Is there anything more annoying than a dog that is constantly barking? I don’t know about you, but I’m hard pressed to find it. The thing is, your dog is barking for a reason. He’s trying to tell you something, but if you don’t know what he’s trying to say, there’s no way you can hope to stop him.
Don’t panic. By the end of this post you’re going to have a much better understanding of what to do, or at least what your next step should be. For now I can tell you this. If you’re yelling at him or giving him treats because that’s the only way you’ve found he’ll stop…he’s never going to stop.
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You can’t expect a dog to never bark, it’s how they communicate. It becomes a problem when the barking is excessive. Not only is it obviously annoying to everyone in your household, think about how your neighbours feel listening to your dog bark all the time. You may be at work, but if they’re home they’re stuck with that racket, and at some point you’re going to have trouble with them and possibly even the authorities. If you live in an apartment building you can even get evicted because of it.
How do I get my dog to stop barking?
The answer to that will depend on why he’s barking, so keep reading for more details. Having said that, I will give you this quick tip. If your dog is barking at you for attention, ignore him. Don’t say anything, don’t look at him, just ignore him. When he stops barking give him a treat. He will learn that not barking is more lucrative.
Will ignoring him be difficult? Yes. Your dog is probably used to getting what he wants, so when he sees that’s not happening he will try and wear you down. He’s not being vindictive, he’s just trying to get what he’s always gotten. Be prepared for him to ramp up the volume and intensity. Will you be tempted to give him that treat just to shut him up? Yes. Will you have to cover your mouth to stop from yelling? Yes. Stay strong and your dog will learn.
What not to do to stop the barking
◊ Don’t yell at your dog – it means nothing to him other than a lot of noise, and it won’t work
◊ Never hit your dog – first of all it’s cruel, and it will cause him to fear you
◊ Don’t put a muzzle on him – again, not a solution just a band aid
◊ Don’t pay him attention when he’s barking – if he’s barking for attention and you respond, you’ve taught him barking gets him what he wants
◊ Don’t encourage him to bark at some things but not others. It’s a confusing message
◊ Don’t give him treats – It may stop him temporarily but it’s not the answer
◊ Do not debark your dog – this is surgery to remove your dog’s vocal cords – sounds barbaric to me
Is the barking a new behaviour?
Before we jump in, I need to ask if the excessive barking is a new behaviour. If you have a newly adopted dog, keep reading. If this is happening with a dog you’ve had for quite some time and nothing in your home, environment or his life has changed, I recommend you make an appointment to see your vet.
Any unusual behaviours, particularly if your dog is older, could indicate a problem. The sooner you have him checked out, the sooner you can get a diagnosis and start treatment.
What causes a dog to bark excessively?
- Wants to play
- Vision/hearing loss
It makes a lot of humans feel good when they come home and their dog is so excited to see them. You may not mind him jumping all over you, but your guests may not feel the same way. Instead of re-writing an article I just wrote on this topic, I am including a link – “How to Stop Your Dog Jumping on People in 3 Easy Steps.”
How do I get my dog to stop barking when he wants to play
Dogs need to play with you, other dogs…anyone who’s willing! They need the physical exercise, the mental stimulation and the chance to socialise as well. If your dog is barking at you to play, then go play. Before you get told off, it’s good to schedule some play time every day.
My dog Jack has developed a friendship with a neighbour’s dog I call T (for short), so most days he has to pass by and say hello. Two days ago T was in his fenced in front yard, and he started barking at me until I opened the gate so Jack could go and play. Attention seeking barking I ignore, but not this kind!
Is barking a sign of pain?
Dogs can be very good at hiding pain, so sometimes the only indication they are in pain is a change in behaviour.
◊ Sleep more
◊ Don’t want to get off their bed
◊ Loss of appetite
◊ Aren’t interested in playing
◊ Snapping or growling at anyone who goes near him
The bark of a dog in pain is often rapid and high pitched. The only solution in this situation is to get him to your vet as quickly as possible.
How to stop your dog barking for attention
As I mentioned briefly above, the best way to stop your dog barking for attention is to not give him any. Looking at him, even if you don’t say anything is considered attention. Ignore him, don’t speak, don’t look at him, leave the room if you have to. When he stops give him a treat or a puzzle toy to keep him busy. It’s great for mental stimulation.
Is barking a sign of stress and anxiety?
Stress caused by moving, a new person coming into the home or having been recently adopted can all lead to excessive barking. Here are some easy ways to help.
◊ Stick to your dog’s schedule and routine
◊ Pay him extra attention
◊ Create a quiet area for him to retreat to when needed
◊ Set up an extra bed, toys and water bowl in another room that’s all his own
◊ Turn an unused area under the stairs into his private den
◊ An Adaptil plug in mimics natural pheromones that can soothe an anxious dog. Plug it into the socket of the room he spends the most time in. You can try the collar and spray as well.
