Dogs are communicative by nature, and, because they can’t speak directly with us, they bark for a variety of reasons to communicate with humans and other dogs. Some bark to show excitement and during play, while others bark for territorial reasons (like at the mailman) or due to fear or anxiety.
However, regardless of the reason, sometimes that barking can seem more like a bad habit rather than a means of communication. Thankfully, there are ways to tame your dog’s barking and help maintain the peace and quiet. If you’re looking to get a handle on your dog’s bad barking habit, read on to understand exactly what triggers them to bark, and how you can help keep it to a minimum.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Just like humans, dogs use a combination of verbal and nonverbal cues to communicate – with barking being a huge component of that. In fact, as dog’s have evolved in their domesticated lives, one of the most effective ways they know how to communicate a variety of their feelings with humans is through barking.
Dogs don’t just bark when they’re excited or want to get your attention. They can bark to express a wide range of emotions, from being scared and lonely, to surprised, irritated, and more. By paying attention to your dog’s bark pitch, the number of barks, and the tone in parallel with their nonverbal cues (ie: body language), you can better understand your dog and exactly what it is that they’re trying to communicate.
In general, the lower the bark, the more serious the dog. As an example, a dog enjoying themselves at the dog park will tend to have a higher-pitched bark than one that is warning off intruders. Additionally, the quicker the succession of barks, the more aggressive the dog is probably feeling.
Next time your dog is barking in quick succession, pay attention to their posture and body language. The hair on their necks may stand up and their tail may either be between their legs or standing up straight – both indications that your dog is feeling threatened and trying to communicate that with you.
Alternatively, pay attention to how this behavior differs from when they’re enjoying themselves or are excited to see you after you’ve been gone at work all day. Higher-pitched barks paired with wagging tails and overall joy indicate your dog is simply over-stimulated and wants to communicate their excitement with you.
How to Minimize Your Dog’s Barking
Like most things in a dog’s life, they can be trained not to bark. However, keep in mind that yelling at your dog to stop barking is a bit counterintuitive, since your own shouting stimulates your dog to bark more because they think you’re joining in the fun.
Instead, approach the situation by speaking calmly and firmly – but don’t yell. A common way to train your dog not to bark is to get them to understand the command “Quiet!”.
To do this, wait until your dog is barking and say “quiet” in a calm, firm voice. The moment they stop barking, reward them with a treat. Have a bit of patience and, overtime, they’ll learn to stop barking at the word “quiet” since they’ll look forward to the tasty reward.
By gaining an understanding of exactly what is triggering your dog’s barking, you can help calm them down and keep the barking to a minimum while training them to stop over time. With some patience and practice, your dog’s bad barking habit will be tamed in no time!