Dogs that bark a lot
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Dogs that bark a lot: tips

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Dogs don’t just bark for no reason, and they don’t do it to irritate us either. However, some dogs do bark more than others. Why? What can you do to control her barking? We have some tips for you that will help. Barking is a natural form of communication for dogs, and they bark in a range of very different situations and contexts. It’s interesting that dogs tend to use barking more than other species of canid. Experts believe this could be a result of intentional genetic selection on the part of human beings during the domestication process. So basically they're saying that it was we humans who chose as companions precisely those dogs that bark a lot, because this facilitated communication.

Reasons why dogs bark a lot

1. Genetic

It’s not known exactly to what degree genetics influences behaviour, but it’s clear that breed (or mix of breeds) has an extremely powerful effect on a dog’s predisposition to bark. 

This is because dog breeds are a result of a process of selective breeding by humans, who chose the characteristics they considered to be most useful to them in each case. 

Breeds of dog that bark a lot 

Examples of the ‘noisiest’ breeds are::

  • Pack dogs, (Beagles, Basset Hounds, etc.), who bark to subdue their prey, and to indicate where it is.
  • Terriers, who were genetically selected to hunt small prey such as rats, badgers, or rabbits. These dogs had to dig underground, or get into burrows and bark if they got trapped there.  
  • Some guard dogs: for example German Shepherds, who have a natural tendency to bark when they sense danger.

2. Frustration or excitement

Some dogs bark a lot when they don’t get what they want, or when they’re over excited.. 

An example of this is when dogs bark on their way to the park because they're in a hurry to arrive, but can’t get there as quickly as they'd like to (we ask them to walk at human speed since we can’t let them go on their own).

How to solve the problem

There is no miracle cure for barking due to frustration or excitement. It’s a question of training your dog on a day to day basis so that she’s able to tolerate minor annoyances that can frustrate her. Here are a few tips: 

  • Don’t let your dog get everything she wants, when she wants it, and how she wants it. And above all not if she’s barking to tell you about it. She needs to understand and respect limits.
  • Always reward her when she waits patiently to get what she wants (without barking or jumping, etc.), to let her know that this is the behaviour you want to encourage.  
  • Be understanding and patient with her, and don’t turn daily life into a list of very strict norms. We all need to feel that we’re living in a warm, friendly environment. 

3. Attention seeking

Some Dogs who bark a lot do so because they’ve realised that this is a successful strategy for getting what they want: if I bark, they give me whatever it is I’m asking for. 

We’ve already said that barking is a way of communicating with us human beings, and it’s good that dogs use it to ask us for things. But if yours is one of those that expresses her every need by barking, or simply barks to get your attention, then you need to remedy the situation:

How to solve the problem

  • Never give in when your dog is barking to get your attention. You need to show her that this is not the way to do things. 
  • Be consistent, and don't forget to attend to her needs so she doesn't need to bark at you. 
  • Suggest an alternative way for her to communicate with you: to do this you need to be observant, and anticipate when you see that she wants something. As soon as she looks at you, give her what she wants, and she’ll learn that she doesn’t need to bark. For example if your dog is one of those who bark a lot when they want to play,don’t wait, get in there right away! 

4. Warning bark

Some dogs bark when they hear an unexpected noise, or when the doorbell rings. They do this to warn the rest of their ‘human pack’. It’s a question of instinct. 

How to solve the problem

The warning bark is one of the most difficult to correct, as it’s a spontaneous and instinctive response, one that makes a lot of sense given the evolutionary strategy adopted by dogs. 

Anti-bark collars: yes or no?

There are a range of anti-bark collars on the market for dogs who bark a lot. Some work by punishing the dog with an electric shock if she barks. Others release the scent of citronella, a smell that dogs dislike intensely, or simply a sound and a vibration.  

Choosing this way of modifying your dog’s conduct, both for barking as a form of warning and for other reasons, is a personal choice. However,  you need to be aware that the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology (ESVE) and the Grupo de Especialidad de Etología Clínica de AVEPA do not recommend these collars, as they put both the physical and emotional health of the dog at risk. 

5. Fear and/ or anxiety

Many dogs bark when something frightens them: another dog, a person,. or a situation. 

If your dog barks when she’s at home on her own, this could be related to what’s called separation anxiety. 

How to solve the problem

The first thing you need to do in the case of a dog who barks because she’s frightened or anxious, is to find out why: what is it that she’s scared of?

Once you’ve identified the root of the problem, with the help of an expert you need to consider a form of therapy that will help to modify her behaviour.

In brief, treating a dog who’s frightened of something involves:

  • Getting her to gradually face up to whatever it is that she's afraid of, by controlling exposure in terms of distance, intensity, etc., but in such a way that doesn’t provoke  a negative reaction. 
  • Associating what your dog’s scared with a positive emotional stimulus, by rewarding her, and never punishing her.

6. Organic causes and/or compulsive barking

Some Dogs who bark a lot do so due to some kind of health issue. For example, barking can be a symptom of certain neurological disorders. 
On the other hand there is a form of compulsive barking. This can be a form of stereotypical behaviour. 

How to solve the problem

The answer always involves a visit to the veterinary ethology clinic for an assessment of the specific case of your dog,  so that a treatment can be recommended. 

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