Barking is a natural form of communication for dogs. But sometimes your garden-variety doggie conversation can become excessive, and result in headaches for pet parents (and neighbors!). The key to reducing a dog’s problem barking is to determine why he’s barking.
ASPCA behaviorists have identified the following types of barking:
- Territorial Barking in response to those approaching a dog’s turf
- Alarm Barking in response to unusual sights and sounds
- Attention-Seeking Barking to gain attention or rewards
- Greeting Barking to say hello to people and pets
- Compulsive Barking in an extremely repetitive way
- Socially Facilitated Barking in response to other dogs barking
- Frustration-Induced Barking when prevented from doing something
Although these are the most common types of barking, excessive vocalization can also be caused by illness, injury or separation anxiety. Before tackling your pooch’s propensity for chatter, please check with his veterinarian to rule out any medical causes.
So once he checks out medically, how do you figure out which type of barking your dog reverts to? Ask yourself these questions: When and where does the barking occur? Who or what is the target of the barking? What things (objects, sounds, animals or people) trigger the barking?
For treatment of territorial and alarm barking, it’s important to block your dog’s ability to see and hear external triggers. For greeting barking, try to keep your homecomings low key, and stash your pet’s favorite toy near the front door to encourage him to pick up the toy before he greets you or guests. If your pooch seeks attention with his vocal stylings, work on consistently not rewarding him for barking. For example, when your dog starts to bark for attention, you can stare at the ceiling, turn away from your dog or walk out of the room. The instant your dog stops barking, ask him to sit and then give him what he wants, whether that’s attention, play, treats, to go outside or to come in.
Whatever the cause of your dog’s barking, please remember not to punish your dog for barking at certain sounds, like car doors slamming and kids playing in the street, but then encourage him to bark at other sounds, like people at the door. Consistency is key!
For many more tips on how to address your dog’s excessive barking, please visit our Virtual Pet Behaviorist.