BARKING: Why Does My Dog Bark?

By: Amanda Adamiak
nine Behaviourist, VT, CTE, 6 Legs to Fitness Instructor

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, but do you know why your dog is barking?

Does your dog bark at certain times of the day? Run back and forth by the front window barking incessantly at anything moving outside of the house? Does your dog bark at the fence? Does your dog make a quiet, under the breath bark when someone comes to the house? Does your dog go into a frenzy of high pitched barks when someone rings the doorbell? All of these are important things to take note of to figure out what your dogs’ bark means!

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Let’s break down the different reasons for barking and the main types of barks:

The Alert Bark

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This is the low quiet “woof”, barely audible, and very breathy sounding. It represents a member of the pack (your dog) alerting the other members (you) that you need to be aware that someone is coming. This is normal behavior, not rude, and should be encouraged because your dog is deferring to you. An appropriate response is “thanks buddy, I got it”. This allows your dog to feel they have done their job in alerting you, and lets them know you have control of the situation. You have acknowledged what they are telling you, and you are letting them know they can relax because you are in control. This will send the message that they can leave the potential threat up to you and that they don’t need to take over to protect the pack.

The Excitement Bark

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This is the high pitched, ear splitting bark that makes you flinch; usually when new people come over. This bark needs to be addressed. The dog is seeking attention from you and/or from the new person, dog, etc. DO NOT bend down and pet or pick the dog up as this will reinforce the behavior. The key to breaking this behavior is to have a place where the dog is trained to go when people come over. A floor mat is ideal. Train your dog to go to that place and sit when they get into that excited state. Initially you may need to physically tie them to that spot when they become excited when someone comes in the door for them to understand what you are asking of them. Once they are calm, they can come and greet the guest, but NOT before. If you allow your dog off of their spot before they are calm, you have reinforced the negative behavior.

Calm and polite = attention. Hyper and rude = time out.

The Territorial Bark/Behavior

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Patrolling the front window, running the fence line, and barking to make sure everyone stays off their property are the hallmarks of the territorial back. This behavior has the biggest potential for injury to people or other animals entering your home or backyard. If your dog exhibits this behavior you need to call in help immediately. The quicker you get help, the better it is for your dog. This bark and behaviour is usually created through frustration and that frustration can turn violent if left unchecked. It’s not cute; it’s a liability that can leave you in a situation where your dog is no longer able to be a part of your family.

If there is a certain time of day that your dog barks, say 11am every day, you need to look for a pattern. It might be that that’s what time your mail is delivered. It might be that a particular dog gets walked by your house. Ideally, find out what the trigger is and change your dog’s routine so they aren’t sitting waiting for 11am to come so they can bark uncontrollably!

If you are having trouble with your dog barking and can’t seem to get control of their behaviour, please contact Amanda Adamiak through Erin Mills Pet Hospital or through Wonder Dog Creations Canine Education. We can help you to understand why your dog is barking and teach you how to curb this often disruptive behaviour.

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