Why Dogs Bark and How to Get a Dog to Stop Barking

Why Dogs Bark and How to Get a Dog to Stop Barking

Dogs bark for many reasons. They might be trying to tell you something or just be excited. But sometimes, dogs bark when they don’t need to, which can quickly become frustrating. This article will explore why dogs bark and how you can make sure your furry friend doesn’t need attention before teaching them to stop. So whether your pooch is a chronic barker or just occasional, keep reading to learn how to deal with it.

The Evolution of Barking

Would it surprise you that barking is common in domesticated dogs but not so much in their wild cousins? We’ve learned a lot from a researcher named Csaba Molnar, who has delved into the topic. Molnar discovered that the dog we know today is either the direct or indirect result of artificial selection on behalf of our ancestors, the humans who domesticated them. That process started long before we began putting them in a dog harness for their daily walks around the block. Estimates are anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, according to recent findings.

In other words, we’ve encouraged barking as a trait by choosing to keep and breed the dogs who did it more often than others. But why? We likely saw barking as a helpful tool early on. After all, it’s an effective way to scare off potential threats or predators. And in the case of herding dogs, barking is a way to communicate with other animals or humans, including their master.

beagle howling in woods

This evolution of dog barking has a human connection. Molnar used machine learning to classify dog barks and analyzed them. He discovered things like where they were similar among all dogs (alarm barks) and where variations occurred (play barks). He also researched how some people had high accuracy in identifying the context of the barks, meaning that we can potentially understand them!

The other guess is that barking came along with breeding for different traits. For example, low levels of aggression and high levels of trainability. Barking might have come along with that purely by accident. 

While we may never know the exact reason, barking is a very present reality among dogs today, and many of us are left to find ways to live with it. So let’s explore a little more about why dogs bark.

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Exploring Why Dogs Bark

When it comes to barking, some dogs take it to the next level, and it quickly gets into the territory of excessiveness. If your dog is barking all the time, it might be difficult to pinpoint why exactly they’re doing it. After all, there could be several potential explanations.

ask yourself some questions dog behavior

To get to the bottom of things, it can be helpful to ask yourself some questions about your dog’s behavior. For example:

  • When does your dog bark?
  • For how long do they bark?
  • What are they trying to achieve by barking (e.g., getting your attention)?
  • Do they stop when you give them what they want?
  • What else happens just before or after they start barking?

Answering these questions can help you determine if your dog’s barking is normal or excessive. But knowing more about why dogs bark will as well. Collecting all this knowledge and putting it together will allow you to decide the best way to get your pup to live a quieter, less woof-filled lifestyle. 

Reasons Your Dog Barks

Reason 1: Excitement

Communicating excitement through barking is common among dogs. These barks generally happen when your dog expects something, like when they see you come home or perhaps while they’re playing with a friend. These barks are perfectly normal and combine high and mid-range barks, yips and yowls. Common body language that goes along with excited barking includes a wagging tail, perked ears and, sometimes, jumping up.

However, if your dog is barking in excitement all the time – with no other context to it – you may have an excited barker on your hands. This behavior is often seen among puppies who haven’t yet learned how to control their excitement. It can also be seen in older dogs who don’t understand that only some occasions merit such boisterous displays.

Reason 2: Alarm

Dogs will also bark when they sense something is wrong or if they sense danger. This is known as an alarm bark and can be a loud, deep noise in some dogs.

pug staring out home window

One example of this type of barking would be when your dog hears someone at the door, playing in the backyard or near their food bowl. It can also happen if they think something has gone missing or if there is a new person, object or smell in their environment that worries them. Alarm barking often occurs suddenly and will persist until the threat (or whatever triggered it) is resolved or leaves. So it’s essential to take note of all the circumstances surrounding these episodes to see whether they’re cause for concern.

Unfortunately, excessive alarm barking can be difficult to control because dogs are instinctively inclined to protect us from perceived threats by emitting warning sounds. This means that simply correcting them or making them stop could make things worse by further exciting or agitating them. 

