Why Do Dogs Bark?

Every dog owner has had to try to calm and quieten their dog when it is barking.

But why do dogs bark in the first place?

Dogs are very social animals. One of the many reasons people keep dogs is because of their faithful, protective and loveable nature. 

Your dog barking is their natural way of communicating and is the human equivalent of talking. 

A dog barking can be annoying for its owners, neighbours and guests.

Dogs may start barking for no apparent reason. It has long been known that dogs have much better hearing than humans, allowing them to adapt to different environments and surroundings.

Dogs can also understand the meaning of a sound as they have an associative memory. That means that they may howl or bark at a specific sound because they know what is coming. An example of this is picking up your keys to leave.

One of the reasons dogs can hear so well is because they have 18 muscles in their ears, all of which work together and allow them to listen to sounds coming from different directions. Dogs can also tilt and rotate their ears to pick up on sounds. In comparison, humans only have six muscles in their ears, and we cannot move our ears like dogs!  

Certain breeds are even more skilled at hearing, thanks to the shape of the ears.

Breeds with perky ears (such as German shepherds and terriers) are much better at hearing than their floppy or dropped eared counterparts (like a basset hound or beagle).

Why do dogs bark?

Barking is normal behaviour for dogs.

Generally, if a dog is barking, there is a reason. They may be calling out to other dogs, expressing emotion, being territorial or even trying to get their owners attention.

They may also bark out of fear, boredom, anxiety or separation. Any noise, no matter how slight, can bring on a barking response. 

Health Problems 

Some dogs may bark because they are in pain or have an underlying health issue. You must check to see whether your dog has any obvious tender spots. If you do think there is an underlying health issue, then it is advisable to get them checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Ageing dogs

As a dog gets older, it is common to bark a lot more and generally make more noise. Sometimes they are entirely unaware that they are even doing it.

Besides common conditions associated with an ageing dog, such as canine cognitive dysfunction (similar to Alzheimer’s disease), they can also have problems with their signs, hearing and aches and pains. All of these could cause them to bark more. 

Fear 

If your dog is fearful, they may voice this concern via barking. This could take place at home or away from home and can be anything that scares them, and it could be a person, object, a loud noise, or a strange or new situation.

Territorialism 

Dogs can become territorial if a new person or dog comes into what they consider their territory. They will feel very possessive of their area and will want to protect it at all costs.

A dog’s territory could be their street, their home, their garden or even their bed. 

Possessions

Just like protecting its territory, a dog can also be very protective about its possessions. It may bark if they feel their toys or blankets are touched or moved. 

Greeting

A dog will often bark to say hello, but this becomes excessive when it is to everyone!

Separation anxiety and loneliness

Dogs are natural pack animals, and they like the company of other dogs and people. If they are left alone for long periods, they may bark as a sign of being lonely and unhappy.

As well as repeated barking, dogs with this condition may also exhibit other compulsive behaviours such as chewing or scratching furniture.

Alarm Barking

Your dog may be barking in response to the noises it hears and the things it can see from its vantage point. 

Physical

Your dog may bark if they are trying to tell you about a physical need. This could be that they are thirsty or hungry. They may also bark if need to be exercised.

Attention-Seeking Barking

Your dog is barking to gain attention or rewards, like food or playtime.

Other Common Triggers for Dog Barking

There are numerous trigger situations that a dog will react to. The list is endless! Here are some common examples of what could be causing your dog to bark.

  • Other dogs
  • Cats, birds or other animals such as squirrels
  • Vacuum cleaners 
  • Noisy machinery
  • High visibility clothing
  • A person wearing a hat or glasses

Steps to Stop your Dog from Barking

Find the trigger

The first step to take when trying to stop your dog barking is to find the cause of their problem. This is your dog’s barking trigger. It would help if you started working to resolve your barking problem as soon as you can. The longer you wait, then the harder it is to curb the behaviour.

Retrain their behaviour

Once you have identified your dog’s trigger, it is time to retrain your dog’s brain. Your dog needs to learn not to associate the trigger with a need to bark. 

Behavioural modification training uses rewards and positive reinforcement. This process teaches your dog what good behaviour is and what is expected from them. You will need to slowly expose your dog to its trigger and continue to reward their good behaviour for not barking. You will need to be consistent and patient, and it is essential not to react and get cross with your dog if things do not go smoothly. 

There are other techniques such as ‘anti-barking collars, but these can be cruel and are mostly ineffective. There are suggestions that these may also lead to different behaviour problems such as aggression.

Address their environment

If you think your dog might be barking because they are not getting enough exercise, take them for a walk before you go out to see if that makes a difference. Your dog may be able to burn up its pent up energy, which would have typically been used for barking. They may also come back and be exhausted, resulting in them having a long sleep.

Ensure that your dog has adequate stimulation in the form of mentally entertaining toys and stimulating chew toys or puzzle toys. Additionally, make sure that your dog has food and full water bowls.

If you think your dog may be barking because they’re being left alone for long periods, explore options like a dog walker or doggy daycare to keep them company. 

Sometimes dogs bark excessively in response to a particular stimulus, such as something moving outside the window, so blocking their view may resolve the problem. 

Visit the vet

If your dog has only just started barking excessively and for no reason, it may be an idea to consult your vet to ensure there are no underlying health conditions.  

What Not to Do!

There are a few things to avoid doing if your dog is barking, as it can exasperate the situation. You should never yell and shout at your dog as it will not help stop the barking behaviour, but it may stimulate the dog to bark even more.

You should never hit or smack your dog for barking, and you should not let your dog bark constantly when it is outside, regardless of the reason. 

Are you at risk of a dog barking complaint?

If your neighbours are annoyed at your dog barking, it is always best to speak to them personally. Having an honest conversation with them will let them know that you are trying to resolve the situation. If you will find this awkward or tricky, then perhaps a letter or note is another option.

Conclusion – Why Do Dogs Bark?

Dogs are very social animals, and all dog owners know that their pet is protective, loyal and loveable. Dog barking may be a common phenomenon in everyday life, but as people communicate through talking, barking is how dogs deliver their message.  

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