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Barking dog: understanding and communication problems

01.01.2024 - Reading time: 7 minutes

Kleiner bellender Jack Russell Terrier auf einer Wiese

Every dog barks sometimes, but there are situations in which barking is undesirable.

There’s nothing wrong with a dog barking as long as it doesn't happen all day long or at night. A healthy dog with no behavioural problems will bark from time to time, for example, to express a feeling. Before asking “How to stop a dog from barking”, learn to recognise your faithful companion’s different types of barks.

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A dog’s various means of expression

What is the difference between a dog and a wolf? Barking: adults wolves (and other canine predators such as coyotes or jackals) rarely bark and their vocalisations are very different from the familiar barking of dogs. A barking wolf makes at most a short, muffled noise, either as a brief warning or during a fight. Barks are a characteristic vocal expression of domestic dogs and can also be used to convey a wide range of meanings. As well as barking, dogs have other vocalisations that send a message:

  • Growling: sometimes accompanied by threatening physical gestures, this deep sound indicates that the dog is uneasy. By growling, it wants to avoid a conflict and is signalling that a limit has been passed.
  • Whining: of different origins, these high-pitched sounds can be a sign of illness, pain, boredom, stress, etc. Some dogs whine to get their owner’s attention, for example if they need to go out to do their business.
  • Yapping: when puppies or small dogs bark, it is often called yapping. Dogs of all sizes may yap when they feel sudden pain or are frightened.
  • Howling: this sound immediately associated with wolves is sometimes impressive. Some dogs howl when they are left alone at home or in response to other dogs howling. Some breeds of dog, like the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute seem more inclined to howl than others.
  • Sighing: similar to human sighs, it can express disappointment, for example when the dog is trying to get its owner’s attention to go for a walk and the owner does not respond at all.

These vocalisations are accompanied by a body language that help you to better understand what your dog is trying to “say” to you.

Why does my dog bark?

This wide “linguistic palette” of domestic dogs is probably an adaptation of animals to coexisting with humans during domestication and also to their change in anatomy compared to wild animals: the animal’s larynx must be relatively large to be able to bark loudly.

The different types of barks are:

  • The bark of joy: the dog is happy to see its owner again and welcomes them by barking.
  • The excited bark: the dog sees its owner take its lead, they know that they are going for a walk and bark to express their excitement.
  • The warning bark: the dog wants to warn its owner of a possible danger, thus attracting their attention.
  • The threatening bark: the dog senses an imminent danger to its owner or itself and is ready to attack.
  • The bark of fear: the dog may be scared of a noise – for example fireworks – and react to it by barking.
  • The bark of frustration: the dog shows that they want something, such as a toy or a treat, and doesn’t get it.
  • The social bark: the dog hears a neighbouring dog bark and responds to it. Perhaps they have recognised one of their dog friends, whom they often meet on your walks.

Hypersensitivity-Hyperactivity Syndrome (HS-HA) is a disorder affecting some dogs who have been separated from their mother too early. Often hyperactive, they also suffer from heightened anxiety leading to recurrent barking. A behaviouralist vet will recognise this syndrome and offer you advice.

Dog that barks all the time

Barking is therefore a means of communication that dogs can use to make themselves understood by their owners in a variety of ways. A short, situation-related bark is part of a dog’s normal behaviour. But it’s different for the dreaded persistent or frequent barking. A dog that barks all day may do so for the following reasons:

  • Boredom: if a dog is not kept busy enough, it may develop bad habits. Some dogs start nibbling furniture, while others spend their time giving barking concerts. Make sure that your dog is kept busy, for example by taking them on long walks or doing dog sports that require concentration and patience. Obedience and tracking games are particularly suitable for this.
  • Loneliness: many dogs simply cannot be left alone and bark to express their discontent and the feeling that they have been abandoned.

Note: In many cases of constant barking, the dog is desperate to attract its owner’s attention for various reasons.

Why do dogs bark when they are alone?

As briefly mentioned above, there are also dogs that bark constantly when they are alone, i.e. for no apparent reason. Separation anxiety is often the trigger for this type of barking. Teach your little four-legged friend to manage without you for a few hours as soon as possible, and make sure they get enough exercise. Do not encourage your pet’s “clingy” behaviour. Avoid making a fuss when leaving and don’t get them too excited when you’re reunited.

Can continuous barking be a sign of illness?

If your dog is not a barker but starts to bark suddenly for no apparent reason, it could indeed be a symptom of illness. It may be an expression of pain or a sign of a neurological problem. Constant barking often leads to laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx). In this case, make an appointment with a vet to rule out physical causes.

Barking dog: what to do?

When dogs bark non-stop for a long period of time, these are generally warning or danger barks. Your dog needs your attention in both cases: they want to show you something, they are asking you to do something or they are in a situation of conflict.
As the owner of a dog, you know that even the most intelligent dog will not understand why they are only allowed to bark at set times. If you can get your dog out of the habit of barking inappropriately, you’re on the right track. To do this, you need to be quick and be able to show them that you’re there as quickly as possible. Dogs want to tell you something when they bark. If you’re asking “how do you silence a barking dog?”, you should not ignore a dog to stop it barking. Make yourself seen, touch your dog or respond to their barks with a sound, such as a whistle. This tells the animal that you have understood and that there’s no longer any reason to sound the alarm. Praise and reward your dog if they stop barking. Here, the idea is to distract them rather than scold them, because the dog won’t understand the link between their “call” and the annoyance of the humans being called.

Are there any breeds of dog that do not bark?

If you want a house dog that does not bark, maybe you would be better off with a different pet, such as a cat. If you are prepared to accept some normal barking from your dog, these breeds are particularly recommended:

A house dog needs to be able to exercise in order to stay balanced. Do not forget its daily walks for its well-being.

Are there any breeds of dogs that particularly like to bark?

Dog breeds bred for hunting or guarding have a greater tendency to bark. It’s understandable because guard dogs are supposed to make noise and bark at intruders, hunting dogs need to be able to communicate with their owner both within a pack and at a distance. Shepherds, Dachshunds, Terriers and also Pugs or Pomeranians are very territorial and bark when someone approaches.

A barking dog in the neighbourhood

According to the law, constant barking is considered to be a form of noise nuisance. Injunctions and fines are possible. The noise of a non-stop barking dog can be very stressful. This is especially true in the case of a dog that barks loudly. Whether you live in a flat or a detached house, you should talk to the owners of any dog that barks or howls at all times of the day. Sometimes they themselves are unaware of the nuisance caused by their faithful companion, especially if the dog barks when they are not there. The help of a dog behaviourist or a natural calming agent for barking dogs can work wonders. In the case of a dog barking during the night, if your neighbours are not cooperating, you can ask the police to come and observe the night-time disturbance. An amicable agreement is, of course, always preferable, but when nothing else works, you can take legal action.

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