Barking

Barking dogs probably tops the list of reasons complaints are filed with local Councils. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons and when you bring a dog in to your home you will encounter some barking, this is normal. However, excessive day time barking or any barking at night or early in the morning, is usually what causes the most stress for neighbours and owners. Depending on the situation, there are a number of techniques you can use to decrease excessive barking.

For the best psychological outcome for your dog it is always better to address the underlying cause of the barking, rather than using techniques or tools that focus only on the barking. These may stop the barking, but your dog will still be feeling aroused, and this arousal will rear its head in other behaviours over time.

Barking is a responsive behaviour, it occurs when your dog has an internal need and in reaction to external events. When addressing barking behaviour the first step is to look at what triggers the barking.

Boredom barking is characterised by barking that increases in frequency over the course of the day and night. It tends to be a monotone kind of barking that occurs with the same number of barking in a row, over, and over again. This kind of barking is best addressed with environment enrichment , off lead running, and interaction with other dogs each day. I would also recommend that if you have a dog that is a boredom barker that you look at feeding their daily ration of food through training and interactive food dispensing toys.

Similar in sound to boredom barking is something called stereotypical barking. Although it does not increase over time as boredom barking tends to, it does stay the same pitch and volume all day long. In this case, the barking tends to be something that is a habit and needs to be broken. Your best option is to simply reinforce any good behaviour that is not barking. In doing so you will be breaking the old habit of barking and creating new behaviours that you are happy to live with. You can also try some of the general tips towards the end of this article to help with this kind of barking.

Play barking is usually the most enjoyable kind of barking to witness. It will generally be high pitched, and may be accompanied with some growling. Your dogs’ body language will be a dead give away about the bark being a playful one, and you will often see play bows during the barking. This kind of barking is an invitation to play, and can be presented to you or another animal- Ben barks at my cat, Spencer, all the time, and often is reinforced by Spencer with a game of bat the puppy. Redirecting attention is often the best way to stop this kind barking, as is giving an all done signal, indicating that you don’t want to play at this point.

Learned barking is a barking behaviour that a dog engages in if they have been reinforced for it somehow in the past. Sometimes learned barking can be a good thing, for instance, when your dog needs to go outside, they may bark and you can let them out. On the other hand, it can also include barking for attention, barking for their dinner, fence line barking, and barking for a walk. When addressing the problem of learned barking the most effective means of stopping it is removal of the reward attached to the barking. Think about what factor is maintaining your dogs’ barking, and do not continue to reinforce them for barking, this will require preparation. For fence line barkers it may mean limiting access to the perimeter where your dog barks and/or socialising your dog with the neighbours’ dog and people.

Separation barking usually starts as soon as you leave the house, or are about to leave, and generally decreases over the course of the day, until you are due back home, then another increase is likely. It is typically paired with howling and crying. Remedies for separation anxiety (this would be a whole new article on its own) would be the best course of action for this kind of barking. However, research suggests that dogs that are good at ‘stay’ tend to assist in helping with separation anxiety. I also believe that crate training helps too.

Reactive barking occurs when your dog barks in response to either seeing another dog, object or person. This kind of barking, along with separation anxiety could have a whole article of its own. However, heeling past or through these situations would be a great place to start to break this behaviour.

Dogs often bark at night time when all of the nocturnal animals are out and about. There is not too much you can do about it, as it is unrealistic to expect anyone to stay awake, and participate in behaviour modification at 3am. You also cannot stop the wildlife from buzzing around your house at night.

The best fix for night barking is to keep your dog inside or locked up over night. Ben sleeps in the laundry with no access to outside overnight, and I let him out at dawn. This also gives your dog a good overnight rest which is vital for their psychological and physical development.

There are also some general things you can do to minimise the disruption barking can bring. Teaching ‘quiet’ and ‘speak’ is probably the best trick for stopping excessive barking. First reinforce your dog for being quiet and pair the reinforcement with the word ‘quiet’.

Once your dog pays attention to you, and is quiet reliably, you can teach them to ‘speak’. Find something that will make your dog bark, and when they do, say ‘speak’, and reinforce this with a treat. Once this is reliable and happening on signal, you can then alternate between ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’. Use ‘quiet’ when you need your dog to stop barking. You will need to continue to reinforce the quiet skill every now and again to maintain the behaviour.

Another easy way to stop a lot of barking is a daily off lead walk. Ideally, any off lead walk for your dog should also include play with other dogs, and even play with you. If your dog is tired, they are much more unlikely to engage in barking, especially learned barking and boredom barking.

