Dogs bark, for the same reason why we humans vocalize. Dogs bark to communicate, and the reasons are manifold. Incessant barking is a common behavioral issue for dogs in the city, and before we can address the behavior, we must first address why your dog is barking. Here are a few common reasons:
This type of barking is often motivated by fear, or a perceived threat to their territory. It can easily be lessened by minimizing what your dog sees or hears, such as drawing curtains, installing a wood fence, playing music, moving the dog to a quiet location, or providing a safe, cozy environment such as a covered crate.
If your dog barks from loneliness or boredom, provide more exercise and mental stimulus so your dog enjoys resting while you are gone. Increase their activity by taking them out for long walks, socialize them at parks, take up agility or obedience training, or send them to Dog City so they can wrestle with their friends. A tired dog is a good, quiet dog. Learn more about separation anxiety here.
If your dog reacts to the sound of doorbells or guests entering your home, reinforce the basic obedience command: STAY. Practice this by desensitizing your dog to the doorbell or people entering the home by placing your dog in a designated spot, hand signal stay (palm facing them), and ring the doorbell frequently, or have your guest enter in and out. If the dog stays put, provide profuse praise with treats. Repeat this exercise frequently. Never inadvertently reward your dog for barking at you when you come home. Do not pet them, or make eye contact until your dog is silent and sits quietly. Once they are quiet, acknowledge them and provide praise.
Attention Seeking/Demand Barking
If your dog is barking at you to demand something (water, food, treats) and you provide what they want, your dog trained you to be their butler or a food dispenser. Look away and ignore their demand. Wait until they are silent, and provide what they need. Do not scold your dog in this moment– negative reinforcement is also attention to a dog. If your dog is demand barking to go potty, reward this behavior by taking them out. They are being responsible by telling you they need to pee or poop!
Old Age/Canine Dementia
If your once quiet dog is vocalizing more often with age, it could be due to a decline in your dog’s cognitive functions, also known as canine dementia. Think of this as Alzheimer’s for dogs. Be patient and gentle. Never scold the aging barker. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether your dog is suffering from cognitive dysfunction, and what the best treatment options may be. Learn more about the sign of canine dementia here.
Pain or discomfort can cause your dog to become vocal. A check up with your veterinarian is prudent to rule out any health conditions that may be causing discomfort, especially if there are other signs such as increased thirst, change in gait, increase/decrease in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, or reactivity to dogs or humans.
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by: Leya Ogihara