Over the years I can not how many times have I heard, from a dog owner I can’t stop my dog barking but you are not alone in this situation and you have my sympathy.
Frustrating, annoying and stressful isn’t it?
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Dogs really are one of those things that seem to be universal across the human spectrum. No matter who you are or where you come from, chances are that there’s a strong relationship between humans and their pet dogs that goes back centuries, if not millennia.
After all, Man’s Best Friend has left its pawprints all across human culture. From Shih-Tzu dogs being bred and cared for in the courts of the Qing Dynasty to the Queen and her corgis to the many Presidential pooches, dogs have found their ways into the halls of power (and often been more popular than their human masters).
Dogs have worked their way into the annals of literature as well, ever since Homer’s Odyssey featured Argus, Odysseus’ ever-loyal dog waiting two decades for his master to come home from Troy and his travels afterward. Teddy Roosevelt, Dorothy Parker, Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe – flip through a who’s who of cultural icons over the past couple of centuries, and you’re sure to find it littered with dog lovers.
I Can’t Stop My Dog Barking. The Reasons
For as loveable as dogs may be, however, there’s at least one pet peeve all owners of pet dogs have had to endure – excessive barking. Sure, all dogs are bound every now and again, but some dogs simply take it too far. There are many reasons that dog bark, of course, some of which are detailed below, but one of the most problematic reasons is likewise one that occurs all too often with toddlers – namely, that they’re making all that racket just to get attention.
Of course, simply saying “my dog keeps barking for attention” is one thing. Actually figuring out why your dog is doing this, and putting an end to it is something different altogether. Thankfully, you need not go “barking mad” over the issue – here are a few reasons that dogs bark for attention and what you can do about that age-old problem.
I Can’t Stop My Dog Barking. Territorial barking.
One of the most common reasons behind that old “my dog keeps barking for attention” quandary is the simple territorial sentiment. Remember that dogs are, at the end of the day, descended from wolves, after all, who are highly territorial.
While the amount of wolfishness still existing deep down within your dog may vary (whoever equates “Shih-Tzu” or “Pomeranian” with “wolf?”) that sense of territorial-ness still abides. These territorial urges can be exacerbated all the more if you have just brought a new dog into the family.
Sure, your old dog is usually very sweet and calm, but the moment another dog starts honing in on its territory, those territorial urges are bound to start asserting themselves.
As such, one of the ways of dealing with this type of barking conundrum is to deal with the source, namely, the presence of your new pet. Do your best to keep the two separated for a time, including isolating your old dog from any of your new one’s toys or scents. Only allow the two in the same area when you have treats ready for both of them, as this can help them form positive associations towards one another.
In addition, if you keep your dog outside, there are other means to remedy this issue, most notably with the use of fencing. One reason dogs can bark when feeling territorial is that they also feel threatened. Fencing them off-limits their field of vision, and thus prevents them from seeing things (such as your new dog) which they may perceive to be a threat. Wooden fencing is a better choice here than chain link fencing, as the latter can still allow your dog to glimpse whatever’s bothering it.
I Can’t Stop My Dog Barking. Anxious barking.
Related to territorial barking, anxious barking can be yet another reason that “my dog keeps barking for attention.” In this case, that plea for attention is typically taking on a more pathetic, anxious, or even fearful connotation. If you hear your dog whimpering as well as barking, or barking with a sense of urgency, this may be the cause. If so, you need to do what you can to try and calm your dog down.
At the moment, you’ll want to handle your dog with a calm yet firm command of “Quiet.” Of course, actually getting your dog to obey that command is easier said than done, but you still want to give the command nonetheless. Over time, backed up by proper reinforcement, your dog should come to respond to this command.
Thinking bigger picture, your dog may be feeling anxiety for a variety of behavioral reasons, including separation anxiety, which may require additional attention. If problems with your dog persist, you may want to take them to an animal behaviorist. Whatever their underlying problems may be, you need to get the source of their anxiety diagnosed, or no amount of treats or commands will stop their barking.
I Can’t Stop My Dog Barking. Playful Barking.
Then again, your dog may not be barking up a storm out of fear or anxiety, but rather happiness and joy. On the one hand, you’d always rather be able to say “my dog keeps barking for attention” because your pet’s happy rather than territorial or anxious.
On the other hand, there’s every chance that your pet may be one of those Energizer Bunny-Esque bundles of energy that is simply always ready to play. While that may sound like fun, and quite often is, it can still be a bit exhausting when it’s 3 A.M., but your dog still wants to play like it’s the middle of the day.
One of the most common solutions to this issue is to teach them other ways of expressing that playful attitude. You don’t want to be overly harsh with them – it may not stop them from barking, and all it will do is potentially quash the cheerful spirit that can make your furry friend so special.
