Why Do Dogs Bark?
A couple days ago I was chatting with a friend at an event where we were both handling a dog from the shelter when a lady approached and asked if we could help her with tips to make her dog stop barking. “He barks all the time, for no reason at all,” she said. My friend and I were a bit speechless for a moment before asking some clarifying questions. The answer, of course isn’t so much about how to make your dog stop barking as it is to find out why he is barking in the first place.
There’s always a reason why a dog barks
Even if your dog is sound asleep and suddenly wakes and begins barking, or is in your yard and begins barking, there is a reason. The lady’s answer seemed incomplete to me and though I had never met this lady or her dog before, I knew the dog did, in fact, have a reason. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons why dogs bark.
Barking to communicate
One of the most obvious ways dogs communicate is through barking and they bark for a wide variety of reasons, most of which can be corrected though positive training methods or in some cases a check with your Veterinarian.
Clearly and most basically, your dog wants to tell you something. He may be barking to gain your attention or to demand something. Does he need to go outside? Does he want to come inside? Has he been playing with a toy that is now stuck under the sofa? Were you wrapped up in a project and now he is reminding you its dinnertime? Perhaps you’re returning home from a long day at work and Rover begins barking. He’s happy and excited to see you, so he tells you by barking. These are a few ways in which he may be trying to tell you he needs something from you whether it is attention or something else; it’s just up to you to determine what that might be.
Barking out of boredom or frustration
Is he bored or frustrated? Has your dog been confined all day without any stimulation? We all have lives that keep us busy and many of us leave the home to go to work. Without the benefit of thumbs, Rover can’t exactly sit and channel surf the TV until you get home, so think about leaving him with some safe toys or food puzzles to keep him safely occupied. Mental stimulation goes a long way in tiring out your dogs.
Barking out of fear
Fear is another reason your dog may bark and it’s a big one. One of my dogs, Ray, is afraid of most lawnmowers and one day, our neighbor started up his mower very near the fence where an unsuspecting Ray was standing. When the mower roared to life, Ray was surprised, startled and afraid. The barking that ensued was fear barking which I knew by the circumstances but also by the body language with his ears back and tail held low. Ray is now very wary of that neighbor whether he is mowing or not.
Barking to protect
Another reason your dog may be barking is to protect his territory. This may be your dog, who is saying, “Hey Dad, there’s someone coming up the sidewalk and I want you to go check it out!” Or it is a neighbor dog. How many times have you walked by a home or yard and suddenly the resident dog begins barking at you? He is guarding his turf and making sure you know you’re the intruder. This barking may be just a mild warning or it may be a full on stay-out-of-my-yard kind of communication. Make sure you respect the boundaries being communicated by the bark and pay attention to the body language accompanying the bark. You might notice a more threatening posture with a tail that is flagged and ears up and forward.
If all else fails, see the vet
If none of these seem to be the reason your dog is barking, you may want to double check with your Veterinarian to ensure that there is no physical ailment causing the barking. If your dog has lost his hearing, it just may be that he can’t hear himself bark.
Since barking is how your dog communicates with you, be open to discovering why he is barking and remember, he doesn’t know a lot of “people words,” but he does respond to your actions a lot. If you’re shouting at him and he’s barking, he will perceive you to be barking along with him and possibly carry on that much more.
Did you have a barker that stopped? What was the reason your dog was barking so much?