Dogs are just as adept at communicating as we humans are. The issue with how dogs communicate is that they use a completely different “language” of barks and growls. It is this very willingness to speak up that encouraged our ancient ancestors to domesticate dogs, meaning the tribe could have defenses at night and an advance warning against predators.
While it is one thing to have a talkative canine out in the middle of the primordial wilderness, it is quite another to have one in a home within a city or even the suburbs. Put plainly, civilization is full of noises and people that can stress out a guard dog, and that stress can cause the dog to bark.
When it comes to solving the issue of why your dog is barking its head off at every little thing, you need to assess two points.
- Teach your dog that it does not need to be “on the clock” as a protector 24/7.
- Find a way to directly stop the barking.
Understanding Non-Stop Dog Barking
Whenever you are presented with bad behavior, you need to take a step back and figure out the why. What happens when your dog barks when it does? What causes them to repeat this unwanted behavior? Find a specific substitute behavior for the barking, such as grabbing a toy or laying down, and train the dog to associate that behavior with your preferred response.
The Smart x50 Approach
If you have an especially boisterous dog, consider this training method that awards 50 treats a day for positive behaviors. The benefit of this training regimen is that it rewards your dog for doing good things and concurrently discourages unwanted behaviors since they garner no treats.
For Dogs Who Bark at Things
Dogs bark at objects for one of two reasons, though it is sometimes a case of both.
- Fear or distrust.
Dogs bark to either rout things that scare them or because they consider the person or object an intruder. If your dog gets emotional over a certain object, you can either keep the object out of its field of view or train it to accept the object and thus diminish the barking.
The moment that your dog understands that they gets treats for not barking at leaves, strollers, neighbors, and other dogs because you offer them a treat each time, there is a good chance that they will mellow out and have less reason to raise their voice at them down the line.
To put things as simple as possible, have your dog treats ready and watch for whatever causes them to bark to show up. The moment you see the trigger reward your dog by plopping a treat down to where they can get it, even if he has already begun barking. This will condition your dog to associate those stressful things with sources of treats, rather than ill intent. The important thing to remember is that conditioning requires consistency and a little delay between stimulus and reward.
If the dog is barking so much about the trigger that they ignore the treat, you are being too swift. Add some time or distance from exposure and try again. If your dog is barking at things they see, train them at a safe distance away from the stimulus. Consider waiting at the far end of a parking lot, on the other side of the field in a park, or close to your vet’s office.
In cases where your dog is barking at everything they see from a window, place some film over the window and use a white noise generator. This will stop your dog from continuing to engage in negative behavior.
Separation anxiety is one of the reasons a dog may bark if left alone. While distressing to hear, the barking may also be intended as a response to noises or motion from outside.
If you think that your dog barks when left alone, set up a dog camera. If you notice frequent pacing, drool or anything else that conveys stress, your dog likely suffers from separation anxiety. Helping a dog with separation anxiety is an involved system that eventually results in a dog who can manage being left alone. However, if the barking is directed at doors or windows, this is likely an environmental issue instead of a stressful one and can be handled as covered above.
If your dog is bored, his barks will likely be quick, repetitious noises instead of the whines, howls, and other noises common to anxious dogs. If your options for keeping your dog entertained are limited, consider swapping out his food bowl for a hidden puzzle feeder.
When Your Dog Barks At You
Dogs bark at their owners because they want something and they understand that barking gives them that thing. If this happens to you, think things through. Ask yourself what you tend to do after your dog barks. Even a scolding might be agreeable to attention seeking dog. Other owners will pet their dogs as a calming measure. The moment you figure out why your dog is barking is the moment you can correct the behavior to discourage future barking.
Change how you respond to barking so that you can preempt barking with the desired reward. You can always turn your back to the dog and leave for 5-10 seconds, returning with something like a toy or treat. Make sure to interact with the dog and the item so you do not get into a loop of barking and “time-outs.” While demand-barking can be annoying, it is also easily dealt with since you are the one who controls it. Teaching that quiet earns treats can do wonders for your dog’s audio output.
While it is common for dogs to bark whenever someone approaches your door, it can be embarrassing to have a dog that will constantly harass visitors. This is where working on polite greetings with your dog can come in handy.
Approach #1: Greeting with a Toy
This approach involves curtailing your dog from barking by teaching your dog to greet the guest with a toy in its mouth; they can’t bark if their mouth is full. Teaching this entails knocking on a surface and telling your dog to get a toy. When they respond properly, play with them for a bit. Repeat this process, upping up the volume and randomness of knocking, followed by saying “Who is it?” lie you were receiving a guest.
Approach #2: Equate Guests with Treats
If toys are not your dog’s preferred “currency,” you can adjust the training so that you give your dog a treat instead of playing. While this does not teach your dog how to respond to a ringing doorbell, it will stop them from running around and seeking treats when visitors arrive.
In the case where your dog’s barking only flares up when guests come inside, you are likely dealing with a nervous dog. Either give your guests treats to ease any tension in your dog or relocate your dog so they will not be a bother as you entertain company.
Regarding Anti-Bark Collars
Pet owners may be inclined to resort to bark collars to keep their dog’s barking at bay. These collars “stop” barking dogs by inducing discomfort, but owners should consider whether or not bark collars work before using them on their dog.
The consensus among most experts is that bark collars do nothing to solving the underlying issue that leads to barking. Understandably, they raise stress in your dog, instead of lowering it. Beyond being of limited effectiveness according to some studies (1), there is also a chance of causing injury or burns to the dog when used improperly. Bark collars only work if a dog finds the collar’s trigger to be uncomfortable and they teach your dog to stay silent. Period.
Provided below is a hierarchy of treatment for dealing with a barking dog. As such, you should not “jump ahead” of the list as this will only stress your dog more.
- Analyze your dog’s well-being. A trip to the vet can help gain insight into many behavior problems, while also killing boredom and granting some exercise.
- Change the environment. Remove whatever stresses your dog out from their surroundings.
- Stick to positive reinforcement. As a callback to the Smart x50 training regimen, giving your dog treats for doing good things may help the barking.
- Give treats to reward not barking. Since this tier of treatment involves placing your dog in a stressful situation, give them the treat to commend them for making it through the trigger(s) without resorting to barking.
- Ignore the barking and hold off from giving treats for “demand barking.” Only consider this step after all previous steps have been pursued.
- Punish them for unwanted behavior. If you have fully adhered to this hierarchy of anti-bark training, you should never need to resort to this step to solve a barking dog. Even if you find yourself at this step, do not default to the harshest possible form of punishment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Excessive Barking
How do I get my dog to stop barking at everything?
The first step to understanding why your dog is constantly barking is to understand that it is trying to communicate something to you. The next step is to figure out what incidents or scenarios cause your dog to bark. Since this article has presented plenty of suggestions for explaining why dogs bark, see which incident triggers the most activity from your dog and handle it accordingly. The last step is changing the environment so that the triggers are no longer present.
Why does my dog bark at everything on walks?
There is a good chance that your dog is feeling extra protective of you, especially if you have made it clear that you are the pack leader of the house. We’ve already addressed the two main reasons why a dog barks; you can safely rule out fear of the idea of walks if your dog loves to go for walks, meaning that your dog is acting out because it does not trust the many sources of stimulation in the park. Once you understand why your dog is acting out, you can figure out how to handle its corrective training.
What does it mean if your dog keeps barking at nothing?
Chances are good that the dog is barking at something. Since dog senses exceed human senses, there may be some stimulus that it is reacting to. Barking may be the only way it knows to communicate with unknown noises.