Why Do Dogs Bark?
We talk using our words, through smiling, yelling, whispering… Dogs talk through barking, whining, howling and growling.
It’s definitely easy to reinforce their barking and it can turn into an issue as they grow older. For example, if puppies are barking for attention and you keep giving them attention, they learn that each time they bark, they will get attention from you.
Causes of barking
In order to teach alternative behaviour and put barking on extinction, we must find ‘why’ barking occurs.
If you have a barker at home, ask yourself the following questions:
Does my dog bark because he/she wants attention? Is he or she sick? Does he bark because he is hungry? Or because she didn’t get enough exercise and has a ton of pent up energy? Is he barking because she is scared of being alone? Do they bark because they are left alone for long periods of time? Is it breed specific?
There are several factors to consider:
Even though any dog can be an excessive barker, some dogs are more inclined to bark than others due to genetics (terriers).
I want you to think about physical factors. For example, is your house hot or cold? Is the dog cold or hot? Is he hungry or thirsty? Is he hurt? If so, he or she is communicating with you that he needs certain needs met. We request using our words and dogs do it through barking. Another important question to ask if how much exercise your dog gets? Every dog needs to exercise in order to release pent up energy. I provide at least 5 hours per day of exercise for my dogs. I will post another blog about setting yourself up with a schedule in order to optimize your time to exercise your dogs and to mentally stimulate your dog.
And now, I’d like to ask you about how much do you train your dog? Is your dog alone for long periods of time? How much time does your dog spend with you or with other dogs? Is your dog bored? Is your dog anxious? We are entering emotional needs of your dog.
The dog might be bored, excited or anxious due to many different factors. If so, barking is a way of requesting attention. If your dog is lacking training, mental stimulation and social attention (from you, other people or dogs), by barking, your dog is letting you know that he needs more training, mental stimulation, training and social time.
Lastly, we are going to discuss your dog’s environment. Where does your dog stay when he or she is alone at home? Is your dog confined in a crate for long periods? Can your dog hear and see people/dogs outside? Is your dog close to the door and can hear others passing by (condo living)? Confinement for long periods of time, other dog’s barking, passing cars or people, sirens, storms, elevator noises, and other environmental triggers can definitely add to excessive barking. Dogs get bored. Dogs who don’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation turn that pent up energy into barking and destructive behaviours.
What shouldn’t you do?
- Inadvertently praising them for being scared
- Smothering them
- Being overly protective
- Giving in and feeding their anxiety
- Being overly reactive to things
- Being nervous
- Giving them attention 24/7
- Not training your dogs
- Not giving them enough exercise
What should you do?
- Make sure your dog’s physical needs are met.
- Make sure you are training your dog every day
- Make sure that your dog has appropriate toys for mental stimulation and chew sticks for mental stimulation
- Make sure your dog’s environment is set up for success (i.e., install blinds, move crate away from loud environments, leave music or TV on)
- Do spend time with your dog, Dogs are social animals.
- Socialize your dogs with other dogs
- Check if your dog is healthy
- Hire a professional positive dog trainer
The power of positive training by Pet Miller
The other end of the leash by Patricia B. McConnell
Don’t shoot the dog by Karen Pryor
The culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
Cooper et. al – Applied Behaviour Analysis