Why Is Your Dog Barking?

Dogs bark. It’s part of their normal and natural communication and behavior. Dogs can bark for appropriate and good reasons, including when strangers approach your home, when they hear an odd noise, or (for particular breeds) when they’re herding. Most of us want our dogs to be “watch dogs” and alert us to anything out of the ordinary. But dogs can also bark at inappropriate times. Many owners complain of their dogs barking excessively. To control barking in our dogs, we must first understand why exactly they’re barking in the first place.

Dog Barking - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal Hospital

Barking is a mode of communication. Many times, this may be the result of human encouragement. Certain breeds have been bred to bark as part of their watchdog or herding duties. Barking is used to alert or warn others and defend a territory, to seek attention or play, to identify oneself to another dog, and as a response to boredom, excitement, being startled, lonely, anxious, or teased. Consider the following reasons why your dog might be barking:

  • Alert/warning barks are the type of barks some owners encourage. They want their dog to alert them to the presence of a danger or suspicious stranger. Warning barks tend to become more rapid as the intruder approaches. Aggressive barks are low in pitch and may be combined with growls. We need to be able to distinguish warning barks from barks due to fear.
  • Attention-seeking barks are most often used by puppies to get you to focus your attention on them. They can become very insistent and hard to ignore, but ignore them we must!
  • Play/excitement barks are often short and sharp. These barks are common if the dog gets too excited with the game. Often a time-out is in order.
  • Self-identification barking is what you may be hearing when your dog seems to be answering other dogs he hears barking in the neighborhood. It is his way of saying, “I’m over here.”
  • Bored barkers simply need an outlet for their energy and a more stimulating environment.
  • Lonely/anxious barking occurs if your dog is experiencing separation anxiety. The barking can become self-reinforcing as he becomes more stimulated and anxious. Anxious barks tend to get higher in pitch as the dog becomes more upset. This type of barking can be especially annoying to your neighbors.
  • Startle barking occurs in response to an unfamiliar or sudden sound or movement. As with an alert/warning bark, we need to be able to control this type of barking quickly.

As you can see, there are many reasons for barking and most barking is a normal behavior. There are some instances in which barking is considered pathological.

If we want to control barking, we need the dog to obey us and relax. The dog needs to look to her owner for behavior clues. If we can call her, have her lie down (dogs don’t bark as much when lying down) and stay, we are well on the way to solving a nuisance barking problem. Teaching your puppy appropriate behavior from the beginning is far easier than changing behavior that has become a bad habit. Some behavior we may think of as cute in a puppy won’t be cute in an adult dog. It’s best to think ahead to avoid potential problems.

In short, it’ll be a lot more fun for everybody if your dog learns to communicate through a wag of the tail and looking to you for guidance rather than through excessive and relentless barking. At 5 Points Animal Hospital, we have two primary goals when it comes to the care of your pet. Our first goal is to always offer the most advanced and up-to-date diagnostic tools, equipment, and treatment options that are available in veterinary medicine. Our second goal is to always remember that our role as veterinary professionals is to partner with out clients in making informed, compassionate decisions about the health of the pets in our care. With our team, you’re guaranteed compassion, helpful advice, expert care, and top-notch medicine and equipment. We’ll help you keep your pets healthy and happy and show them the love and care that they deserve!

By Dr. Janet Grace | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

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