Barking Dogs: What Is Barking, Causes and What You Can Do About It
07.10.2022 - Reading time: 6 minutes
If your dog seems to be barking and yelping for no reason at all times of the day and night, good advice is expensive, then the first thing to do is to find out the cause of the barking. Find out here what barking is all about and what you can do about it.
Why do dogs bark?
What’s the difference between a dog and a wolf? The answer is barking. Adult wolves (and other types of dog-based predators such as coyotes or jackals) do not bark often and the noises they make are very different to the familiar domestic dog bark. A barking wolf at most gives off a short, dull noise, often as a quick warning or when they’re fighting. Barking is a noise which is characteristic of domestic dogs and can be used to articulate a wide range of meanings.
What the barking means:
- Excitement (joy or nervousness)
- Attention seeking
- Call to action
- Defence against danger (unknown dogs barking)
- Barking “on command”
The large “range of language” of a domestic dog is considered to be an adaptation of the animals to living with humans in the course of their domestication. Other typical “dog noises” are whimpering, snarling, yelping and growling – noises which are used in specific situations.
Dog is continuously barking
Barking is a communication method with which your dog can make themselves understood to their two-legged friends. A short, situation-based bark is very normal behaviour for a dog.
This is different to a scared, constant or strikingly frequent yelp.
There are several reasons for “continuous barking”:
- Boredom: If your dog has little to do, there is the chance that they will develop bad habits. Some dogs begin to chew furniture, others pass the time creating their own concerts. Ensure that your dog is kept busy. The level of stimulation should be appropriate to the dog. Sports such as agility runs may get lively yappers overexcited. Long walks or other activities which require concentration and patience are more suitable in this case, including obedience or tracking games. More relaxed breeds, on the other hand, can be worn out with a bike ride. Try and find out what is fun for your pet that also ensures they can settle.
- Loneliness: Many dogs do not like to be alone and bark to show that they are feeling lonely and unhappy.
- Attention: In many cases of constant barking your dog wants to get the attention of their human for different reasons. Training is also helpful and necessary here to channel the volume and barking of your pet.
If a dog is barking continuously for a long time, it normally means that they want attention or they are being defensive. In both cases the dogs want you to react:
- they want to show you something,
- get you to do something or
- find themselves in a conflict situation.
Under the law in some countries, including Germany, constant barking counts as an annoying noise emission and can be punished by fines.
Dog barks when alone
As mentioned earlier, there are some dogs who bark constantly when they’re alone. In many cases, the reason for this barking is separation anxiety. This type of anxiety, which is compensated for by barking, can be traced back to bad experiences or even problems that go back to the mother-puppy relationship.
Teach your dog as early as possible to get used to your absence for hours at a time and ensure that your dog gets enough stimulation to accept quiet periods. Don’t encourage your pet to be “clingy” – lengthy goodbye rituals or over-excitement when returning should be avoided.
If barking in your absence has become a problem, get support from a qualified dog trainer. There are different exercises to reduce your pet’s stress and thus limit or stop the barking.
Can barking be a sign of illness?
If your dog is normally quiet but then starts barking all of a sudden without an obvious reason, it may be the sign of illness. It could be an expression of pain or indicate a neurological problem. Some dogs suddenly bark at night; this could also be a sign of physical or psychological problems.
Furthermore, constant barking can also cause laryngitis. If this is the case, take your four-legged friend to a vet to rule out any possible illnesses.
How can I stop my dog from barking?
A typical problem: your dog barks at all visitors or gets highly excited when the doorbell rings. This type of barking shows that your dog is stressed, which is manifested as barking. Usually your dog will also become very animated, wag its tail and run back and forth. If you would like to stop your dog from doing this then there are several tips which can help:
- Do not try to supress the barking (e.g. with punishment). Dogs cannot get rid of their own stress and therefore carry on being stressed, even when the barking stops.
- Acknowledge them quietly, stroke them softly and don’t let the barking get out of control. Your movements should be slow and gentle and your voice deep. Make potential visitors aware of this as well.
- Something to “chew on”, such as a toy, fulfils several objectives. Firstly the barking is stopped because your dog’s mouth is full. Secondly your dog is distracted because they have something to do and moving their jaw reduces stress – without any noise.
- Link the doorbell with going to a calm, quiet place. Whenever it rings, but also at other times, send your pet to their bed. Once this has been practised for a while, it will become second nature for them to wait there until you fetch them back. This is especially helpful if your dog barks at people and you need to break the habit. Furthermore, your guests might be scared of dogs, especially when they are very boisterous.
- In a training situation, you can stop your dog directly. When the doorbell goes, prevent them from jumping up and send them back to their bed. The more consistently you do this, the sooner they will stay calm and still since they know that they have no need to react when the doorbell goes.
As we already mentioned, barking may be a sign of something else. If your dog is anxious, it will help them if you try to comfort them, stand by their side and give them security. If they bark to ask for something, e.g. you have a ball in your hand and they want you to throw it, you should not respond to the barking but instead insist on quiet.
Praise and reward your dog when they limit their own barking. Being still on command is a signal that you can also teach to older dogs with love and treats and one that will often be helpful in many situations.
Does your dog bark at other dogs? There is no single solution for this either since the reaction depends on the cause. Is it fear, aggression or do they want to play? You should adapt your training accordingly.
Are there specific dog breeds which bark more?
Apart from the individual characteristics of dogs within the same breed, there are also differences in their tendency to bark.
Certain dog breeds such as hunting dogs or guard dogs are bred to be more likely to bark. This is understandable since guard dogs need to bark at intruders and hunting dogs need to be able to communicate in their pack or with their masters over large distances.
Sheep dogs, dachshunds, terriers and even pugs or spitzes are very territorial and will become defensive if someone approaches. Other breeds, including golden retrievers, Irish wolfhounds and mastiffs, tend to be calmer.