Written by FOTP Team
Written by FOTP Team
Barking is perfectly normal. It’s how dogs communicate with us and other dogs when they want to get attention, issue a warning or just release some pent up energy. Here’s how to handle it and make sure your dog’s barking doesn’t cause distress.
You’ll probably already know that your dog has different styles of bark.
There’s a bark to get your attention. Your dog makes this sound when you’ve left the room, or they want to go outside because their bladder is full.
There’s an excited bark – your dog makes this sound when they meet their best canine friend, or when you come home from work. There might be little yaps in between these barks!
There’s a deeper, warning bark. This is the one your dog uses to warn off intruders or alert you to something that’s bothering them (… even if that’s just a shopping bag blowing in the breeze). It can be a single bark… or a series of worried barks that may even become ferocious.
Then there’s the breed specific bark, some breeds are just more vocal and some breeds have their own unique bark (ever looked up ‘talking huskies’ on YouTube?) and of course, some dogs don’t bark at all like the basenji. Although the basenji is still a chatty dog, they just prefer a good yodel or howl over a traditional bark.
You probably know just what your dog’s saying when they bark, even if you’re not in the room.
If your dog’s barking has reached nuisance level, start by identifying the cause.
If your dog’s barking at other dogs (even if they’re not aggressive towards them), this could be an anxious response. Don’t forget, that just because you know your dog's bark means playtime, it doesn’t mean the owner of the dog they’re barking at knows this too. Being barked at by a strange dog, especially a larger dog, can be intimidating as well as poor etiquette. Here are just a few possible reasons your dog’s shouting at another dog:
But barking at other dogs doesn’t always mean “go away”.
It can also be a result of excitement. Your dog has learned that barking gets attention from you, and they’re trying to use the same strategy on other dogs outside. They can’t communicate with those dogs, apart from an excited bark that says “hey, come and play!”.
First, there are a few things not to do:
Here’s how to handle the situation:
If your normally-placid dog has developed aggressive behavior, remember that there could be an undiagnosed, underlying cause. They might be in pain or discomfort (with low tolerance for pups and younger dogs), they could be near a bitch in season (which causes male dogs to challenge one another), or they could have a health condition such as dementia. It’s important to consult your veterinarian if your dog’s behavior has changed unexpectedly.
How can you deal with aggression that’s not been caused by a health issue? If your dog consistently growls at other dogs they meet (and not just Barney down the road, who once pushed him over: dogs remember these things), you should ask your vet to refer you to a canine behavior specialist. Depending on who you ask, almost all or all negative behaviors can be trained out of dogs, especially when it’s something you’ve watched develop. A good behaviorist can be worth their weight in gold so don’t panic if your dog’s recently developed any aggressive traits.
Long after your dog has completed basic training, it’s easy to forget about obedience. But introducing new tricks can stimulate their minds as well as reinforcing your bond and reminding your dog who’s in charge. A refresher session on basic commands will remind them how good it feels to work together – which can be reassuring for anxious dogs, and provide an outlet for energetic ones.
For dogs who bark at things, ‘Watch Me’ is a really useful command. It breaks their fixation on the target of their barking and gets the focus back on you, their alpha.
You’ll need some high-value treats (our training treats are always popular but a bit of shredded chicken will usually work too) and a quiet place to practice. Start by showing your dog the treat and raising your arm so it’s away from your face. Of course, your dog will look directly at the treat. But it’s eye contact that you’re aiming for.
As soon as your dog looks over at your face, say your usual praise word (‘well done’, ‘good job’ or ‘yes’) and give your dog the treat. Try to do it quickly so that your dog connects their action with the reward.
Practice a few more times before introducing the command; this could be ‘Watch me’ or ‘Look’ (choose a new word that your dog doesn’t know already). As you raise the treat, give the command and keep giving praise when your dog looks at you. With training, your dog will learn to look into your eyes when you give the command.
It’s a great way to distract your dog from other dogs – especially the ones who don’t always want to play (and Barney).