My dog barks all the time, what can I do? Dog owners often have this question for their pet behaviour counsellor or veterinary behaviourist.
The first thing to do is try and understand whether there is an actual problem with a dog barking excessively, or it is a normal canine behaviour. In order to do that, we need to understand why dogs bark. Barking is a normal form of communication for dogs, exactly like talking for us. When a dog barks, they are communicating various messages: they might be happy to see their owner, they might want to play, they might be calling other dogs or their owner, or they might be protecting their territory. According to researchers, if we listen carefully our furry friend in all of these situations, we will be able to understand why he is barking.
Dogs, when barking, are trying to interact with someone who is far away, be this an intruder or their owner who has left or another dog that they heard in the distance. It is perfectly normal for a dog to bark loudly, because the bark needs to be heard in the distance. Of course, the bark is louder as the size of the dog goes up: the voice of a Maltese dog is very different from that of a German Shepherd. But what should we do when our dog is barking? We should not be punishing a bark, but rather try to understand the underlying reasons for it. Shouting or punishing the dog in any other way might lead to anxiety or be even rewarding for the dog as we give attention to this behaviour.
Some dog owners might feel their dog is barking all the time. This might be a problem if we live in a block or in a terraced house and it can also suggest there is a problem with our furry friend. So, what should we do if our dog barks continuously? First of all, we should carefully try to understand whether the amount of barking is normal for our dog’s breed, environment and triggers. For example, it might be normal for a Pinscher dog to bark at by passers, as this breed was originally selected for guarding. Nevertheless, a dog might bark continuously because when in a very busy area, with many noises coming from outside, including other dogs. Alternatively, they might be barking because they have troubles dealing with being separated from their owner. Only after we understand the reasons for our pooch’s behaviour, we can figure out what to do to.
What should we do if our dog barks too much? Firstly, we should try not to pay too much attention to our dog when he is barking, so not to reward this unwanted behaviour with our attention. Then, if a dog is barking constantly in front of a window or a gate, we could install a plastic on the window, or we could divide our garden so that our furry friend can spend more time in a quieter and less busy area of the property.
What to do if the barking is excessive? If our dog keeps barking, despite we are not giving attention and we cannot see any trigger, it could be that this behaviour is a sign of a deeper problem. We need to understand why a dog might be barking incessantly. Constant barking is often present when a dog is under a lot of stress, so it is important to understand the reason for it. For example, we should have a consultation with a veterinary behaviourist or a qualified pet behaviour counsellor, who will help us identify and remove possible sources of stress for our dog.
Federica Pirrone, Mariangela Albertini, Patrizia Piotti researchers at UNIMI Veterinaria