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6 Causes of Excessive Barking

Barking in addition to whining, howling and growling is a dog’s natural way of communicating. It can be characterised as a series of short, sharp sounds that tend to vary little in pitch. Barking being a natural trait is not considered a problem – until it becomes excessive that is. 

These six causes should help you understand why your dog may be a frequent barker.

happy dog

1. Attention 

If you find your dog barking for attention, you’re not alone. Attention can be one of the biggest reasons why your dog has decided to become a barking extraordinaire.

 This idea of attention barking is often seen as a cause and effect chain. “If I do this, I get that” is how your dog may think of it. For example, if they bark you come running over yelling or telling them to stop, giving them your undivided attention. It isn’t important to your dog WHAT you are saying, just that you’ve stopped what you were previously doing to come over. 

You have to remember that negative attention is still attention.

Sitting dog

2. Boredom 

Dogs are active animals that need both physical and mental stimulation; some working breeds need it more than others. Two common solutions to ‘fix’ a bored dog is to give them tons of toys and let them out in the yard. Unfortunately even though they are both great solutions, without some training and interaction doing the above just won’t be enough. 

Dogs need to be motivated to run/play with toys, they won’t do it on their own for extended periods of time. Make sure to give them some time to interact with you too, as dogs love company.

bored dog

3. Fear and Anxiety

Almost all dogs are afraid of something, whether it is the postman or the neighbour’s cat, and it’s almost never a problem. Sometimes however, your dog can be afraid of something they encounter daily and barking is how they deal with it. 

Animals have three biological mechanisms to deal with threats: 

Fight: May start with mild aggressive dog behaviour like barking and escalate to growling, snapping and biting.

Flight: The dog will try to escape and put as much distance as possible between them and the frightening subject/object.

Freeze: The dog will stay as still as possible in hopes whatever the threat may be, won’t see them.  

A majority of dogs don’t like to fight however if they feel trapped, like on a lead, they will go into ‘fight’ mode and start barking. This can scare other dogs away which will teach the scared dog that barking will keep them safe – continuing to do so when frightened.

If you are concerned that your dog may have underlying anxiety/fear issues, it's a good idea to take them to your veterinarian.

Once your pet has been assessed by a veterinarian and other underlying medical conditions have been ruled out it is time to make a treatment plan.

If your pet suffers from extreme anxiety, your vet may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to help reduce your pet’s anxiety levels.

If you are able to identify particular events that can trigger anxiety in your pet, there may be steps you can take to re-train your dog to not associate the event with feelings of fear or anxiety. A behaviourist or animal trainer may be able to help with this re-training.

There are also a variety of products available on the market that can help keep your pet calm during times of stress. These products contain ingredients that help relax your pet.

scared dog

4. Territorial 

Excessive barking may be in response to people, other dogs or other animals within or approaching their territory. 

This can include your house, surrounding areas and eventually anywhere you dog has explored or associates with you (i.e. your car & their walking route). Dogs can be territorial because they are more often than not bred to protect, however at times it may be an issue of training or learned behaviour. 

territorial dog

5. Excitement 

Dogs, much like people, tend to verbalise their emotions of excitement a lot. For example they may bark when playful and excited or when they anticipate excitement such as being given a treat. 

Excited barking can often be caused when coming in contact with other dogs, especially if the dog has limited opportunity to play with or see other dogs.  Sometimes, owners may also mistake excitement barking as aggression therefore not dealing with it correctly.

excited dog

6. Underlying Health Issues

Less common but still an issue, dogs can find themselves barking excessively if they are in pain or discomfort.  If a dog is faced with a health issue the only way for them to communicate is through barking. If you are concerned that your dog may have any health issues, it's a good idea to take them to your veterinarian.

sick dog

Hopefully these explanations help you pinpoint the real reason you pup may be barking all the time!

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