Causes of Barking

Most dogs simply bark to communicate, to get attention, or simply to show their excitement. Training and lifestyle are important factors in teaching the dog how to communicate with its master. Problem barking has a variety of origins. Genetics does influence a dog's tendency to bark. Certain breeds belonging to the terrier family are prone to more frequent barking than breeds such as Greyhounds or Basenjis. Generally, however, excess barking can exist in any breed of dog. The key to solving the problem of inappropriate barking is to determine what external stimulus is triggering the behaviour. Improper confinement can be a major cause of problem barkers.   


Improper confinement can include leaving a dog alone in a locked room, or in a dog crate (a tool used for housebreaking and other behavioural modifications). Other improper confinements can include restricted tethering outdoors, or even an enclosed yard without proper shelter from the elements. Such confinement can cause frustration in a dog and cause it to bark excessively. Closely associated with improper confinement is lack of exercise as a cause of excess barking. When a dog is not provided with adequate exercise, pent-up energy is released through barking.  


Environmental sounds can also trigger barking. These sounds include such things as the barking of other dogs, the sound of passing cars, strange voices, thunder, and mechanical noises such as the ringing of the phone. Noises can initiate barking at different times of the day. A dog may not bark at accustomed sounds during the day, but at night may be incited to a volley of barking, much to the chagrin of the neighbours, by the slightest of noises. Other causes of problem barking can include separation anxiety, or the temperament of the dog: an over-aggressive animal may bark at the smallest provocation. A strongly territorial dog may bark at any stranger, invited or uninvited, entering your property. 

The first step in solving problem barking, is to determine if your dog is barking in response to inadequate shelter or improper confinement. If this is the case, the dog must be provided with a comfortable amount of space or supplied with a doghouse if outdoor shelter is inadequate. Increasing the amount of exercise given to your dog may also help. 


In the event your dog is barking in response to environmental noises, or the barking is simply due to its temperament, behavioural modification methods should be used. These methods can include reconditioning using a verbal reprimand such as "No!", and leash correction. It should be noted however, that you should never yell at your dog, as loud noises may encourage your pet to bark more. Also keep in mind the punishment should be applied while the barking is occurring, in order for your dog to associate the unwanted behaviour with the punishment. Also remember to reward your dog when it stops barking. 


Hysterical barking such as during a thunderstorm, can be treated by reassurance, companionship, distraction, or if all else fails by tranquilizers from your veterinarian. Barking at a strange object can be quickly stopped by showing him that there is nothing to fear. However, don’t pet, hug or otherwise show attention to your dog at the time of barking. If you do so, the dog will think that its barking is justified hence got your attention immediately. This sort of response from you will teach it to bark more often than not. First let the dog quieten down and then you can reassure the dog that there is nothing to fear.  


Barking from boredom or in order to attract attention is best treated by eliminating the cause. If you give your dog plenty of attention and exercise, you can insist on quiet behaviour the rest of the time. Obedience training is of great indirect benefit due to the self-discipline it imposes and the mental and physical activity it provides. 


Barking dogs are in many ways like cranky crying babies (except the fangs and teeth part though) and they need proper attitude training to bring them back to acceptable track, but they also need good time and attention and loving, so make sure your training is a right mix of all of these.