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Why do dogs bark?

Dogs usually bark for one or several of the following:

1. Boredom
2. Habit
3. Protection
4. Communication

If you’ve got one dog at home and you’re at work all day, your dog may bark out of boredom and to protect the home. If you’ve got two dogs, one could be barking to entice the other one to play. 

Look at your dog’s situation; are they alone all day? are they protective of your home? If we find out the reason why they’re behaving this way, then we can work at fixing it. Different breeds of dogs are also more prone to barking than others, so while you may be able to limit it, some are just more talkative than others.

Barking out of boredom

If your dog’s barking because they’re bored, consider ways you can keep their mind active.

  • Limit your time away from the house by working days at home
  • Ask someone to visit the dog during the day
  • Consider getting another dog for company

Habitual barking

While more difficult to stop, you can use similar techniques to stop your dog barking out of habit:

  • Consider getting another dog for company
  • Ignore your dog when it’s barking so you’re not reinforcing the behaviour
  • Speak with your vet about cruelty-free barking collars or sprays

Protecting the house

Dogs often bark when they anticipate a threat near their house. They’re usually barking to either warn off the threat or to let their owners know.

The following steps can help calm your dog.

When you’re at home:

1. Stay calm
2. Take your dog with you and go and investigate (even if nothing is there)
3. Place your dog on their bed or somewhere else they feel safe
4. Go back to what you were doing

Showing your dog there is nothing to fear will calm them down. It’s important not to show any affection or aggression to your dog when they’re protective barking. Both patting and yelling at your dog is reinforcing this behaviour.

If you’re away from home:

  • Limit their freedom. Give them access to one part of the yard, preferably the back yard so they won’t bark at passers-by or cars
  • Give them plenty of toys
  • Leave items with your scent on their bed and consider leaving a soft radio playing
  • Speak with your vet if you’re concerned about separation anxiety or stress

Barking to communicate

One of the main ways dogs communicate is through barking. If your dog is barking to say hello, this is normal. This type of barking usually isn’t bothersome, it’s short lived and it’s coming from a happy dog.
If you’re concerned they’re overly enthusiastic when they say hello, ignore your dog until he/she stops barking. Once they have calmed down, then you can pat them. Your dog will quickly learn they get rewarded when they’re calm and content.

How to stop a dog from barking

You can reduce most types of barking by:

  • Exercising your dog early in the morning
  • Keeping your dog active with games. Try hiding their breakfast in Kong toys or give them toys to chew, for example.
  • Drop your dog off at doggy day care if you’ll be gone all day

Using these techniques and knowing why they’re barking can help your dog feel more content in their home.

How much barking is too much?

Excessive barking is usually when a dog barks more than 6 minutes in any hour from 6am and 10pm, or more than 3 minutes in any 30-minute period between 10pm and 6am. Your local council can provide barking diaries to help you identify any dog barking patterns. They can also work with you to approach the owners and find a solution.

Help for owners of barking dogs

The following organisations offer extra advice on how to stop dog barking: