Barking is a natural dog behavior. In fact, it’s theorized that one of the reasons early humans kept dogs was their barking, which alerted the humans to predators. Some barking is completely appropriate, such as barking during play, and it’s not reasonable to expect a dog to stop barking entirely for the rest of his or her life. Now that the L.A. City Council has authorized animal control officers to issue citations for nuisance barking, however, it’s more important than ever to find ways to limit how much your dog barks.
There are many different types of barking, including boredom barking, alert barking, demand barking, and anxious barking. This introduction is the first in a series of articles providing information on different types of barking and how to handle them. The introduction defines several major types of barking. The articles thereafter discuss how to deal with each of these types of barking.
Boredom barking is a dog’s way of occupying him or herself in the absence of other things to do. The best way to stop boredom barking is to give the dog other things to do.
Alert barking occurs when a dog perceives something that he or she feels requires attention. One solution to excessive alert barking is to teach the dog to bark once and then stop, rather than continue barking for extended periods of time.
Demand barking occurs when a dog wants your attention. The best solution to demand barking is to ignore it completely, no matter how long it goes on, while making a concerted effort to pay attention to your dog when he or she is quiet. Your dog will soon figure out that quiet, not barking, gets attention.
Some dogs bark because they are feeling anxious or fearful. Anxious barking is akin to a person’s biting his or her nails during a stressful meeting. In some cases, such as in dogs with separation anxiety, anxious barking can continue for hours. To stop anxious barking you must find and eliminate the sources of the dog’s anxiety.
The rest of the articles in this series discuss ideas for dealing with these various types of barking.
* Note that devices such as shock collars and citronella collars can actually make barking worse over time. I strongly recommend you avoid these and other aversive tools.