- Kristen VanNess
Puppy Barking: Why and How To Help
Why does my dog bark?
Barking is a normal dog behavior. Dogs bark for many different reasons. Sometimes, this is to communicate, and sometimes barking may be about how a dog feels. Knowing your specific dog, the context of the barking, and his body language can help you determine possible causes and possible ways to reduce barking.
Some dogs bark when they get excited. While this can happen in any breed type, this is more common in some breeds such as shetland sheepdogs and some types of hounds. Excitement might be caused by sighting wildlife, changes in routine such as a family member coming home, or expectations about the next activity, such as dinner or play time. This type of barking may be short, sharp barks, often interspersed with motion.
There are times where dogs will bark out of frustration. This might happen with a dog who is behind a fence, on a tie out, or even on a leash. This dog may be interested in accessing something he isn’t able to have, and he may start barking. Frustration barking is often sharp, repetitive and rhythmic barks with a focus on something specific.
Many families will seek a trainer for help because of a dog barking at other people or other dogs. Barking as a way to get someone to move away is a common cause for barking. Dogs might bark while on a leash, while in the car, or out of a window. This may be a deeper steady bark and sometimes may also include growling.
Sometimes, a dog will bark when startled. This is more likely to be a single bark or a few barks before a dog resumes other activities. Often, if a dog is just alerting, he will not remain vigilant.
How do I get my dog to stop barking?
Frequent barking can be irritating to pet parents and neighbors. It is understandable for a pet parent to want barking to stop. The specific environmental changes or training activities will vary depending on the specific dog, the learning history, and the cause of the barking. Consulting a trainer can be a great additional step to help achieve success.
Excitement to Calm Games
Many dogs do not know how to calm down once they are excited. If you attempt this during barking, you probably will not be successful. You should train at a time when your dog is not already agitated.
Encourage your dog to get a little excited. Maybe move quickly and get your dog to trot or even play with a toy for a short period of time. If a “Level 5 excitement” is the most excited you ever see your dog, you want only “Level 1 Excitement” or less for now. Once your dog is excited, use treats to encourage your dog to sit. Slowly feed him treats for sitting and continuing to sit. Encourage your dog to stay there until he is steady for at least 30 seconds. He can receive treats during those 30 seconds.
Then, invite your dog to get excited again and help him to calm down.
As your dog advances, you can later use this when your dog is extremely excited.
Modify the Environment
Look for ways you can change your dog’s environment to reduce his exposure to events that are frustrating or scary. If your dog barks out the window at people, you might use a cling-on window film so that he isn’t able to notice your neighbors out for a walk.
If your dog is frustrated about not being able to visit other dogs while walking on a leash, you might walk at a time or location where you see fewer dogs for now. Once your dog has had more skill training, you will be ready to resume your neighborhood walks again.
Some dogs are scared when a guest comes into the house. Your dog might prefer to be in a bedroom with a chew object and white noise when guests are over for now. After your dog has learned relaxation activities and to look to you for guidance, then he may be ready to enjoy parts of these visits.
Build Confidence and Safety
If your dog is barking out of fear, you can increase confidence and safety as ways to decrease the barking.
You can start with levels or activities your dog can do easily, and gradually change the environment or task. This might mean doing favorite tricks 100’ from other people, and decreasing that distance over time.
Another version of confidence is about creating a protective bubble around your dog. Do your best to not expose him to situations he can’t handle. Over time, you can gradually change distances and still get relaxed and confident behavior.