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Why Is My Dog Barking? 8 Reasons & How to Stop It

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

barking jack russel

Why Is My Dog Barking? 8 Reasons & How to Stop It


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Sometimes, there’s nothing more annoying than the incessant yapping coming out of your dog’s mouth. Of course, they probably feel like that about us humans sometimes, too. But you might wonder what all the seemingly unwarranted woofing is about.

Just like us, dogs use barking as a language to communicate. But the message is not always the same. So, here are 8 reasons your dog could be barking. Let’s understand your canine’s verbiage a little better.

Dog Barking Is Normal

Even though it might seem overkill sometimes, know that occasional barking is totally normal. Even though there are ways to train good vocal manners, it isn’t a privilege that should ever be taken from your dog. They deserve the right to express themselves, as it is a natural part of their genetic makeup.

Understanding why your dog is excessively barking is the first step to quieting the situation down a bit. Let’s explore the reasons and solutions.

Dog Barking
Image Credit: dahancoo, Pixabay

The 8 Reasons for Barking in Dogs

1. Anxiety

Some dogs suffer from generalized anxiety, meaning there is no specific trigger. This condition is medical, so veterinary diagnosis is crucial. Some dogs who have separation anxiety can bark continually anytime they are out of their humans’ sight. This can disrupt your household and any neighbors around.

Anxiety symptoms in dogs include:
  • Pacing
  • Shaking
  • Whining
  • Growling
  • General uneasiness
  • Restlessness
  • Lip licking
  • Panting

If anxiety or stress is an ongoing issue with your pooch and it’s disrupting their quality of life, you might want to seek veterinary advice. They can discuss managing and treating your dog’s anxiety using environmental changes, training, and possibly anxiety supplements or medication.

2. Territorial

Some dogs don’t like unknown people or animals up in their space. If they are a little cautious about newcomers, the barking could be territorial. Who doesn’t want your big bad guard dog to tell you when they think danger is afoot? Sure, it’s just the same mailman they’ve seen every day for the past 5 years—but who knows? It could be an imposter!

Warning barks aren’t a bad thing. In fact, it lets you know that if ever danger were around, you’d be the first to know. Some breeds are more natural guard dogs than others. The American Kennel Club is a good source for learning about the general personality traits of different breeds.

3. Boredom

Does your dog have anything to keep them occupied? They might just be crying out for something better to do. We’ve all heard the neighborhood dog droning on in the middle of the night for no good reason—other than they are alone and there’s nothing else to do. Every dog is different in terms of physical and mental needs. Working breeds generally have high energy, and are intelligent, needing a job to keep them happy. Try changing your dog’s routine to include more exercise and enrichment. If you’re busy at work, hiring pet sitters to give your dog some attention is a good option.

Bored Giant Black Schnauzer dog
Image Credit: Frank11, Shutterstock

4. Attention

Is your dog an attention hog? What dog isn’t, right? Your dog may have learned to bark to get their way if you have accidentally rewarded the behavior in the past.

Whatever it takes to get mom or dad to grab the leash or to give a nice back scratch is necessary. So, try checking to see if this is an issue for your pooch. Make sure you reinforce the lesson that barking does not entitle them to walks, treats, play, attention, or any other rewards. It’s ok to say no as long as you are meeting their physical, mental, and social needs.

5. Fear

Did you leave the vacuum near the doorway again? How terrifying! Your dog might be afraid of something in its environment. This could be something obvious—like a newcomer or an object they are unsure of.

Or, you might have to pay close attention to figure out what’s freaking out your pup. Sometimes, they can sense things or get disturbed by situations we might not think twice about.

scared dog hiding in grass
Image Credit: Isa KARAKUS, Pixabay

6. Playfulness

If your dog is ready for a romp, this might be your invitation. It’s pretty obvious when the barks are meant to get someone riled up. Maybe they saved this for you, or maybe they’re trying to coax another canine companion to have some fun.

Playful barks are often higher pitched, with a light, naughty growl.

