Barking dogs, information for owners

Dogs bark for many reasons, and even though they appear to be barking for no reason they are in fact trying to communicate something to their owner or anyone who is willing to pay attention.

Common reasons why dogs bark:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Inadequate yard space
  • Boredom/frustration
  • Not enough human companionship/loneliness
  • Inadequate shelter from weather conditions
  • Hungry or thirsty
  • Medical conditions or separation anxiety
  • Provocation
  • Disturbances
  • Change to family structure
  • Change of territory

Of course many dogs also bark to alert their owners of trouble such as an intruder or disturbance in the yard or perhaps fire.  Often a dog's idea of an intruder may differ to that of the home owner, it could include straying cats, possums, other dogs, or even bats or birds flying across the property.

Solutions

Lack of exercise, inadequate yard space, boredom

Dogs become bored when they are confined in a yard.  This problem can be compounded when the yard is too small, the dog is kept on a chain, locked in an enclosure or in a run.  Dogs like to explore and enjoy new experiences.  This problem may be overcome when the dog is treated as a member of the family, is included on family outings and taken on regular walks. Often providing toys and even bones to occupy their time can help.

Loneliness, lacking human company

Dogs are social animals and enjoy the companionship of other dogs and of their human owners.  Those that are left for long periods of time without companionship can become lonely and even destructive.  Dogs need to interact with other dogs and people to keep them stimulated.  Dogs that are not permitted to have regular socialisation with other animals and humans can become destructive, fearful, or bark excessively as a plea for attention. 
Sometimes,  in the owner's absence, an old piece of clothing containing the owner's scent may comfort the dog.  A radio left on inside the house or garage may give the dog the impression that it is not alone on the property.

Inadequate shelter

Hungry or thirsty

Dogs require plenty of fresh water and need to be fed a well balanced diet every day to remain healthy.  A dog will soon let its owner know by barking, howling or whimpering if it has not been fed or has no water to drink.

Medical condition

A veterinarian should be consulted to eliminate any medical condition from being the cause of excessive noise. An underlying medical condition may be the cause of howling, whimpering or barking. 

Provocation

Remove the source of the provocation, or remove the dog. 

Provocation source Possible solution

Birds

Train dog not to bark at birds.

Possums

House dog indoors over night when possums are active.  Have possums professionally removed.  Train dogs not to bark at possums.

Dogs and cats

Locate owners of intruding dog or cat and discuss problem with owner; request dog/cat owner to confine animal to its own property.  Retrain dog not to bark at other dogs or cats.

Neighbours activities

Retrain dog not to bark at normal noise/activities taking place on neighbouring properties such as lawn mowing.

Sirens and alarms

Some breeds of dogs are susceptible to barking/howling at the sound of sirens/alarms.  Dogs have sensitive hearing and the volume or pitch of a siren may actually aggravate the dog.  When possible the dog should be reassured and either taken inside or distracted from the noise. Some dogs can be desensitised to the sound of sirens/alarms to solve the barking.

Uninvited visitors

Reward, reassure and hush dog when intruding visitor has left property.

Welcomed visitors

Welcome visitor in, reassure dog and socialise visitor with dog to enable dog to learn that visitor is a friend and not an intruder.

Storms & thunder

The dog should be reassured and either taken inside or quieted. In severe cases animals may need medication to help with thunder storm anxiety. Consult your veterinarian for more advice.

Training techniques

Owners need to teach their dogs what is or isn't acceptable barking.  This learning process can be time consuming, persistence is required to achieve successful results.  There are various ways of training dogs, devices such as desensitising cd’s can be purchased to assist in the discipline of dogs, these cd’s play common noises such as sirens, lawn mowers even the sound of the postman motorbike.

One simple inexpensive method well worth trying and persisting with involves the use of voice control and a water spray gun.  When the dog is barking at the birds, cats, possums or neighbours, the owner should go to the dog whilst it is barking and squirt it in the face with the water while giving the command “NO”  in a firm, controlled voice.  An owner should never call the dog to them to and then punish the dog as the animals will believe that it is being reprimanded for coming to the owner when called. 

Other training methods

  • Dog obedience schools where dogs can be socialised and desensitised from some irritants that cause excessive dog barking. 
  • Consult your vet for professional advice on preventing behavioural problems such as barking. 

If a dog continually causes nuisance barking in your neighbourhood a complaint can be lodged with Council.

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