Why Does My Dog Bark?
Barking is normal behaviour for dogs and makes up part of the way they communicate. It is normal for a dog to bark briefly when there is a noise at their territorial boundary or a knock at the door. Yet it is not normal for them to bark for two hours or at every noise or movement they detect.
Understanding the situation the dog is in when it barks helps reveal the motivation.
Dogs commonly bark when:
- Excited or aroused
- Startled or alarmed
- Bored or frustrated
Unfortunately in some situations dogs learn that barking is worthwhile and may repeat the behaviour in the same situation in the future. It basically gets reinforced and can then become problem barking.
One common explanation for excessive barking is that the dog is anxious. Being anxious is normal in certain situations but an anxiety disorder is more than this. The default behaviour of problem barkers is to perceive any noise or movement as threats resulting in persistent barking in many more situations than a normal dog. Scolding or punishment often worsens these dogs and owners often receive complaints from neighbours and council rangers.
At Milton Village Vet we can help owners of problem barking dogs. Ideally we prefer to see them before you use one of those citronella collars. We reduce anxiety with medication and Adaptil calming pheromone, and then institute a behavioural management plan which includes:
- Making sure there are no underlying medical problems
- Ensuring the dog’s physical and mental needs are met
- Identify and remove access to the reason why the dog believes that barking is worthwhile
- Teach the dog to be quiet upon request and consistently and positively reward quiet calm behaviour particularly if in the presence of a bark stimulus
- Teach owners how to avoid inadvertently reinforcing anxiety or the bark response and instead use distraction techniques to give the dog something better to do
- Teach the dog how to relax using reward based techniques