If you have a problem with your dog barking you will find that simply allowing them to be inside with you will really help. Dogs are social animals and enjoy the company of their family. You can also install a dog door to allow your dog to come inside and outside as they wish. This means that even when you are not at home your dog can still be inside. Initially, you will need to restrict the areas your dog has access to to ensure no ‘accidents’ happen. Leave the radio on to drown out any outside noise, this will also help the problem barker.

Remember that barking is a responsive behaviour, so in order to stop it, you need to pre empt the barking and replace it with a different behaviour. Teaching your dog to focus on you will also help in that it cuts off a behaviour and redirects attention to you, then you can remove your dog from the situation.

Barking is a normal canine communication tool and will happen, probably on a daily basis with your dog. It’s excessive barking that can often be a problem, a good bench mark as to weather barking is excessive is if you are getting complaints from neighbours, or it is causing disharmony in your home. Dogs have a right to communicate, if you understand why your dog is barking you will be in a great position to meet their needs. You will have a happier dog.

Katarina

Photo courtesy of pawsforaminute.businesscatalyst.com

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19 Responses to Barking

  1. sabrina says:

    Hi, I adopted a male Japanese Spitz mixed in Nov 2012 when I found it in my neighbourhood. It is a smart and active dog. It sticks to my golden retriever. And restricts it’s movement. Whenever my golden try to stand up or walk, tat JapaSpitz will start barking at it and even try to bite it. Besides, this Japanese Spitz will start barking at midnight onwards. It is really stressful as it disturbing everyone’s sleep.
    Please advice on this.

    • katarina says:

      Hi Sabrina,
      Thanks for your message. I would advise you to only have the two dogs together when you can supervise them. Hand feed all of your Spitz food especially when your Goldie stands up and moves around. Over time your Spitz will look at you rather than barking at your Golide when s/he stands
      Up. Even keep your Spitz on lead inside for the next few months to help with this training. When you cannot watch the dogs you need to separate them so your Spitz does not continue to practice this behaviour and stress your Goldie.

      Night time barking can Often be fixed by locking the dog in a room overnight so it has no access to outside at night.

      All the best.
      Katarina

  2. Tiffany says:

    Hi katrina

    I have 2 staffies a 11month old and 3 year old. In the mornings they like to play, we discourage barking but when we aren’t home they play and bark while playing. is there anything we can do?

    • katarina says:

      Hi Tiffany,
      Yes, Staffies are well known for being noisy players. There is not a whole lot you can do because you are not home to maintain consistency enough to redirect their behaviour. However, I’m guessing perhaps the neighbours have complained otherwise you would not know it was occurring. So, you have a few options….
      -Separate them during the day
      -Keep them inside to minimise the noise for your neighbours
      -Engage a dog walker or doggie day care days to break up the week for them and your neighbours
      -A morning and evening walk (with off lead interactions with other dogs) will help them settle down better while at home
      -Enrol in an obedience club to help them develop better impulse control and assist with mental stimulation
      Dogs are busiest during sun rise and sun set and these are the times they will tend to be at their most noisy, take precautions (with some of the above suggestions) at these times of the day to manage their excess energy.
      All the best.

  3. Aayusha says:

    hey,
    My 9 month old labrador retriever who sleeps on a comfortable mattress in the corridor of our house wakes up early in the morning and barks incessantly afterwards. We make sure we open the terrace door before he wakes up everyday so that he can finish his bathroom business on the terrace yet he barks continuously whether movements of any sort occur inside/outside our house or not. Our neighbors are getting really disturbed and so are we. Help!

    • katarina says:

      Hello,
      I can give you some advice if you give me more information. How often are you walking your dog? Does your dog get any off lead time on a walk? When you say he wakes early, what time is early?

  4. Angelina says:

    Hi , I have a pekingese 1yr +++ now a days he keep on barking during midnight ! He want our attention by petting on us when we are sleeping if we don’t response he will bark . Is my dog having any separation anxiety ? Or he is just playful?
    Pls help !
    From Singapore !

    • katarina says:

      Hi Angelina,
      Dogs do what works, so either the barking is soothing for him (anxiety) or he is being rewarded for his behaviour by you (play). If he also has problems home alone it’s likely to be an anxiety related issue, if not then he’s probably playing. How often are you walking him? Does he have problems like damaging the house (doors and door frames) when you leave him home alone? Have you done any basic training with him? How does he react to new people and dogs? Answers to these will give me a better idea of what’s going on.

      • Angelina says:

        I walk him like twice/ thrice a week as I’m schooling . And there’s is one time I leave house he suddenly bark , it’s like the first time ! He don’t damage anything in the house but he always very sensitive to sound and people . He don’t play with other dog in fact I saw him pretty well with cats! He will understand some command like sit and when asking for treats , he only follow when he like it !><

        • katarina says:

          Hi Angela,
          He would certainly benefit from some extra stimulation to get him as tired as possible, this may reduce the barking at night. Daily training and walking will be very good for him and will give him attention from you for the right behaviours. Once the barking starts at night there is nothing you can do but ignore it.