◊ Other natural anti anxiety treatments include Valerian, Valerian and Skullcap, Rescue Remedy and CBD oil. Please speak with your vet before trying something new.
◊ A Thundershirt, think of it as an anti anxiety wrap, has been known to work wonders
◊ I found the CD called Through a Dog’s Ear was a life changer for my dog. There is a lot of free calming dog music on Youtube to try, but I found this worked best.
Separation anxiety is a different story, and can be difficult to treat. This is when your dog gets anxious when left alone. Anxiety can be mild to so severe he will destroy your house.
I have outlined some steps to help, but you may need the assistance of a certified and experienced behaviourist.
Starting your dog on one of the natural options mentioned above while doing the training can help, or you may need anti anxiety medication in a severe case. Please ask your vet or holistic vet for advice.
Here are some tips on helping your dog deal with separation anxiety
Tire him out: Taking him for a nice long walk, run or hike will tire him out and may make him more relaxed about you leaving
Shake up your routine: Most of us have a routine we follow each time we’re ready to leave the house. Your dog quickly figures it out, and knows when you’re about to leave. Some dogs go into full panic mode before anyone steps out the door.
Changing your routine may help. For example, he knows that when you put your coat on, you leave the house. Why not put your coat on randomly during the day, then open the mail. Grab your keys, and put them in a different place.
After a few weeks with no discernible pattern, his separation anxiety may be less evident as you walk out the door.
Never make a big deal out of coming or going: Don’t make a whole story out of leaving, and no matter how much you missed him, don’t scoop him up like a baby and hug him when you get home. It may make you feel better, but quite honestly, it simply adds to his anxiety. You’ll be doing him a big favour if you don’t pay attention to him a few minutes before you leave, and for a few minutes after you get back. This shows him your absence is temporary, and nothing to be concerned about.
Practice longer and longer absences: This exercise is to help you build up the amount of time you can be out of the house, without him having an anxiety attack. Be advised that this takes time, patience, and commitment. It is critical that throughout this training, your dog must never be allowed to reach a highly anxious state. Plan to spend about 30 minutes a session.
◊ Begin by going outside for a couple of minutes, than coming right back. Remember, don’t make a big deal out of it.
◊ If your dog suffers from severe anxiety, you may only be able to step outside for a second, before having to coming back in. If that’s the case, than a second it will have to be.
◊ Once you’re inside go about your business for a few minutes, giving your dog a chance to relax. When you next go out, stay out a bit longer.
◊ That might mean only 2 seconds, than 3 the next. That’s fine, just keep increasing.
◊ You can also vary the length of time you stay out. For instance – say you’ve worked up to 7 minutes, the next time leave for 4 minutes, then 8, than 5.
◊ Within a few weeks, your dog’s anxiety should be significantly reduced.
Helping your dog right now: The above suggestions do take time to work, and in the meantime, your dog will still be anxious, and still be barking. Have someone you trust take him out during the day, or hire a dog walker. He’ll get some much needed company, and exercise. A doggy daycare facility will keep your dog entertained all day. Of course these “fixes” are just a band aid, but they can help until he unlearns his panic response.
Other things that may help with the anxiety, and ultimately the barking:
◊ Put one of your t-shirts or sweaters in his bed. Your scent may comfort him.
◊ Ask your vet if it’s worth trying an anti anxiety shirt (Thundershirt)
◊ Leave a radio on low, playing soothing music.
◊ Help your dog learn independence by paying him attention when you want, not when he wants. He will soon learn he gets more attention by not constantly looking for it.
Barking because of boredom and/or loneliness
◊ Dogs are left alone in the yard because owners thinks that constitutes exercise
◊ Of course people have to work, but it’s not fair to leave a dog alone 8, 10, 12 hours a day
◊ Not getting regular exercise/not getting walked even when the owner is around
◊ No mental stimulation – puzzle toys, games
◊ Rarely/never having the opportunity to socialise with other dogs
All this pent up energy can easily lead to anxiety.
If this is the reason your dog is barking so much, the solution is simple –
◊ Take your dog out for walks, yes even if that means getting up earlier
◊ Buy or make puzzle toys to get his mind active
◊ Have a friend/family member/neighbour or dog walker take your dog for a walk while you’re out
◊ How about doggie daycare? I know it can get expensive, so how about once or twice a week?
Since this type of barking is typically motivated by fear or a perceived threat to his territory or family, you can help by limiting access to the windows or doors he looks out of. A chain fence can be replaced with wood, a favourite chair in the front of the window where he surveys his kingdom could be moved.
My dog Jack is a territorial barker, and due to his abusive past it is, at least partially, fear based. In our case we can’t do anything about where the furniture is, so he barks. I never let it get out of hand, and I find what helps is to go over to him when he’s barking and talk to him. I ask him things like “Who are you barking at?” “Who has the nerve to come near your window?” “Who’s that?” Than I thank him, and as odd as it may sound this works.
It’s true that won’t help if you’re out, but perhaps setting up a nice cosy space in a hallway or room without window access is a good solution.
