by Marina Somma
We all know that dogs bark — it’s practically a fact of life. Even though some breeds tend to bark more than others, you can still work on teaching your four-legged friend when it is appropriate to be vocal and when it isn’t. Dogs bark for a wide variety of reasons, and if you don’t know why, it’s very difficult to figure out how to make it stop!
Thankfully, it isn’t too difficult to sniff out the source. Over the course of this article, we’ll cover why your dog might be barking, and what you should do to alleviate it in each situation.
One of the many reasons why dogs might bark at guests is because they’re fearful. In fact, research estimates that about 30% of dogs suffer from some type of anxious behavior. This one is typically quite easy to spot. Once the barking is over, if your dog doesn’t approach the guests or appears to approach them warily, you might have a fearful barker.
How to Stop Fearful Barking
The solution to fearful barking is quite simple, but it does require a solid amount of due diligence and practice. If your dog is fearful of people, you should instruct your guests to ignore the dog entirely. When a dog is scared, it can be really intimidating to have a stranger bend over or squat down and look directly at them.
Instead, have your guest calmly sit down somewhere, and instruct them to toss a few yummy pieces of food on the ground in the direction of the dog. Boiled chicken or scrambled eggs work very well here, especially with dogs who are less motivated by food. Have your guest behave calmly and avoid making any loud or sudden movements. Over time, your dog will respond much more calmly to strangers.
If your dog barks and appears fearful when they’re around other dogs, you should take a look at our article What to Do If Your Dog Is Aggressive with Other Dogs.
Why: Attention Seeking
Picture this: You’re sitting on the couch watching TV, and your dog will just not stop barking — not looking out the window, not standing at the door, just barking. If you’re nodding along so far, your dog might be an attention seeker!
Attention-seeking barking is just that: barking to get attention. Many studies acknowledge that this is one of the most common reasons for barking. In this situation, your dog either wants you to play with them or get some kind of reaction out of you.
How to Stop Attention-Seeking Barking
The problem with this type of barking is that any kind of attention, good or bad, still reinforces the behavior. So how do you stop an annoying barker? Well, it’s the toughest of the three kinds of barking because it’ll take some serious willpower on your part.
The key to stopping attention-seeking behavior is to not give them any attention. So, in this instance you don’t look at the dog, talk to the dog or say “no” or “stop” — nor do you throw your shoe or jump up and down in frustration. It’ll get worse before it gets better, but if everyone the dog interacts with is on the same page, it will get better.
Of the three, this is definitely the most common reason that dogs bark. In these cases, it’s often less about training and more about prevention.
Dogs need a serious amount of mental stimulation, and twice-daily walks simply aren’t going to meet that need. If your dog stands at the window barking at every little thing, they’re likely doing it because they’re bored.
How to Stop a Bored Dog from Barking
Thankfully, when you meet a bored dog’s needs mentally, they stop searching for things to get them into trouble. Many dog trainers recommend using treat-dispensing balls or similar objects that work a dog’s brain. You can also check with your vet to see if giving your dog CBD could help ease some of that excess tension. If you get the green light, try mixing a chew or adding a tincture in with a few regular treats for them to nibble on as they play with the ball throughout the day.
Patience Is Key
Regardless of the reason your dog is barking — and the method you have to use to reduce that annoying behavior — you’re going to want to approach the situation with a lot of patience. Dog behavior doesn’t change overnight (even though bad behavior really seems to!), and your dog will need time before you see a difference. Have patience with your dog, and you will all be happier overall.
Marina graduated from Monmouth University with a B.A. in psychology and a B.S. in marine and environmental biology and Policy. She also holds CPDT-KA dog training certification with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. She has over eight years of experience in zoological and domestic animal care and has worked at various facilities all around the country. Marina and her husband, Vincent, own, operate and manage an animal behavior/training and media company based out of Central Florida called petsETC.