Why Do Dogs Bark?
Hey guys, we're back with a new episode, and today, Sarah and I will be discussing something many of you have asked us about: Why do dogs bark 🤔?
To know the answer, you have to learn to ‘speak’ dog (something we’re fluent in, so we can help!)
We understand that you just want him or her to BE QUIET, but understanding the ‘WHY’ helps you create more effective solutions.
The truth is that your dog's barking is his way of communicating with you and with the environment around him.
So, if you want to learn the answers (and solutions!) to why your dog barks at you, the neighbors, dogs, or ANYTHING, and how you may have inadvertently TAUGHT him to do it, tune in now!
So, Your Dog Barks When You Come Home
This is one of the most common types of barking, and as you probably know (I imagine you’re reading this for a reason), it can be incessant.
To solve the issue, we’re going to have to go down memory lane. Think back to the days when your best friend was just a puppy. You came home from work, walked inside, and it was like a homecoming scene from a movie! You and your pup were having a literal reunion, playing on the floor, acting silly, and it was the best moment of your day! Best feeling in the world.
But after a while, you notice that this greeting behavior doesn’t start when you walk in anymore. It seems to start when your dog hears you rattling the doorknob, or even pulling up to the house. And let me decode the ‘why’ for you: It’s because your dog knows that the game is about to start, and he’s excited.
So many of our students come to us with this same story, wondering why their dog has a barking problem. And it came as a surprise to them when I say that, most of the time, they inadvertently created the problem.
The next time you get home, just observe your dog and his behavior. He’s probably super happy and excited to see you, and that’s when (and why!) he starts acting wild and out of control. Most likely, it’s because you also participate in the ‘party’.
So, the goal here is to help your dog stay as chill as possible when you (or anyone!) arrives. A key to your success with this is to make sure your dog is confined, especially if he’s home alone. We prefer using a crate, but a gate is also fine. The goal is to prevent him from being able to jump on/tackle you, which would definitely *reward* his wildness and guarantee a repeat performance the next time you arrive home.
The goal is to teach your dog that when you get home, your first priority is not him. I know, I know. You miss your dog, you had a bad day, etc, etc. And I get it. But while he’s in barking ‘rehab’, you’re going to have to resist those urges.
The next hurdle is when you initially interact with him. Beware of this pitfall: You walk in the house and he’s barking wildly in his crate (or in the room he’s gated in). If you let him out at that moment, when he’s super cranked, you’ll be REWARDING that behavior.
It’s basically teaching him “when you act wild, you get what you want”. Obviously, if this was a young puppy who needs to go out quickly to use the bathroom, we’d use a different technique.
So, for this barking behavior, our number one rule is simple but effective: Ignore your dog until he’s calm.
What About Demand Barking?
What’s demand barking? It’s the dog equivalent of the child who chants “Mom Mom Mom Mom” until the Mom responds. (You’ve seen the Family Guy episode…).
Picture this: You’re having friends over, hanging out and catching up, and suddenly your dog finds his inner party animal and starts barking at you. He doesn’t need to go out, so you ignore him. But his barking escalates, and your commands to “Hush!” go unheeded.
Wanting to get the focus back on you and the party, you and your friends pet him and give him the attention he wants. Someone may even give him a piece of food from their plate, or a toy or a bully stick just to get him to be QUIET! And in that moment, you all have just fallen into the common trap of “unintentionally rewarding bad behavior.
So instead of giving in, turn a deaf ear to your dog. I know, I know, it’s easy to say, but difficult to do. However, it has to happen in order to permanently render the behavior extinct. Once he’s calm, then you can give him a treat for being a good boy.
And remember that these are just a FEW ‘step 1’ suggestions. We have more!
Does your dog bark to keep the guests, the mailman, FedEx and DoorDash drivers away from your house? If so, you could be dealing with territorial barking.
In many of the cases we work with, the reason this happens is because owners let their dogs look out the window! Believe it or not, doing something as innocuous as spending hours watching people walk by can create a barking problem.
Let’s do a mini deep dive into this issue: When your dog barks at people from the window, he’s doing it for one of two reasons. Either he’s telling them to get off his lawn (and shaking his imaginary fist at them) or he’s inviting them inside because he thinks everyone is a potential friend (ah, the magic of dogs).
So, if his reason is the former and people do walk by, he’s rewarded because they left. And if it’s the latter and people don’t come to visit, he’s frustrated.
Both outcomes lead to even MORE barking, AND pulling and lunging on leash (which needs its own episode!).
How do you fix this?
A good step 1 is restricting your dog’s ability to look outside and bark at things. But keep in mind that since he won’t have his outdoor viewing entertainment to occupy him, you need to give him more opportunities to do that indoors (think food puzzles, more walks, and training/hanging out with you!).
Barking During Walks
This is one of the most frequent complaints we hear from our students. They’re on a walk with their dog, and he barks at everything they pass, be it a car or a person or a squirrel.
This happens when your dog is in a state of over-arousal. Everything during that walk is too much, and he simply cannot manage his emotions. PLUS, if your dog stares out the window and barks at people and dogs, that’s a HUGE reason that the behavior transfers to walks!
Just like other forms of barking, solving this one can take time, but it’s not impossible. By now, you know not to reward this behavior when it happens.
Don’t give your dog food or pet him when he starts barking at strangers on the street. When you do that, he thinks you like what he’s doing, and he’s just going to do it more. Teach him to focus more on YOU ( have mini training sessions while you’re on the walk!) vs. the environment.
Excessive barking can quickly become a serious issue for dog owners, which is why nipping it in the bud is the best solution.
If you feel a bit lost, don’t hesitate to interview and hire a dog training professional! We’re happy to set up private, virtual 1-1 sessions to help you help your dog.