          If you follow the above advice and there is no change in the barking in one month please contact a good trainer in your area.

  5. Gary says:

    Hello I have 2 Dotson shitzu and chow mixed about a year old. They constantly start barking at 4:00 to 5:00 in the mornings and they sound like they are getting beaten. It is like this high pitched whine while me and my wife are sleeping. We have them in their own pet house to sleep in but they start this every morning and I am afraid that the neighbors will start to complain and get us ticketed.. What can I do to make sure they sleep through the night so all can rest thank you for any advice

    • katarina says:

      Dogs who sleep outside are more likely to bark, especially at dawn and dusk when the night animals are most busy. Keep your dogs inside overnight in a cosy room with some light music playing to drown out any outside noise and this should fix the problem.

  6. Betsy says:

    Hi Angelina,

    I am looking for a solution to my 5-yr. old Golden Retriever’s nighttime barking. She gets to sleep in my room and on my bed if she wants. This is fine with me. She seems to be vigilant at night and responds to noises of animals outside. In her defense, raccoons and possums have actually come in my house in the past through the dog door, and in spite of all of my efforts at making sure there is no food or attractive nesting places in my yard, the nocturnal critters seem to keep my backyard on their nighttime rotation. Now I keep the dog door closed and she is not allowed outside. But she still raises a loud barking fuss 3-4 times a night. I think this is in response to sounds of critters outside. She gets two walks a day, a short one and a long one. At least 3-4 times a week she gets to play with friends and run to exhaustion. I am reluctant to use a shock collar or other negative reinforcement, because I know she thinks she is just doing her job. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • katarina says:

      Hi Betsy,
      Sorry to hear about your broken sleep. Night barking is something I try and avoid recommending that people work through because it’s just not practical to be training our dogs at 3am, you could try leaving some easy music playing to drown out some of the outside noise, make sure all windows are closed as well and if you find it hard to sleep with music going it may be an idea to get some ear plugs. When she starts barking send her to her bed and tell her ‘quiet’, reward with a pat and ‘good girl’. Sometimes dogs need to be trained to learn the word quiet, if she barks at any time during the day tell her quiet and when she stops reward her. A good trainer can help you with the ‘quiet’ cue. I would never recommend the use of shock collars.
      Katarina (aka Angelina)

  7. Nishant says:

    Hi Katarina,
    I have a 3.5 years old female Japanese spitz, she barks a lot and gets aggressive when she hears or sees another dog, otherwise she is quite silent and friendly. It’s doesn’t bother me that much but just wanted to understand if there is a reason behind it. Please let me know if I should be worried, Many thanks!

    Regards,
    Nishant

    • katarina says:

      Hi Nishant,
      Your dogs barking at other dogs probably is anxiety based, either because of not enough socialisation with other dogs when she was young, genetics and/or learned behaviour- barking gets rid of the other dog so it’s working for her on a few levels. The concern comes if she ever got off her lead and injured another dog or herself which is a risk. If you decide not to work on managing her reactivity towards other dogs this is your choice but you must be prepared for living with a dog who will unlikely ever be friendly with other dogs.

      • Mark and Lynn says:

        Hi our Maltipoo is 6 months old and has been going to bed approximately 10pm since we have had him and has been no problem at all but all of a sudden the last 2 weeks he starts constantly barking from 5 am onwards. Should we ignore him or keep getting up to him . He uses a pad by the door if he wants the toilet so it is that as sometimes he does not go at all. Any ideas?
        Thankyou

        • katarina says:

          Sounds like your pup is being rewarded for barking with you waking up to him and as long as you keep doing this the barking will continue. You can try setting your alarm earlier than he would wake and let him out when he is quiet, then progressively set the alarm later and later so that you are waking for him BEFORE he starts barking. Once the barking has started you will have no choice but to wait it out before you get up to him.

  8. Yuki says:

    Dear Katarina
    Our 4 yr old jack russel barks at 7:50 am and onward on weekdays before my daughters and I leave for work and school. He does not bark on weekend mornings. We make him do tricks with a treat to try to stop him barking but he doesn’t. It has become very stressful for me. We walk him 2~6 times a week, and my husband walks him around at 6.00 am on weekdays. Whether he goes for a walk or not, he barks at us. He jumps on us or even tries to bite. My husband leaves for work around at 6.15 am and we leave around at 8.10 am. Our dog stays at home by himeself until 4.15 pm. Whatever shall we do ?
    Thank you so much.

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