Is your dog's barking impacting your neighbourhood?
The first step in addressing the problem is working out why he barks. The most common causes are:
- Anxious of frightened
- Hungry or thirsty
- Uncomfortable (too hot or cold, in a cramped area)
- Seeking attention
- Sick or injured
- Feeling threatened
If you've made sure he's well fed, has plenty of water, is healthy and comfortable, then you might need to take extra steps to eliminate the cause, especially if the problem barking happens when you are away from home.
If you get on well with your neighbours, or they've approached you about your dog's barking, ask them to take notes of when your dog is barking. Does he bark non-stop when you leave the house? Does the postman drive him insane? Is he getting worked up in the middle of the day? Or does he want to have a talk?
You can also “pretend” to leave home. Follow your normal routine, park your car down the street and quietly walk home. Listen from outside your property to see if your dog starts barking. Or ask a friend to drop by and see if your pooch is barking.
If you can not identify what is causing your dog to bark, talk to a vet or animal behaviourist, such as a dog trainer, who can help.
What can you do?
Here are some simple steps you can take to address your dog's barking. Have your own tips? Share them in the comments at the bottom of this page.
What can you do?
Here are some simple steps you can take to address your dog's barking.
Below are a series of tips for reducing barking. You can also download this information in the Tips to Address Nuisance Barking fact sheet ( PDF, 0.43 MB ).
Your dog needs a 40 minute walk every day
A tired dog will not bark if it is resting or sleeping. Regular exercise tires your dog physically - a young, medium-to-large dog needs 40 minutes of exercise a day.
And if you add some training activities to your walk, such as sit or drop at regular intervals during your walk, you will wear him out mentally as well. If your dog barks during the day, consider walking him in the morning before you leave the house.
Your dog needs 3 to 4 different toys each day
Give your dog a chew toy containing food just before you leave home. Or create a treasure hunt by hiding food around the yard rather than putting it all in a bowl. Your dog will spend ages trying to get to its breakfast!
Provide some toys, a meaty bone or some treats, such as a doggy ice block made by freezing a bone in a container filled with water. Make sure to change your dog’s toys regularly - he needs two or three different distractions each day.
You can also create a digging haven by burying treats. A clam shell pool filled with dirt or sand is great for this.
Take away the distraction
If your dog is barking at every disturbance outside your yard, be it people or other animals some of the following may assist:
Block your dog’s view so he can’t see beyond the fence. Some black plastic sheeting or matting attached to your fence could work.
Secure your dog inside or in the back yard, away from distractions.
Or den (crate) your dog in a comfortable but secure location. The den or crate becomes your dog’s “security blanket”. Be sure to follow the RSPCA recommendations.
Find your pet a new friend
Dogs are pack animals and generally don’t like to be alone.
Consider hiring a dog walker to walk your dog during the day or send your pet to doggy daycare. An alternative is to organise a dog “play date” with a friend’s dog so the two pets can entertain each other.
Or if you are able, take your dog for a walk during your lunch break.
Don't make a fuss when leaving home
The most common form of anxiety is separation anxiety and occurs when you leave your dog alone.
Just knowing you are about to leave the house can spark excessive barking. It’s therefore important not to make a fuss when you leave or return home. When you make a big deal of leaving or returning it becomes a big deal for your pet.
Dogs pick up on patterns very quickly and can anticipate your movements, so another option is to vary your routine so you don’t trigger the anxiety.
You can also try leaving the radio or tv on when you are out or leaving your dog in a small room, like a laundry, with some clothes or other items that have your scent on them.
Training your dog to sit or lie on a mat and not follow you everywhere can help as can getting your dog used to being left outside, even when you are at home.
Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) has been shown to help some dogs. It plugs into a wall socket or can be won in a collar. Most vets can assist.
You can train your dog not to bark.
One way is to take away the “reward” for barking.
For example, if every time your dog barks for attention you get up and walk out of the room, or silently turn your back, your dog will eventually learn that barking is counter-productive. Owners need to be aware that the dog may tend to try even harder to get noticed in the early stages of this training.
Another way is training an “off switch”. This is a two-step process.
1: Encourage your dog to bark and then praise him, repeat the word “speak” and offer a reward. Continue to use the “speak” command and praise and reward your pet. Do not praise or reward him if he barks without the command.
2: Now that your dog barks on command, teach him to stop on command. When your dog barks on command introduce the word “stop” or “quiet” then praise and reward him when he stops. Only praise and reward your dog when he responds to the stop or quiet command.
More detailed info
This workshop with local expert Linda Mair, of Canine Training School, provides a more in-depth look at the causes of barking and how you can address them.
Or why not try a training plan to teach your dog not to bark?