Company of Animals

Excessive barking

Why does my dog bark?

Mostly commonly, dogs bark during exciting situations and exhibit attention seeking behaviour. If your dog barks manically at the production of their lead, during playtime or at the arrival of a family member or visitor, then it is likely that your dog has linked their barking to the exciting outcome. Your dog may even think their barking is what makes the walk, game or arrival happen! You can check out our “How dogs learn” post here

What to do

Stop for silence

As with all attention seeking behaviour, removal of that attention or outcome is what will stir a change. For example, if your dog barks during a specific activity e.g. whilst preparing your dog’s dinner. Progress towards their goal outcome (being fed) should stop and refrain from given any attention until the barking stops. Once your dog quiet, progress can continue. The principal of stopping an activity for calm and quiet applies for all excitement barking.

Time out

In some instances, it’s not possible or realistic to stop the exciting activity i.e. a visitor arriving at the house. In these cases, you should remove the dog. The best way to remove the dog without giving the attention they want is by using a house line. You can pick up the house line and remove your dog from the situation for a “time out”. If, once allowed back in, your dog immediately begins to bark again, you can briefly exclude them again. Of course, the house line should only be fitted when he is supervised.

Be immediate

In order for this to be effective, the consequence (i.e. stopping the activity or removal from the situation) must occur immediately the barking starts and resume as soon as they are quiet so your dog can make the association, If you continue to ignore your dog once they have stopped barking then they will not be able to make link to the consequence and the reward with stopping.

Stick it out

Be aware that when you first start this training, your dog may increase their barking. This is because they have learnt in the past that stopping is what brings success. The worst mistake to make at this time is to respond as you will simply have taught your dog to bark harder and louder in future!

Top tips

Is this article not for you? Check out our post on barking at people or other dogs

Fiona Whelan ~ Pet Behaviourist

Fiona has been working at the Training and Behaviour Centre as a behaviour specialist since 2002, and previously ran her own training and behaviour establishment in Lincolnshire for seven years so has a wealth of experience as a behaviour counsellor.