Barking is one of the many ways in which dogs communicate with their owners and each other, but what can you do when your dog won’t stop barking?
Whether your dog barks due to boredom or when they are in their crate, the noise can drive you (and your neighbors!) mad when it becomes excessive. Let’s have a closer look at what causes dogs to bark constantly and what can be done to fix this.
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Causes of excessive barking
Dogs often utilise their bark to express a range of emotions, and you may be able to interpret what they are trying to tell you by listening to the bark and reading their body language. Most cases of excessive barking are due to one or more of the following:
It is very common for dogs to express their excitement through barking when their owner gets home from work, when their food is being prepared, or when they see familiar dogs or humans. This friendly bark involves lots of tail wagging and sometimes jumping.
2. Attention seeking
Your dog may bark until you give them something that they want – whether it be a treat, a walk, or belly rubs. This bark is often incessant, with your dog focusing on you until they get their way.
Territorial dogs bark when strangers, other dogs, or wild animals come close to their “territory” (i.e., their house or their human). This barking tends to increase in frequency and volume as the “threat” gets closer, and it can easily turn into aggression if not addressed. Some breeds are more territorial than others, and this should be considered when adopting a dog.
4. Boredom or loneliness
When dogs are left alone for extended periods of time, they can turn to negative behaviors such as barking, destructiveness, and inappropriate urinations/defecations. This usually occurs due to a lack of mental stimulation or loneliness. Dogs may bark excessively to entertain themselves or make themselves feel as though there is someone with them.
Anxious dogs are prone to excessive barking and other bad behaviors when something triggers their nerves, like strangers or being left alone. This can be especially severe in cases of separation anxiety.
Addressing the underlying cause of excessive barking is usually the best way to make it stop – let’s have a look at what this entails.
How to stop a dog from barking constantly
Dogs tend to bark excessively when they have a need that is not being met, so removing or minimising the trigger and implementing behavior modification training can often help reduce barking in particularly vocal pups.
- If your dog barks at the door or on walks due to excitement, it is best to teach them that they cannot get what they want until they stop barking. Dogs should not be acknowledged until they stop barking and sit quietly – only then should they be rewarded.
- Similarly, if a dog barks for attention, they should not be scolded, as this is a form of attention and therefore a “reward.” If you find your dog barking for treats or playtime, wait for a few minutes after they have stopped to attend to them.
- For dogs who bark at strangers or neighbors, removal of the stimulus and distraction are often the best tools. Windows can be covered in opaque film to limit visualisation, and dogs can be distracted with white noise or toys. In the garden, solid fencing can be installed to reduce vision.
- Dogs who bark due to boredom at night, in their crate, or when left alone should be given plenty of exercise to tire them out, and they should be provided with a good selection of dog toys, including puzzle toys, for mental stimulation. You can also consider investing in a dog walker or doggie day care.
- Barking due to separation anxiety can be difficult to overcome. Owners should avoid leaving these dogs alone for long periods of time where possible. Dogs with separation anxiety should see a veterinary behaviorist, and severe cases may benefit from anti-anxiety medications.
Regardless of the root cause of constant barking, punishments such as yelling and shock collars should be avoided. Averse-based training methods may make the problem worse, and they have been shown to be stressful for dogs during and after training sessions, thus compromising welfare.
Lastly, although excessive barking is usually a behavioral problem, it can also be caused by medical issues like chronic pain and cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or “doggie dementia.”
Dogs who bark excessively should always undergo a full physical examination and relevant diagnostic tests with their vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to their behavior.
Can excessive dog barking be reported?
Yes – dog barking can be reported, although the exact laws differ depending on location. In the United Kingdom, neighbours can report constant barking as a noise complaint to the local council, and they can even take you to court under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which defines a statutory nuisance as any “noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.” Dog owners who are taken to court can face hefty fines of thousands of pounds.
Similarly, in the United States, excessive barking can be reported to law enforcement, and if taken to court, owners can be ordered to pay heavy fines and, in severe cases, rehome their dogs.
Excessive barking is a common complaint for dog owners, but it can often be managed with behavior modification training. Severe cases may require assistance from a veterinary behaviourist to minimize the dog’s noise and stress levels. It is best to tackle this issue earlier rather than later to maximize the chance of success and avoid frustration.
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Dr. Diana Hasler graduated with distinction from the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in 2018. She has experience working as a small animal veterinarian in general practice, where she has treated many dogs, cats, rabbits, and rodents. She has also recently branched out into the field of medical communications, doing freelance work as a medical editor and writer. Dr. Hasler currently lives in Edinburgh where she enjoys spending time with her husband Gavin and playing with their feisty tabby cat Poppy.