Why does my dog bark?

Barking is just one of the many ways dogs communicate with us and other dogs, and they do it for many reasons, whether excitement, attention-seeking, aggression, fear, anxiety, or just plain boredom. Whatever the reason, barking can be a noisy nuisance for neighbours, if not for the owners, and determining the reason for it is the first step towards stopping the behaviour.

From a dog's point of view, barking at the front door is very rewarding. The doorbell rings, the dog barks excitedly, then a lovely human visitor gives them a friendly greeting and pat when the door is opened. What's not to love? But barking isn't just noisy, it can be frightening for visitors, so you do need to stop it. Putting your dog in a separate area until they settle down can help. Or you can retrain your dogs to come to you and take a treat when the doorbell rings. You and all visitors should also ignore the dogs at the front door, as the doggy interpretation of any kind of attention is reward for the behaviour!

Attention-seeking barking occurs only when the owner is present and is directed at the owner. The only effective remedy is to ignore it completely. That means no reaction, not even eye contact, and especially no yelling 'no' or 'stop'. At the same time, the dog should be rewarded with food treats or play when they are quiet.

Sometimes dogs bark just because it's fun when they're bored. It's particularly common in dogs with an active temperament because they are always looking for the next activity! Try changing mealtime routines by feeding from food release devices, or even throwing food in the back yard so your dog has to retrieve it to eat it. And never underestimate the importance of exercise. Active, healthy dogs should be walked twice daily for a minimum of 30 minutes, some of which should be off-leash to provide lots of sniffing and socialising opportunities as well as physical exercise. And make sure your dog has plenty of toys. Rotate them daily to provide novelty if necessary.


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