7. Hunger

Did you leave the food bowl empty a few minutes after routine feeding time? Hunger can be a real driving force for barking.

This might be your reminder if you haven’t been very good lately about keeping up with routine mealtimes. As soon as they hear the food bag rattle, their tails will be going off—and not their mouths. Just be careful not to overfeed your dog to stop them from barking and try not to reward the barking with a meal, but obviously, make sure your pup is never starving!

Hungry labrador with empty bowl
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

8. Medical Reasons

Has your dog been acting normal lately? Change in behavior, like increased vocalizations, can be a sign of medical problems. For example, canine cognitive dysfunction, a dementia-like condition can cause excessive barking. Luckily, you can look for other signs to make sure that you’re on the right path.

If your dog is unwell in pain due to internal or external circumstances, look for accompanying signs like:

  • Wounds
  • Skin irritation
  • Limping
  • Response when pressing on specific areas of the body
  • Licking one spot
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Accidents in the house
  • Confusion
  • Changes in thirst and appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Behavioral changes

If you suspect this is health-related barking, it’s best to make an appointment with your veterinarian. They can run blood panels or do a body exam to check for underlying issues and perform any necessary testing and treatment.

beagle dog lying on bed looking sick
Image Credit: HelgaBragina, Shutterstock

Harmful Methods to Combat Barking

Some ways people try to curb dog barking are not ethical—and some are downright cruel.

  • Don’t shout. Shouting will just confuse your dog by encouraging the behavior to continue. You need to address the issue with a calm demeanor without getting wound up yourself.
  • Don’t use shock collars. If you misuse a shock collar or your dog doesn’t understand the correlation, It can also have terrible consequences like creating stress, fear, and aggression in your pooch.
  • Don’t spank or hit. You don’t want to drive a wedge between you and your dog by making them fear you. If they can’t understand why you’re hurting them, it could cause distrust to develop between you, leading to bigger behavioral issues.
  • Don’t opt for vocal surgery measures. Even if your dog’s barking seems painfully excessive, getting surgery to sever their vocal cords is never the answer. Your dog needs to bark as a means of communication and self-expression.

How to Healthily Channel Dog Barking

  • Ignore the barking. The more you feed into the issue, the more your dog will repeat the behavior. After all, sometimes the barking is a cry to get a response. If there is no response, your dog will eventually give up this tactic for recognition.
  • Use a one-word response. If you wrap your hands lightly around their muzzle and use a one-word command, such as “quiet” or “enough”, your dog will soon understand the connection between your request and their barking.
  • Reward corrected behavior. If you redirect your dog’s attention and they stop the barking, reward their behavior with a treat. We all know how food-motivated dogs can be, and this can reap some serious rewards.
  • Make sure your dog has proper energy outlets. Is your dog getting enough exercise or stimulation? If you channel your dog’s energy toward healthy outlets, it could end excessive barking and other “overkill” behaviors altogether.
  • Change the environment. If you can avoid the barking triggers, your dog will be less likely to bark. For example, for territorial dogs if there are spots where they can see passersby on the streets, you can block off these areas. If your dog has separation anxiety, avoiding leaving your dog alone until a treatment plan is in place can help.
  • Redirect the behavior. When the trigger for barking occurs, bring your dog’s attention to you. Ask them to sit and reward them for listening. While some dogs love praise, others will only work for food, and for some dogs, a toy is the best reward.
  • Talk to your veterinarian. You can explain the full situation to a veterinarian, who can give you some insight into your dog’s behavior. They can also examine your dog for underlying health problems and discuss a treatment plan. 

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is—your dog will always bark. However, you can work with them to channel the behavior and make it less excessive. If you pinpoint triggers, you can quickly come up with ways to prevent or reduce them.

Remember, stay positive. Also, sometimes no reaction is a reaction. The solution will depend on why your dog is barking—so, proactively look for ways to curb the behavior instead of punishing them for having a voice. Your relationship will be better for it.

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Featured Image Credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

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