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October 15, 2012

Why Dogs Bark

Check out some of the reasons why dogs sound off

dog about to bark

iStockphoto

Dogs have a lot to say, and they do it by barking. They bark to go out, come in, to tell you a stranger's in your yard, and at people, cars, and other animals.

Too much barking or barking at inappropriate times can be a problem. You want to be respectful of your neighbors as well as local laws, so you need to get your dog's barking under control.

In order to determine why your dog barks, you may need to do some clever detective work—especially if it occurs when you're not home. You can ask your neighbors what they see and hear, go around the block and watch and listen, start a tape recorder or video camera when you leave the house. After some sleuthing, you may be able to find out which of the following common problems is causing your dog to bark.

Common causes of barking

Attention/Demand: Your dog may want to eat, go outside, or your undivided attention.

Boredom/Frustration: Your dog may have been left outside day and night, or confined to one room for a long period of time.

Fear: Your dog may be afraid of objects, people, places, other animals, or loud noises such as thunder and fireworks.
Tip: Your dog's posture can tell you if he's barking out of fear. Typically his ears are back, and his tail is held low.

Territoriality/Protectiveness: Your dog is barking in the presence of "intruders," which may include people and other dogs in adjacent yards.
Tip: If your dog is being territorial, his posture appears threatening with his tail held high and his ears up and forward.

Playfulness/Excitement: Your dog may be overly playful and excited when greeting people.

Health Issues: Your dog may have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or deafness, causing him to bark because he's unable to hear himself bark.

Dealing with health-related barking

Some dogs bark because of age-related dementia or deafness. Be patient with your dog. Keep his environment simple and orderly; don't make frequent changes. Talk to your vet about medications that may help the dementia. Teach your deaf dog the "quiet" command using hand signals or a flash of light or a vibrating collar (NOT a shock collar) as the cue instead of saying the word "quiet."

Dealing with multiple barking dogs

If you share your home and your life with more than one dog, you know how they can set each other off. The doorbell rings and deafening, out-of-control barking ensues. You must train each dog individually before you can work with them as a group. It takes a little more effort to settle your pack of wild hounds, but you'll be rewarded with a group of well-mannered dogs. And your friends and relatives will no longer dread coming to your house!

After you find the cause of barking, check out some ways to get him to stop »

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