Instead, feed into that playful impulse by tapping into your own inner Mary Poppins and making the job of being quiet into a game. A Spoonful of Sugar may not make the medicine go down any easier for dogs, but treats will.
Positive reinforcement when they do something correctly can go a long way towards forming long-term behaviors you want to see in them. If they keep barking for attention, making “Quiet” and “Stay” while waiting for a treat into a game can help alleviate the barking.
I Can’t Stop My Dog Barking. Greeting Barking.
Related to playful barking, having your dog bark excessively when first meeting someone or else “greeting” people as they come into your home is all too common. Indeed, anyone with a dog knows that the second they hear the door, garage, footsteps, or voices, the barking is liable to begin and might well continue for some time.
This can be due to a mixture of factors. If your dog is incredibly friendly, it might very well think it’s “greeting” the new arrivals. If they are in “Guard Dog Mode,” it may be just the opposite, and they may instead think that they are warning you of “danger” afoot.
Whatever the reason may be, for as much as you may initially be glad for the “welcome,” chances are that you’re going to eventually want it to stop so that you and your guests can speak normally. This is especially true if the barking is accompanied by other actions – for example, leaping upon guests or else putting their paws on the furniture.
If any of this sounds familiar, you may well want to try training your dog to run to and wait in a specific spot when they hear you approaching. Reward them for a job well done with a treat when initially training them to do so. This can help condition them to wait more patiently and without the barking. Conversely, you don’t want to reward your dog for barking or jumping all over you. Wait until they are calm and go to the proper spot.
Then again, maybe your dog isn’t barking because they’re playful, but rather because there’s far too little play in their lives. If that’s the case, then that might well be on you more than then. Dogs need to have a lot of playtime and exercise.
If your dog is barking a lot out of boredom, it might well be that they’re not getting enough of that all-important playtime and exercise time, in which case they’ll need more. That said, saying that is one thing – actually finding that time is another.
Hiring a dog walker can be a stopgap measure to that “my dog keeps barking for attention” problem from a boredom standpoint, as it’s addressing both the lack of attention and thus boredom at its core. Professional dog walkers know how to take a single dog or an entire pack out for a walk while giving them the stimulation and attention they need. If you are too busy with work to be able to do that, these can be fantastic options.
Do they Get Lonely
A related option would be sending your dog to a “dog daycare” of sorts. This can be a good option if you are headed out on a long trip and cannot take your dog with you. Naturally, without their master and best friend around, your dog is going to be lonely, and so might be apt to bark up a storm in your absence.
After all, as stated, from Homer’s Argus in the Odyssey onward, mankind has always known just how loyal dogs are and how much they can miss us when we’re gone. A good daycare center will provide your dog with everything they need in your absence – spacious interiors in which to play, warm beds in which to sleep, plenty of food and treats, toys, and of course chances for socialization.
Then again, your dog’s lonely barking may stem from its being lonely instead. While this can be addressed with the aforementioned dog walker, it can also be addressed with another dog. Granted, this scenario can introduce some of the problems already described, so it’s something of a balancing act here.
You simply have to know your dog and be able to guess whether another canine playmate will be positive or negative in the long-term in terms of keeping them occupied.
There is also the option of getting your dog new toys which are specifically designed to help alleviate this boredom problem in your absence. Naturally, every toy can help alleviate boredom, but some are more effective at helping with dog boredom in the absence of a master than others.
For example, toys that dispense a limited number of treats can be a great way to keep your dog happy and occupied. More fun still can be automatic ball launching machines. These can be programmed to do just what their name would imply – allow your dog to partake in an ongoing game of fetch with the ball after the ball while you’re otherwise engaged.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure to set up this latter option carefully. You hardly want the ball launcher to shoot with machine-gun force around your home, or for the balls to land in areas that you don’t want your dog racing towards and potentially upsetting things. That said, properly calibrated, these dog ball launchers can provide hours of automated fun and exercise for your dog in your absence.
What Not to Do.
Finally, there are a few ways you never want to respond to excessive barking:
- Don’t send mixed signals to your dog by having them bark at some things and condemning them for barking at others. It might make perfect sense to you to draw a distinction between barking at a cat in real-life but not one on TV, but for your dog, the distinction might easily be lost.
- Never hit or scream at your dog under any circumstances.
- Using a muzzle doesn’t address any of the actual reasons given above for your dog barking, and therefore, is not only potentially inhumane, but it is likewise ineffective at actually stopping the behavior you want to stop.
With all of this in mind, you can help address the question of your dog’s barking and hopefully enjoy years of great fun without their barking up a storm.