Barking is a common canine behavior that may be displayed for a number of reasons ranging from fear to excitement. Generally, barking is not a problem unless the dog does it at inappropriate times. In these cases, the behavior can generally be resolved by understanding where the barking is coming from.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Primarily, barking is a form of communication for dogs. In the wild, dogs bark to relay location, ward off predators, celebrate events or sound alerts. Historically, barking has served important survival purposes and, understandably, it is difficult for some dogs to give it up. Some dog breeds, such as Huskies and Beagles, are known for being vocal and may bark more than other breeds.
Types of Barking
Barking is a lot like human speech: there are many different types of barks and each one gets used in a specific setting.
Barking to Sound the Alarm: Most dogs will bark when a strange car pulls up in the driveway or when someone knocks on the door. This is known as alarm barking. These dogs are barking to alert their canine and human companions of suspicious activity and will generally stop barking once they see that there is no threat. Dogs may also exhibit alarm-barking behavior when they are afraid or feeling threatened.
Barking to Defend Territory: One of the primary reasons dogs bark is to defend their territory from encroaching humans or animals. Dogs that are barking for this reason will often bark from a backyard at people walking along the sidewalk and may bark from the car as you drive down the road.
Barking in Greeting/Excitement: Dogs that are barking in greeting often exhibit much looser body language and a more relaxed expression than dogs barking to defend territory.
Barking as Compulsive Behavior: When dogs begin barking compulsively, it can quickly become a problem. Compulsive barking is the result of boredom, anxiety or stress and is often seen in dogs that spend a great deal of time alone.
How to Stop Barking
If your dog has recently started barking, take her to a vet for a health check. In rare situations, pain or illness can cause barking. If the dog gets a clean bill of health, pay attention to the root of the barking. Does it happen when a strange dog passes by? Does it happen when a car pulls into the driveway? Does it happen when you come home in the evenings? Pinpointing the cause of the barking will better allow you to treat it. Since there are so many different types of barking, treatment for your dog’s individual barking style will depend heavily on the stimulus that produces it. See a veterinarian or certified pet behaviorist for help pinpointing the root of your dog’s barking and developing a plan to resolve it. Most dogs that bark compulsively can learn to curb the habit, which makes for a happier, stress-free home for dogs and humans alike.
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