It can be pretty cute when our little puppies bark. But that can potentially be a problem when they grow up and accustom to excessive barking. Not many owners are aware of this issue and it causes them great distress in long term. Which leads us to a question: what should we do when our dogs bark excessively? Of course we cannot just hit them physically (that is cruel and does not solve the problem in long term anyway). If you are having the same issue, then it is time to find out how to deal with dogs barking. But before that, let’s take a bit of time understanding why does dog barks in the first place?
Dogs have been our human’s companions for hundreds or even thousands of years. But usually not of all of us understand why our dog barks. Interesting enough, dogs’ barks are not always exactly the same. In different contexts, dogs may bark differently to communicate with us “hooman”. Such behaviors caused researchers to take interest in understanding this “dog’s language”.
So first of all, let’s trace back to dog’s ancestry, which is wolf! Despite being today dog’s ancestor, wolves actually do not bark. Instead, they howl. To this point many of us probably imagine a wolf on a cliff howling at the moon… quite theatrical! But! Wolf’s howl does not relate to the moon, whatsoever (we understand there is a werewolf legend related to the moon but we’re talking about real wolf here, not a fantastical creature). Why does wolf howl then? Well, wolf’s howl is simply a way of communication with its fellows. To certain extent, it does not that different from us human crying out loud to call our friends or family. In wolf’s society, howling generally means 3 things: rallying the pack, wolf’s signaling to let its pack know its location, and warning the outsiders to stay away from the pack.
In short, howling is the way wolves communicate. In case of dogs, we still see our dogs capable of howling. Yet for most of the time they bark. After years of changing, wolf’s howl seems to be no longer an appropriate communication way for dogs. Instead, dogs “invented” barking, which is a much, much more effective way to communicate especially with people. And as the results, dog’s barking also has much, much different meaning than wolf’s howl (since they are living with us anyway, not with their pack).
As we mentioned, dog’s barking is how dogs communicate in human society. Through years of living with human, dogs gradually developed their own method to “talk with human”. Of course, talking in different contexts results in different meanings. Therefore, it is our job as the owners to understand what our dogs trying to express. That also means: no hitting, no punishment when dogs bark. After all, they are just trying to communicate with us, NOT trying to agitate us.
So with that said, here are some typical contexts of why dogs barking:
“Pay Attention to Me!”
Since dog is pack animal (like its ancestor wolf), for most of the time dogs like to hang out with its owner or its family. However, we human cannot always spend the rest of our time with them (unless you are dog trainer, breeder, etc…). We have other works to do and therefore, we may have to ignore our dog to focus on the works. In such cases, if our dogs want our attention, they simply bark. This sort of barking is often in high pitch in order to get our attention. Some dogs (like our Mimi the Miniature Pinscher) tend to call attention by “whining”.
“Hi my hooman!” – OR – “This is so much fun!”
Probably we all know how dogs express their happiness by now. In case when we return home after a day work, we will usually see our dog(s) wagging their tail wildly and cling to our legs (or jump if you let them do that). This often comes with 1 or 2 short barks in high pitch which indicate the “friendly mode”.
This also happens when they have fun. Imagine when we play with our dog(s) in a wide space (like park) and play fetch. Our dog(s) will also wag their tail wildly; bark (only a little), and have an excited expression on their face (of course dog cannot express their emotion like human but they do have emotion).
“Stay away from me!” – OR – “Stay away from here!”
Dogs can be protective and territorial. And in “dangerous situations”, they will bark to warn the aggressors. These can come in 2 forms:
- Bark (or growl to be more precise) frequently in low pitch in long duration: Imagine when the dog growls in long period of time (like “arggggg”), that means the dog is in “defensive/warning mode”. Such growling indicates that they sense danger. Either they growl to threaten the aggressor, OR, they want alert us to get ready for the imminent threat.
- Bark (or growl) in short bursts: This tend to indicate that the dog feels the danger but they are also afraid. It is more like a sign of fear rather than a sign of threatening.
“I’m bored!” – OR – “Don’t leave me alone!”
