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Dog Behaviour: Barking 101


Old dog barking in a field













A guide to managing excessive barking.


Barking acts as one of the most common forms of communication for our canine companions. Dogs bark as it allows them to express joy, alertness, or even attention. Barking is one of the most common dog behavioural issues, as when it comes excessive it can be increasingly frustrating for both the you and your furry friend.


I will now delve into some of the most common reasons for excessive barking and provide a further 5 effective tips and tricks to get you started on making this behaviour more manageable.

 

Understanding excessive barking:


Before seeking a solution, it is essential to understand the why behind the behaviour. Dogs often bark for various reasons such as:

  1. Attention Seeking: Sometimes your dog just simply wants more attention. Maybe they've learnt through previous experiences that barking gets you to engage in more playtime, treats, or affection.

  2. Anxiety and Fear: Many dogs bark when they feel unsure of a situation, which is causing feelings of intense anxiety. This could occur due to separation anxiety, previous trauma or an array of underlying issues.

  3. Boredom: Your dog may be barking out of pure boredom. Barking may act as a quick and easy simulation technique for your pooch! Your dog may just find barking a fun way to pass the time!

  4. Guarding: Some dogs (particularly certain breeds) will be naturally slightly territorial. Dogs who bark for this reason are often found barking at windows, doors or gates.

  5. Medical Issues: Barking can be a sign of an underlying medical issue. Before moving forward, when seeking any behavioural treatment you should first get your dog checked over by a vet. This will ensure that any potential underlying health issues which could be causing this behaviour are identified and treated. Pain and discomfort can lead a dog to increase its barking/vocalization.

 

Tips to manage excessive barking:


Now we understand some of the main reasons for barking let's explore some practical ways to help make a start on managing this behaviour:


  1. Adequate Exercise and Mental Simulation: As a dog behaviourist I often come across dogs who are under exercised or lacking significant mental simulation which leads to excessive behaviours such as barking. Providing a dog with the right level of exercise and simulation really does wonders. A tired and satisfied dog is less likely to bark due to boredom.

  2. Training and Positive Reinforcement: By implementing positively reinforced training techniques you can start to tackle barking problems. Reward your dog regularly when they stop barking and do not engage with them when they display the behaviour (barking in this instance). Teaching an alternative, incompatable behaviour instead will allow you to refocus their energy and help them to disengage from the trigger (eg: teaching the dog the sound of the doorbell = run to a designated spot to receive a treat - instead of barking and jumping at the door ). Consistency and patience are key in changing the driver of a behaviour.

  3. Identify and Address Triggers: Try to find out what is causing the behaviour before it happens. Consider limiting access to areas or situations that trigger your dog, such as stopping them from watching out the window regularly. If the triggers seem anxiety-based reach out for support from a professional.

  4. Socialisation: Socialising a dog from a young age can improve their confidence which reduces the chances of fear-based barking. Exposing a confident dog to different environments and people can also provide much needed simulation which can avoid or at least reduce excessive boredom barking.

  5. Seek Professional Help: Sometimes you just need a bit more support and to contact a dog behaviour specialist. If the barking is causing significant stress, its probably time to consult with a behaviourist who can assess the specific issues and provide you with tailored solutions.

It is important to always remember, every dog is unique and 'bad' behaviours are always your dog trying to communicate a need with you. Openness and a willingness to adjust your approach is important when looking to modify behaviour. By understanding the cause and implementing new methods you can enjoy a quieter and more peaceful life with your furry friend.


If you are struggling with any behavioural issue in the Wiltshire, Somerset or Bath area please do not hesitate to reach out for face-to-face support. Alternatively, If you are further away but think you need and could benefit from a consultation I now offer online sessions. I am always happy feel free to reach out via phone, text or email.

 

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