A bell at the front door or someone walking past the fence, movement in the stairwell, other dogs or people coming too close on a walk, or the owner returning home – some dogs will comment on all events with a loud bark. It is clear that barking belongs to the dog: it is a means of self-expression. But if a dog barks and yaps incessantly, this is something to think about: if a dog barks disproportionately, it could indicate serious behavioural problems. Here’s how to get my dog to stop barking.
How much barking is normal for a dog?
While some dogs hardly ever raise their voices, others will bark at the slightest thing. As with humans, dogs can be both more ‘talkative’ and more silent.
The Chihuahua, the Japanese Spitz, the Pug, the Appenzell Havanese or the German Shepherd are considered to be more talkative, while the Great Dane, the Bernese Mountain, the Eurasian or the Irish Wolfhound, for example, are more silent. Even if there are significant differences between dog breeds, as long as the dog’s barking remains within acceptable limits and the dog stops barking immediately on command from its owner, all is well. But if the animal barks at all passers-by or visitors for a long time and can hardly calm down, there is often more to it than just its barking-friendly nature.
Why does the dog bark?
They don’t bark to annoy their owners or because they are so keen to hear their own voice. They always want to express something with their bark. They are happy to see you again, or because they want to go for a walk, etc. And if a dog barks disproportionately, and in situations where it is not wanted – for example, because it meets other people on the street or because something or someone passes in front of the house – it is always expressing some kind of negative emotion: insecurity, fear, frustration, boredom are the most common reasons for excessive dog barking.
Dog barking due to insecurity
When your dog barks at other dogs or walkers, and gives a loud signal when someone approaches you or your territory, it is most often because the animal is insecure or afraid. Insecurity is most often the fault of the owner. People who get too nervous when they meet other dogs on walks, or when a group of children approach them, for example, will transfer this feeling to their dog. They convey to the animal that they cannot handle the situation and need the dog’s help. Dogs that bark in such situations believe that their owner needs their protection.
Barking out of frustration and boredom
Another cause of constant dog barking can be frustration. If a dog is frustrated because, for example, it is not being handled enough, does not get enough exercise and then gets bored, it will bark whenever its owner enters or leaves the house or when a visitor arrives. In the eyes of their owners, these animals often bark for no reason, simply because the people they belong to are around. The reason for the loud barking is actually quite obvious: the dog wants and demands attention. It wants to be noticed, to be noticed and to spend time with it.
Barking in pain
Of course, there are dogs for which none of the above reasons – insecurity, fear or frustration – are valid. The barking of such dogs may be due to chronic pain or some other medical condition. It is always advisable to see a vet before you start to stop your pet barking, as this is the only way to establish beyond doubt that the cause of the excessive barking is not physical.
Sport and play
In the latter case, your dog urgently needs more activity and exercise, as this will often succeed in reducing the constant barking. For most dogs, a short walk around the block is not enough. Few dogs are born to be the ‘lapdog’ of their family, as they have often had important tasks and functions in their past. Today’s dogs also require adequate physical and mental occupation as part of their human family.
Going for walks, playing fetch, sniffing out a treat, learning small tricks – all of this is satisfying for most dogs. And if that’s not enough for a working dog with a lot of energy and stamina, you can supplement it with dog sports, agility, obedience, dog dancing, mantrailing or many others: dog sports have something for almost every sporty four-legged friend. In any case, the shared activity has a positive effect on the relationship between dog and owner. Physically and mentally challenged dogs are generally calmer and more balanced, and often soon stop barking excessively.
Give your dog security!
If insecurity or fear is behind the constant barking, this cannot, of course, be helped by longer walks and more play. Ultimately, you need to show your dog that you are in control and that there is no reason to worry. You might say that you need to build a new relationship of trust, which of course requires a good deal of patience and discipline. Show your dog that you are the boss, his leader, and convince him that he has the confidence and sovereignty to take control of things. This is not always easy, of course, and it doesn’t work overnight. The following examples are intended to give you the first practical behaviours you can use to communicate to your dog: “you don’t have to bark, I’ve got everything under control”.
Tips for behaviour that will give your dog a sense of security
Tip 1: for barking at house or apartment doors
Dogs that immediately start barking loudly when the doorbell rings at the door of the house, most dog owners try to calm down by saying. Stop it!”, or by patting the barking dog on the head to calm it down. The animal, not understanding the meaning of the words, simply senses that when he barks, you get excited, or you stroke his bark as a form of praise. He translates this to you as “I did everything right!” So your owner’s reaction inadvertently reinforces his belief that the situation requires his intervention. Before you open the door, first of all, lovingly but firmly direct your dog to a fixed place – behind you! Show him that you are in control of the situation, that you can handle it! If the animal stays seated and doesn’t bark, praise him! If it does bark, don’t notice it and don’t give it attention – either with words or eye contact! And your visitor should do the same. Only praise the animal when it stops barking – even if it’s just for a short breather. By praising positive behaviour and ignoring unwanted behaviour, you can have a decisive influence on your dog’s behaviour.
Tip 2: for walks together
To convey a sense of security to your dog during your walks together, put him on a leash first – not as a punishment, but as an extension of your protective arm! Don’t let the dog lead the way, you set the pace and the direction! If you encounter someone, walk calmly on, don’t stop, don’t react! This will give your dog a sense of security and show him that it is not necessary to bark. Under no circumstances should you start to reassure him with gentle words, but don’t argue either!
This will only make the animal more insecure and justify his behaviour. Only praise him when he has stopped barking!
Tip 3: for dogs that feel abandoned when they are alone
Similar behaviour is recommended for dogs that bark to express their displeasure when their owner leaves the house. Only praise such an animal when you have managed to get it to stop barking in such a situation. It is best to practise this step by step: leave the dog alone again and again at certain intervals! As long as he barks, ignore the animal! As soon as he remains calm – even if it’s only for a brief moment – praise him! This can be in the form of kind words or treats.
Tip 4: for more security and structure in your dog’s everyday life
In general, almost all dogs want security and structure. They need a sovereign dog leader who can consistently show them the way and to whom they can always confide. One way of creating a sense of security is to have fixed daily walks and a safe, structured routine that the dog can follow. You decide how the day goes, not the dog! For example, start with obedience training every morning with a short walk! Teach your pet the most important command words and praise him when he does what you ask him to do correctly! Set up fixed times for meals, walks and playtime, and show the animal that you are in control! As mentioned in the above examples of dogs barking at the door or on walks, only praise your pet for things that are done correctly when asked! Do not scold him if he does something wrong, such as barking loudly, but praise him kindly if he stops on command! This way you can gradually wean the animal off barking.
Teaching your dog to stop barking: when does dog training become necessary?
With this positive feedback and reinforcement, you can do a lot for your dog. With consistent training, you can wean your dog off barking that he may have been used to for many years. Of course, this re-education process will take longer the older the dog and the longer it has been “part of its life”. Even if you’re not dealing with a puppy, there’s no need to doubt that there are ways to calm even the most barking night. But there are times when you can’t do it alone. In this case, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a professional who can offer you and your dog individual help. A visit to a dog school, a vet or a dog therapist can be very helpful and can go a long way towards helping your dog and you to live together more calmly.