Again, dogs are pack animals and therefore, they always want to stay with their fellow dogs or their owners. Unlike cats which are tend to be independent and solitary, dogs can hardly stay alone. When a dog is bored, they will bark out of boredom (since there is nothing for them to do). The situation can be worst if the dog has separation anxiety. In such cases, they often bark repeatedly, along with certain symptoms like being destructive or depressed. Some also suspect that they bark just to hear their voice (since they are too lonely?). Nonetheless, this kind of situation requires our attention and our care since it indicates an unhealthy life for our dog(s). This is also partly why we should get a second dog if we cannot always stay with our current furry friend. When we are away from home, at least the dogs can have fun with each other until we get back.
Before we go further into what to do when our dog barks excessively, once again let us agree with 2 rules here:
- Be calm: Teaching a dog requires patience. We cannot expect our dog to obey us right off the bat. As a pack animal, dog tends to look up to their leader/alpha and in this case, it is us. If we tend to be easily agitated, angry, we will be more likely to lose control and our dog will not want to follow such unstable leader. Stay calm and patience and eventually our dog will know who is “real boss” here.
- Don’t shout: We have seen many owners shout at their dogs. And unfortunately, this sort of action only makes our dogs think that we are joining them. Dogs do not understand human’s tongue and because of that, our shouting only sounds similar to their barking. Shouting only makes barking worst so let’s not do that.
- Don’t give them treat or praise them when they’re barking: If we give them treat or praise when they bark, they will think that such barking behavior is encouraged. In that case, they will keep barking… totally not what we want right?
And with those 2 rules agreed, let’s see what we can do when our dog barks excessively!
Understanding the context
While this may sound useless, it is extremely important before we want to do anything. As we have seen, dog’s barking can mean lots of things in different context. And more importantly, barking can mean even more different depending on your family. Not all barking needs to be stopped, sometimes it can mean depression or loneliness, sometimes it can mean our dog is in pain due to diseases. Therefore, try to understand the context and why the dog barks first before coming up with an action. It will help us know our dog better or detect potential health issues.
When our dogs bark out of boredom
This happens quite a lot if we have to leave our dog alone at home. As we return home, we will see our dog barks a lot out of loneliness while behaving wildly. Here are some suggestions of what to do:
- Walking our dog outside: Having a nice walk (about 1 hour) will make our relaxed and have fun. After all, who can oppose to a nice, refreshing walk outside?
- Having a second dog: This is quite an “easy-quick solution”. In this case, our two fluffy boiz can play with each other while we’re away. However, this can be extremely difficult to handle 2 dogs, especially for inexperienced owners. Still, it’s an interesting option nonetheless.
- Hiring a dog walker/dog sitter: Nowadays we can hire people who will sit or walk our dog(s) for us while we’re away. This is another viable option as our dog(s) can have fun with people and even with other dogs while we’re gone.
- Having something for our dogs to do: Ideally there are variety of toys which can help our dogs out of boredom like food-dispensers. After playing with these toys our dogs may be tired and decide to sleep.
In case if our dogs unfortunately get separation anxiety, it is best recommended to bring our dogs to the vets as soon as possible.
When our dogs bark excessively while greeting us
Sometimes our dogs can be too excited and bark wildly when back home. While this can be cute when they are young and small, it will be extremely problematic when the dogs grow into adulthood. According to WebMD, it is best to teach our dogs other behaviors. For example, we can teach our dogs to stay at a certain spot where they can clearly see the door (but not too close). We can make it like a game with treats and praise; those will help a big time.
When our dogs bark for attention
Dogs tend to bark when they want various things, like for food for example. We have to agree that these little “puppers” look kind of adorable when they bark for food. But then again, big dogs barking for food is a whole different problem. To prevent these similar behaviors, it is suggested to teach them to do something else rather than barking. For example, if they want to go outside, teach them to ring a bell instead of barking. Or if they want their meal or water, we can teach them tapping their dish or platter. Eventually they will learn the new way and abandon their “traditional barking” method.
And that’s it folks! What about you? How did you deal with your doggo’s barking? Feel free to share with us and for now, thank you and stay tune for more news in the future!
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