Reason 3: Anxiety/Nervousness

Dogs can also bark due to anxiety or nervousness. This might happen when they’re left alone, put in a new environment or if they experience something traumatic. For example, dog barking associated with separation anxiety would fall into this category.

Anxiety-based barking is often high-pitched and persistent, with little to no variation in tone. In addition, it can be accompanied by other signs of anxiety, such as pacing, whining and panting. 

If your dog is barking due to anxiety or nervousness, it can be helpful to learn more about why dogs get anxious and what you can do to help reduce their stress levels. This can include training, upping exercise or using natural supplements to help them keep calm. This way, you’ll not only help alleviate their anxiety-related barking but also support them by assisting them to feel better overall. 

7 reasons your dog barks

Reason 4: Attention Seeking

Some dogs bark because they simply want attention. These barks tend to be short and sharp, often repeated rapidly. They might also include whining or howling at the end of the sequence.

Attention-seeking barking is commonly seen in younger dogs, those who haven’t yet learned better ways of communicating and those who have learned that this sort of barking results in good things for them. Most notably, food or treats! It could also be after coming home from work or a trip to the store. Basically, any time your dog has been happily undisturbed for some time. They’ll use barking upon your arrival as an effective way of getting your attention when you return.

With attention-seeking barking, your dog is trying to get something from you. It could be engagement after arriving home, a piece of whatever you’re eating or simply getting you up out of bed so you’ll take them outside. If this behavior isn’t addressed early on and allowed to continue unchecked, it can quickly become a chronic problem that becomes extremely difficult to change. 

Reason 5: Pain or Injury

Some dogs will bark when they’re in pain or injured. This is often seen in older dogs who suffer from arthritis and other age-related conditions. Still, it can occur because of sudden injury — for example, a fall while running in the backyard or missing a step when coming up the stairs. 

This barking is usually very out of character and sounds different from the dog’s normal vocalizations. For example, it might be more high-pitched or include yelping, whimpering or crying sounds. If you think your dog is barking due to pain, it’s important to do a quick physical examination to rule out foreign objects caught in their paws or burrs in their fur. If you can’t find anything, it might be worth taking them to the vet to rule out more serious causes. 

Reason 6: Boredom/Loneliness

lonely dog lying on floor

Dogs are social creatures who love companionship and interaction. When left alone for long periods, they can become bored or lonely, leading to excessive barking. This is slightly different from anxiety barking in that it’s more due to a lack of stimulation and social contact rather than fear or anxiety. 

Dogs who bark from boredom or loneliness often do so when left alone in the house or yard for long periods with nothing to do. They might also start barking if they’re not getting enough exercise and stimulation daily. These barks are typically lower in pitch and repetitive. They might also be accompanied by other signs of boredom or distress, such as pacing and whining. 

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Reason 7: Cognitive Decline

As our dogs age, they become prone to various age-related health conditions, such as arthritis, cancer and cognitive decline. One of the more common signs of cognitive decline in dogs is excessive barking. 

Dogs with cognitive decline often bark for no apparent reason or at things that aren’t really there. They might also pace and circle endlessly or whine and howl. If you think your dog might be showing signs of cognitive decline or canine dementia, it’s important to talk to your vet so they can rule out other possible causes and help you come up with a plan to manage the condition. 

some tips to stop barking

Solutions to Stop Dog Barking

Some dog barking is normal. It’s a dog’s way of communicating and it can be perfectly healthy and expected behavior. However, if your dog is barking excessively, it could be a sign that something is wrong (as we’ve outlined already). And it can definitely be an annoyance for you and your neighbors.

Here are some tips for how to stop dog barking: 

Rule Out Medical Reasons – If you think your dog’s barking might be due to health-related issues, it’s important to talk to your vet. They can rule out any underlying medical causes. Once your pup gets the care they need, you may find that their barking is reduced. However, if the problem is behavioral, there are several things you can do to help address it. 

