of Possible Cause(s):
Below this list, you can download and print a more complete checklist of possible triggers and causes. I encourage you to give a copy to each person in your home to fill out separately. Then the fun begins when you can get together to compare your lists. You may be surprised with quite different answers!
Then you can try removing or modifying some of the causes right away. You may be surprised at your dog’s improvement.
A List of Possible Causes and Contributors for Nuisance Barking
Your dog’s needs are not being met. She is:
- full of excess energy and needs an outlet
Your dog is overreacting because:
- he does not know what constitutes real danger and is overly fearful
- of abnormally heightened territorial aggression associated with his personality or breed. Examples: barking at other dogs while walking on a leash
- of abnormally heightened prey aggression associated with his personality or breed. Examples: barking at joggers
- he has an anxious personality
Your dog’s prior experience:
- caused barking to be a rewarding activity due to unintentional training on your part. For example, he gets attention, good or bad, when he barks
- caused a negative association with certain triggers. This can include fear. Example: Your dog remembers the time you slammed on your brakes and screamed which frightened him. He associated it with stops so now barks whenever the car isn’t moving
- didn’t include proper exposure to the trigger as a puppy (not socialized to the trigger)
- in a sport or activity that encourages or allows barking that is transferred to other triggers or situations, such as barn hunt or flyball
Your dog’s health can be affecting his behavior, for example:
- Age-related changes in the brain causing “cognitive disorder” (dementia or described as Sundowners Syndrome in people)
- Pain can cause your dog to be more irritable and reactive
- Poor eyesight which can cause your dog to be more fearful
- Hunger and/or malnourishment which can cause irritability
- The amount of barking is actually typical and normal for your dog’s breed but it is too much barking for you
NOTE that your dog may bark excessively for not just one, but for a combination of these reasons.
Modify or remove any of the causes or triggers when possible and watch for more help in upcoming blogs.
Also, comment below on how the list helped you find causes that surprised you!