Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, from showing excitement to warning barks to expressing pain. Unless there is some physical, medical reason dogs are unable to bark, every single dog will bark for some reason during their lifetime.
From communicating with other dogs to alerting their human counterparts, it is expected that from time to time, dogs bark. However, incessant dog barking can be extremely upsetting, to dog owners, to the neighbours, and even to the dog himself. Dogs don’t typically bark without a reason, and incessant barking is usually stopped by addressing the root of the barking itself. If your dog’s never-ending barking is driving you up a wall, read on!
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Some scientists believe that dogs learned to communicate with humans through thousands of years of domestication. This means dogs may have learned to communicate with humans, from humans!
A dog’s bark varies depending on what he’s barking about – from high pitched, short barks when you take out his leash to go on a walk, to long, low howls when he hears a knock on the door.
What might your dog’s barking be trying to tell you?
Excitement – Might sound like: High-pitched, quick barks.You’ve just come home! I’m so excited to see you!” Your dog hasn’t seen you all day, and he could be barking because he’s excited to see you.
Warning or Alerting – Might sound like low, loud, long barks or howls. “There’s an intruder! The postman has returned and I will scare him off!” Many dogs bark when strangers approach, or even pass by, their home. Instances like daily mail delivery can actually make your dog think that he is being a good boy by barking at the postman, because each day, the postman leaves while the dog is barking
Pain – Might sound loud, sometimes shaky, higher pitched barks or yips. “I am hurt! Please help!” A dog in pain can be a very vocal dog. Over the thousands of years of domestication, dogs have been conditioned to rely on humans for care. If your dog is incessantly barking, he could be trying to communicate with you that he is in pain.
Fear – Similar to the alert bark, but often higher pitched or yipping-type barks. “Stay back!” If your dog is wary of visitors, he may bark at new people when they enter the home. Your dog could be letting a guest know that they want to be left alone. Be very careful when it comes to a dog barking out of fear, as a fearful dog may be provoked into biting.
Attention – Might sound like whining, yipping barks or even, repetitive barks.“Pay attention to me!” Dogs are very social creatures and even the most ‘loner’ dogs are pack animals, by nature. A dog who wants attention may act out by barking until he gets it. Rewarding barking behavior, , however, is sure to cause more behavioral issues down the line. If you think your dog is barking to get attention, have him sit, lay down, and settle down a bit and then reward the calm behavior.
Territorial or protective – Might sound like an alert bark, but sounds more commanding and possibly aggressive sounding. “This is mine!” A dog who feels like his territory is in danger may bark as a warning sign for those entering to leave immediately. It is important to not reward this kind of barking as this can encourage a dog to turn territorial barking into territorial aggression.
What Causes Incessant Dog Barking?
Incessant dog barking can be frustrating, but before assuming that it is due to a behavioral issue, it is extremely important to rule out any underlying medical condition that may be causing them to bark. For example, a senior dog that has taken to barking excessively at night may be developing dementia, or a dog who is going blind may be barking out of fear. Speak with your veterinarian about the possible causes of incessant dog barking, especially if the incessant barking came on suddenly. Dealing with your dog’s incessant barking may take entirely different methods than attempting to adjust your dog’s behavior if the barking is caused by a medical condition.
Some of the non-medical reasons your dog might be barking incessantly are:
Separation Anxiety – some dogs bark because they have extreme anxiety when their owners leave. The barking is not at anything, but it’s more like a tic.
Boredom – Some dogs bark just to hear the sound of their own voice. If they are left alone for long periods of time with nothing to do, they might fill their days by “talking” to themselves.
Poor training – As hard as it is to admit, many dogs have their owners trained, and not the other way around. Dogs are extremely smart creatures, and if they learn that they can bark to get attention, treats, or a space on the couch, they will repeat this behavior to get what they want. Even if the dog learned this behavior early, training can help recondition your dog’s behavior.
Lack of Exercise – Like humans, dogs need a physical outlet to relieve some of their stress and maintain good health. Lack of exercise can cause your dog to take out his energy in the form of incessant barking or other behavioral issues. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog. Getting your dog out for regular walks or even throwing the ball in the backyard can keep him happy, healthy, and stimulated (and quiet!)
What Can You Do About Incessant Dog Barking?
Once you understand the causes of incessant dog barking, there are steps you can take to quell it. After speaking with your veterinarian to rule out any medical concerns that may be causing your dog to bark incessantly, take steps to manage your dogs overly vocal behavior.
Training – As soon as you notice incessant barking, you should begin training. There are many sources online to refer to when it comes to helping you quiet your dog’s barking. However, remember not to yell at your dog while they are barking; they might think that you are also barking! It is important to note that it is okay, and even encouraged, to seek the help of a professional. Dog trainers may pick up cues the owners don’t see.
Exercise – Exercise can help immensely with incessant barking. Anxiety and excess energy, as well as boredom, all contribute to incessant barking. Try taking your dog on long walks before you go to work or right after you get home to help him channel his energy – and be consistent! A happy dog with a routine he can trust is usually a very well-behaved, well-adjusted dog.
Drugs – For dogs that do not respond to training and exercise, a veterinarian may prescribe drugs to calm them down, especially if your veterinarian believes your dog may have chronic anxiety. However, do not rely on drugs as an alternative to training. Using prescribed medications from your veterinarian may supplement your training regimen if your dog needs something to calm him down and help him focus while you are working on his behavioral issues.
Collars and Devices – Shock collars are not recommended, as they may make the dog bark from pain, creating a cycle that makes them aggressive. Citronella spray collars have mixed reviews, with some people saying they work, and others saying their dogs simply bark until the collar is out of spray. However, some dog owners say that some spray collars that emit a naturally calming mixture of oils help their dog settle anxiety that may lead to incessant barking.
Debarking – Debarking is controversial and can be a very risky procedure. Dogs are still able to bark after the surgery, just not as loud. It will sound raspy. Many veterinarians will not even perform debarking surgery – but as a very last resort, such as the police threatening to take your dog if you do not control the barking, you may want to open up the conversation about debarking with your veterinarian. This should only be used as a complete last resort for a dog who will not respond to any other trainings or methods after a significant amount of time.
Dog barking is part of dog ownership, and controlling incessant barking is part of being a responsible dog owner. Although every dog will bark at something, sometimes, incessant barking may require training or other interventions. While incessant dog barking is frustrating, it can be addressed, and you, your dog, and your neighbours, will be happier about it.