Exercise – Dog barking is often caused by pent-up energy in your dog. By providing regular activities for your dog, you can ensure that your dog gets all of the physical exertion they need. And a tired dog is a happy dog. They’ll also be less likely to bark out of boredom or frustration. So if you’re looking for an effective solution to dog barking, grab their no pull dog harness and take a few extra spins around the block to provide plenty of exercise for your four-legged friend. Additionally, doing what you can to make exercise as enjoyable as possible for the two of you is really important.

  • The Right Gear – Ensuring you have the proper leash, harness and other essential dog accessories is crucial. For example, if you have a French bulldog, you’ll know they’re built a little differently. Investing in a French bulldog harness will make walks more comfortable for both of you.
  • Keep It Interesting – Keep exercise, especially walks, interesting by varying your routine. Take new routes and allow for some sniffing time here and there. Walk around your neighborhood, explore new dog parks together or even go for a hike on a trail. As long as you keep your dog’s physical capabilities in mind, you can change things up as much as you want and you’ll both be happier for it.

pug wearing beast and buckle harness

Play – The importance of play as a solution to dog barking cannot be overstated. This type of exercise is great for keeping dogs healthy and active. It also provides much-needed mental stimulation. 

  • Satisfies Basic Needs – Dogs are intelligent creatures that thrive on learning and exploration. They can become bored and frustrated when they aren’t provided with the opportunities to do so. This often leads to disruptive or destructive behavior, including excessive barking at everything from passersby to reflections in mirrors. 
  • Worthwhile Investment – Dog owners should try to spend time playing with their pets each day. It provides the perfect outlet for their dog’s physical needs and mental stimulation. In addition, this can help stop dog barking by giving the dog a positive outlet for its energy and curiosity. It also strengthens the bond between dog and owner by allowing them to spend quality time together each day. 

Toys as Distractions – If you’re looking for a way to curb your dog’s enthusiasm for barking, using toys to distract and entertain them is a great solution. While there are many choices, puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys are great options. These toys are designed to keep dogs entertained and engaged, and they can be used to deliver meals or snacks which keep your dog focused. 

  • Puzzle Toys – These come in various styles, and some can be customized to fit your dog’s unique needs or skills. For example, some puzzle toys require your dog to figure out how to open the toy to get the treat inside. Other puzzle toys are about sniffing and finding kibble or treats hidden in folds of fabric or behind sliding mechanisms. 
  • Treat-Dispensing Toys – These are also available in a variety of styles. Some dispense treats randomly as your dog plays with them, while others dispense treats only when your dog performs a specific action. Either way, they’re a fantastic option for making your dog work for a reward or even their breakfast before heading out for work.

Training – Training is another effective solution for dog barking. As we’ve learned, dogs bark for various reasons, and often it’s because they’re trying to get our attention. But of course, there may be other reasons, and each one could require its own solution. So let’s explore a few options. 

  • ‘Be Quiet’ – One way to do this is to train your dog to respond to a “be quiet” command. This can be done by pairing the command with treats when your dog follows directions. The San Francisco SPCA has an excellent guide for helping your dog learn a quiet command.
  • Targeted Techniques – Other methods of training can also help stop dog barking. For example, if you notice that your dog is barking when you leave the house, you can train them to stay quiet by leaving treats or toys that they only have access to when you’re gone. 
  • Professional Help – Lastly, if you’re not having any success on your own, it may be time to reach out to a professional. You can get help from a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist who has experience in this area. This is a good choice when your dog is barking out of anxiety or fear. 

owner embracing dog in harness

Patience and Love

Despite what many people would like to believe, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to stopping dog barking. However, by using a combination of exercise, play, toys and training, you can effectively curb your dog’s barking and improve your relationship with them simultaneously. And remember, patience and love are vital components when training a dog, so don’t be discouraged if you have setbacks. With time, patience and love, you can have the best friend you’ve always wanted... a quiet one!


Image Credits



Aleksey Boyko/Shutterstock.com



Dora Zett/Shutterstock.com

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