Why Do Dogs Bark?
In any neighborhood around the world, sooner or later a barking dog will be heard. Dogs communicate primarily through barking, and the intricate social life of a dog relies on this communication process. Barking at people is one of the ways in which a dog communicates, and today’s domesticated dogs inherited this behavior from their wild canine ancestors.
To answer the question of why dogs bark at people, we will need to go back tens of thousands of years ago when dogs lived in packs. While large packs of dogs had safety in numbers, wild dogs were still prey to attacks from other wild animals or even from another wild dog pack. Dog packs were continually on the move as well, and as a result they encountered constant dangers from other animals and dogs fighting for the same territory. In order to alert the pack to impending danger, dogs barked. Barking was also a way of defending one’s territory.
Why Dogs Bark at People
While today’s dogs are a far cry from their wild ancestors, they still retain many of the same behaviors and traits of wild dogs. As a result, dogs bark at people. Dogs do not differentiate between animals and people. People are simply one type of animal that could present a possible danger. When your dog barks, your dog is telling you that possible danger is near. Your dog is also telling the person "this is my place and I’m defending it so beware."
We may not always be appreciative of our dogs’ tendency to bark at people, but knowing why your dog is behaving this way may help you to understand what is going on inside your dog’s mind. If your dog’s habit of barking at people is causing problems, there are behavior modification techniques you can use to help stem your dog’s natural tendency to bark at people.
Causes of Excessive Barking
Dogs which bark excessively are often over reactive to any noise or sight stimulations. A passing car, a bee flying through the yard, even a plane way up in the sky can cause a never ending barking episode; once the ‘danger’ has passed the dog finds something else to bark at. Dogs which have sensitivities to outside stimulation are often either suffering from boredom or anxiety. Bored dogs may also have other behavior problems such as destructive behavior; anxious dogs may shake and tremble, chew on their paws, and engage in compulsive disorders such as circling and pacing.
The other main cause of excessive barking is barking that is a result of a physical problem. The dog may be suffering from a painful condition, or may be suffering from a neurological disorder. These conditions can be difficult to diagnose, but normally this type of barking will appear suddenly; it is not a normal trait of the dog.
If your dog is barking excessively it is important to identify the cause. A thorough examination by a veterinarian is warranted. If no physical problems in the dog are identified, than behavioral traits which are contributing to the excessive barking need to be addressed. Dogs which are bored need more toys, more walks, and more tender loving care. Anxious dogs may need to undergo a corrective behavioral program, and in severe cases they may need to be put on anti-anxiety medications.
Barking is a Natural Response
The doorbell rings, someone knocks at your door, or somebody walks by your home, and your dog erupts into a heart stopping barrage of deafening barks. Your dog is only trying to do what dogs do best: protect their owners and their territory. However you, your guests, and your neighbors may not be so appreciative of your dog’s heroic efforts. If your dog has a problem with barking at people, here are some things that you can do to help stem this undesirable behavior.
Stop Barking at People
To effectively teach your dog not to bark at people, your dog will need to learn that the behavior is not acceptable and the behavior will not result in a reward. To do this you will need to be consistent, persistent, and have plenty of patience. Always use positive reinforcement in your training. Do not yell or physically punish your dog for barking, and never pick up your dog or try to soothe your dog during a barking episode.
Supply yourself with a small water bottle and a few treats in your pocket. Make sure that your dog does not see these items. Have a friend knock on the door or ring the door bell, when your dog barks quickly spray your dog lightly in the face, say ‘No’ in a firm voice, and answer the door. Hide the water bottle behind your back right after your use it.
You will need to repeat this procedure over and over again, if possible a few times a day. The first time that your dog does not bark, give your dog a treat and plenty of praise and affection. Keep repeating this process over and over again, and in time your dog will learn that it pays not to bark. Once your dog has stopped barking at one person mix up the training a bit. Have multiple people come to your door, walk in front of your window or outside of your house, and continue with the training.
Stop General Excessive Barking
There are several ways in which to prevent excessive barking in your dog. First, make sure that when you buy or adopt a dog that it fits your lifestyle. If you are very active and are not at home that much don’t get a dog that requires a lot of attention. In making sure your lifestyle fits the personality of your dog, you are helping to be sure that both you and the dog are happy.
Another way to stop excessive barking before it becomes a problem is to train your dog with a set schedule for activities. An example of this would be making sure you have a certain walk time scheduled. The dog then knows when he goes for a walk and knows when this attention will be given. When walking the dog makes sure there is some give on the leash. If the dog starts barking excessively, pull strong, but not hurting the animal and firmly say “No.” When the dog does well reward them with a treat or some praise such as a pat on the head. If you do these two things enough times you can train the dog to know when it is okay to bark and when it is not.
Training courses are a good way to help you to control behavior problems in your dog before they begin as well. There are local pet stores that offer obedience training and most include this particular subject area. You can find out information about these courses or programs by visiting your local pet shop or calling them.
Finally, look at the type of breed of dog you have. Researching into the breed you wish to have or do have will help you to know if those particular type of dog has a tendency to bark more than others. Knowing what breed you have will help you to figure out if barking may cause a potential problem in the future and help you to find a way to control it before it begins.