Barking is normal dog behaviour. Dogs bark to communicate with each other and with their human friends. They can be prompted to bark out of joy or fear or because another dog is barking or a possum lands on the roof. However, barking can be a real problem, so if your pooch is disturbing you or the neighbours with excessive noise, it’s time to do something about it.
Excessive barking can be a sign of some issue with your dog that you might be able to solve fairly easily. Because dogs bark for any number of reasons, it’s important to first discover what is triggering the behaviour. Have a chat to your neighbours about this as they might be able to shed some light on what makes your dog bark when you’re not at home.
Here are some possible causes of barking and what you can do about it:
He is anxious
If you find your dog barks when you’re not at home, it might be he’s anxious when you leave him alone. If your dog is still young you can train him to cope with being alone. Try popping him outside with a few toys for a few minutes so he gets used to being alone. Each time you do this, increase the time he spends outside without you. Always provide him with chew toys, blankets and lots of water so he feels safe and comfortable. Don’t make a fuss when you leave home and arrive back at the end of the day as this can increase stress and anxiety. If you just can’t allay your dog’s anxiety, ask your vet for advice.
He is bored
Some dogs just bark to amuse themselves or express their frustration at being bored. If you think your dog is barking out of boredom, increase his exercise – a dog that is well exercised will be content during the day. Head to your local pet store and stock up on toys such as Kongs to keep him busy when you’re not around. If you spend long days at work, ask around the neighbourhood for dog walkers happy to drop in and check on your pet and either have a play with him or take him for a walk.
He is after some attention
If you think your dog is barking to get your attention, the best thing you can do is ignore the behaviour. Don’t offer eye contact, and calmly leave the room. Wait until he has gone quiet and then quietly approach him with a treat. It’s all about rewarding positive behaviour rather than getting frustrated over negative behaviour, which actually just reinforces the barking. If he receives praise and rewards when he is quiet and calm, he will realise this is the kind of behaviour that gets attention.
He is protecting their territory
It’s natural that some dogs will become quite protective of the family home. Dogs who bark at people walking by or the neighbours hanging out the washing might just be trying to ward of what they see as potential threats. Firstly, you should never yell at your dog for this kind of barking as this actually just reinforces the barking behaviour. Grab a bag of treats and give them to your neighbours – they can then offer the dog treats but only when he is not barking. That way he associates not barking with a treat. When you are at home, stay with your dog and when someone passes by and he doesn’t bark, give him a treat. Soon he will associate people with something positive and will stop the territorial barking behaviour.
If your normally quiet dog has suddenly become a barker, or you’ve tried the above techniques to no avail, talk to your vet to see if there are medical causes for the noise. If you’ve ruled out a medical problem, you can then talk about behavioural training to change the barking habit. Never use anti-barking collars or other anti-barking devices as they are based on punishment, which is cruel, unnecessary and not that effective.