Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. It might be to alert you that someone is coming, to ask to go outside, to warn you of danger, or they may simply be enjoying an over excitable moment! But sometimes, it can feel like your dog is barking just for the sake of barking. If you've ever wondered why your dog barks at everything, read on to find out.
One way to figure out why your dog is barking is to pay attention to the circumstances under which the barking occurs. If your dog only barks when he's outside, chances are he's either bored or excited by something he sees or hears or is asking to be let back inside.
If he only barks when he's in his crate, he may be feeling frustrated or trapped. And if he only barks at night, he may be trying to protect you from something he perceives as a threat.
Reasons why your dog might be barking all the time
Dogs bark for many different reasons. Some dogs will bark when they want attention, while others will bark when they're excited or scared. Still, other dogs will bark when they're trying to warn you of something. Here are some common reasons why dogs bark:
Dogs want attention
Dogs often bark when they want your attention. This might be because they're bored, they need to go outside, or they want to play fetch. If your dog is barking for attention (other than for needing an obvious toilet break), the worst thing you can do is to give in every time he or she craves your attention: to do so only acts as inadvertent reinforcement and will keep the attention seeking behaviour continuing unabated.
Dogs may suffer from separation anxiety
If your dog is used to being around people all the time and then is suddenly left alone for long periods of time, they may start barking out of anxiety. This type of barking can be especially troublesome if your dog is left alone during the day while you're at work. It often will be accompanied by intermittent bursts of howling and/or whining. If you think your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety, consider taking them to a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to get help with training and management strategies.
Your dog might be bored
Just like people, dogs can get bored too. If your dog isn't getting enough exercise or stimulation during the day, they may start barking out of boredom. The best way to combat this type of barking is to make sure your dog has plenty of things to do - including daily walks, interactive toys, and puzzle feeders.
Your dog is excited or scared
Dogs may also bark when they're excited or scared. For example, if your dog sees another animal outside, they may start barking in excitement or fear. Or if there's a loud noise like thunder or fireworks, your dog may start barking in response to the sudden noise. In these cases, it's best to remain calm and reassuring so as not to further excite or scare your dog. How we emotionally react in the immediate situation can greatly influence how our dog correspondingly reacts, given their attentiveness at all times to our own emotions.
Once you've determined the circumstances under which your dog is most likely to bark, you can start working on addressing the issue. If your dog is bored, try giving him more toys or spending more time playing with him. If he's frustrated, try giving him more exercise or providing him with more opportunities to socialise with other dogs and people. And if he's acting protective, provide whatever reassurance he needs that you're safe and there's nothing to worry about.
How to stop your dog barking all the time
If your dog is bored
Try providing them with more exercise and stimulation. Take them on longer walks or runs, play interactive games together (fetch is always a classic), or enrol them in a dog day-care or boarding program where they'll have plenty of opportunities to socialise and burn off energy. You might also want to leave them with some interactive toys, like Kong’s stuffed with treats, that will keep them occupied when you're not around.
If your dog is anxious
First things first - if you think your dog may be suffering from anxiety, it's important to talk to your veterinarian about possible treatment options. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do at home to help ease their anxiety. One is by providing them with a "safe space," like a crate or an enclosed area where they can go when they're feeling overwhelmed. You might also try using calming scents (like lavender) or playing soft classical music to help soothe them. Teaching alternative calm behaviours - appropriately reinforced at the correct moment - will also assist your dog in seeing the anxiety provoking situation in a different way. And last but not least, make sure you're spending plenty of quality time with your furry friend - anxious dogs crave attention and love from their owners.
If your dog wants something
Dogs often bark when they want something - whether that's food, water, or just attention from their humans. If your dog is pawing at you and barking while you're trying to work/eat/relax/etc., chances are they're just looking for some attention. In this case, the best solution is usually just to ignore the barking until it stops - giving in and giving them what they want will only reinforce the behaviour and make it more likely that they'll do it again in the future. Once the barking has stopped, give them some love and attention so they know that there are benefits (like affection from their favourite person) to being quiet. However, ensure that several seconds have passed between the barking behaviour stopping and the quiet, calm behaviour starting, before providing a reward.
Use positive reinforcement
Whenever your dog exhibits good behaviour (i.e., not barking), make sure to praise them lavishly! Dogs love positive reinforcement in the form of treats, petting, and verbal praise ("good girl/boy!"). Not only will this help reinforce the behaviours you want to see more of, but it will also help build up a bond between you and your furry friend. Who doesn't love feeling appreciated?
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons - some good and some bad. If your dog is finding everything interesting and trying to tell you about it all day long, it can be frustrating (to say the least). However, by understanding why dogs bark and using positive reinforcement training strategies, you can help reduce problem barking behaviour over time. So next time your dog starts barking at everything under the sun, take a deep breath and think about what might be causing it before getting frustrated yourself!
With a little patience (and maybe some trial and error), you should be able to get your dog's barking under control. Just remember - every dog is different, so what works for one may not work for another. If all else fails, consult your veterinarian or a professional trainer for additional assistance.
Need help? Talk to Active Creatures’ Head Trainer, Cameron about a treatment plan for your dog.