Challenging situations for your dog like being left home alone, vet visits or travelling can lead them to show signs of not being able to cope. If you notice your dog’s barking becoming more excessive, it could be a sign that they’re not feeling as relaxed as they could be.
Dogs communicate in a variety of different ways. They use body language and subtle signalling, they deposit scent in the form of urine, faeces and via various glands on their body, and, perhaps the most obvious to us, they use vocal communication.
Why do dogs vocalise?
Dogs may bark or whine for a number of reasons, such as to get your attention (they have learnt vocalising works because you respond to it!), because they’re in pain, to alert you to activity outside their territory, because they’re frustrated they can’t access something they want to get to, or because they’re scared or anxious about something.
How do I stop my dog from vocalising?
In order to deal with the barking or whining, we first need to work out why the dog is vocalising, then we can alter the underlying motivation. For example, we can help the dog feel less scared or anxious, or we can stop accidentally rewarding attention seeking behaviour and make sure our dog has plenty of activities to keep themselves occupied.
Unfortunately, every time the dog is in a situation where they practice the barking or whining, it is likely to mean their noisy behaviour will not resolve as they continue to practice it. So the first step is to try to avoid situations where the dog barks or whines. Can you block any visual access so the dog is unable to see activity outside the house? Can you cross the road to avoid passing the dog or person that your dog might bark at?
The next step is to change how your dog is feeling about a certain situation or teach them an alternative behaviour such as going to their bed quietly instead of running to the door barking when someone rings the bell.
Try to avoid shouting at your dog to get them to be quiet – this could cause them to feel scared or they might even think you’re joining in. Either way, it’s not addressing the cause of the barking. For the same reason, avoid using any tools designed to suppress the barking behaviour such as bark-activated or remote collars that deliver something the dog finds unpleasant in response to their vocalising.
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