For those of you who have never shared their life with a senior dog, or have but not one that developed dementia, I can tell you it’s real. It’s not uncommon for a dog who has dementia to start barking, often for no reason. It is a progressive disease and one that can cause a great deal of anxiety for dog and human. Below is a short list of just some of the options you can try.
Anipryl/Selgian – prescription medication designed to slow down its progression.
CBD oil – new companies are popping up all the time, and not all products are quality. NuLeaf is one brand found to be very helpful by many senior dog parents I know. Visit their website to learn more.
Senilife – supplement containing antioxidants to help reduce brain-aging behaviours.
Melatonin – a naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pineal gland at the base of the brain, it is recommended as a possible way to restore the sleep/wake cycle. Many dog with dementia sleep most of the day, then wander and are anxious and bark during the night.
Bioacoustically designed classical music – Through a Dog’s Ear was created by a psychoacoustic expert and veterinary neurologist. Studies have shown it reduced anxiety behaviour and induced calmness in 70% of dogs in shelters or kennels, and 85% of dogs in households.
Vibrating mattress pad for babies – recommended by a senior dog mom I know, this made a massive difference. Her dog went from wandering and barking for hours, to being able to relax and sleep. This is the one she bought.
nutracalm – manufactured in the UK, it helps reduce anxiety, and definitely helped my dog Red with her barking.
If your dog is losing her eyesight, hearing or both, imagine how scary and confusing that must be for her. Don’t be surprised if your dog starts barking a lot, and you can’t blame her. She needs time to adjust to these changes, and barking is a way she will express her anxiety and fear. Thankfully there are so many things you can do to help her live a wonderful, happy and good quality life.
Depending on how your dog is coping, adding a natural calming aid may be a good idea, but please speak to your vet first. There are lots of options with Adaptil, Valerian and Rescue Remedy just a few of them.
My dog was blind, so I understand the issue of excessive barking as they adapt. These are all the things I did to help my dog, and I hope they help yours.
Don’t move furniture around: If you’re living with a blind/partially blind dog, you don’t want her to bang into something that wasn’t there yesterday. If I need a room change, buy pillows or a new accessory.
Be mindful of toys on the floor: Whether they belong to your dogs or kids, stumbling over a small soft toy can cause injury and anxiety.
Don’t move water bowls: Let her learn where they are, and keep them in one place.
Leave her beds in the same place: If one needs washing or replacing, put a blanket down so she knows she’s was in the right place.
Teach her the word “careful:” I taught my dog this over time,. Whenever she banged into something or came close I said “careful” and she gradually made the association. She learned it so well that as soon as I said it she would immediately stop and change direction.
Don’t startle your dog when sleeping: Call her name or very gently touch her, so she doesn’t get scared.
Let her know it’s time to go out: When it’s walk time or she just needs a quick pee, don’t just pick her, but first let her know what you’re going to do. I always said “let’s go for a walk” or “you have to go out?” so I didn’t scare her.
Tell her you’ll be back: When leaving the house, no matter for how long, I always said “I’ll be right back” or “I’ll be back soon” – this way my dog never wondered where everyone went. It’s exactly what you shouldn’t do if a dog has separation anxiety, but Red didn’t so it was fine.
Watch out for drawer handles, door edges and table legs: Drawer handles near food or water bowls can be wrapped in fabric so she doesn’t get hurt. Door edges, table and chair legs can be covered in pipe covers slit down the middle. They can be found in any home improvement store.
Block access to stairs: Close basement doors and put baby gates at the top and bottom of the staircase
◊ The best way to communicate is by using sign language. Get tips through training videos for American Sign Language or come up with your own hand signals.
◊ Look out for a behaviour you like and reward it. If your dog happens to be sitting, use the hand signal you’ve chosen for “sit” then give him a treat, and do it each time he’s sitting. Choose another signal for come etc… Make sure each one is different, clear and visible from a distance.
◊ If your dog is partially deaf, talking louder will help. Okay that was obvious!!
◊ If your pup is playing in the garden at night, flicking the lights on and off will get his attention.
◊ To wake him or get his attention, a stomp on the floor with a heavy shoe or boot will cause vibrations your dog will feel. You could also stand near him and lightly touch him, or put a treat under his nose so he wakes up to something pleasant
◊ Throw a very soft and light toy into his line of sight to get his attention
◊ Be mindful of your surroundings when out walking. Your dog will rely on you to know what’s coming
◊ Play dates with doggie friends will keep him active and socialising, if the park is too overwhelming
◊ Block off porch entrance with a gate to prevent your dog running off if he gets out the front door
◊ Letting your deaf/hearing impaired dog off a leash is your decision. A safer alternative is to use a long training leash. He’ll have some freedom while staying safe.
Has this post helped you figure out why your dog has been barking so much? I hope you’ll try some of the tips presented here, and I’d love to hear about your progress, simply leave a comment below.
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