Our dogs are the quiet in our hectic lives. But if yours is adding to the noise with unwanted barking, finding a little peace and quiet can almost seem unattainable (even for your neighbours).
We know that dogs bark as a means of vocal communication. They might do it to let us know that they are hungry, that they want attention, or because they are scared or frustrated.
Some barking is normal. But sometimes, and for reasons not always known to us, they may bark at other people or things in or near their environment, even if they are out of sight.
Sometimes this barking can be unwanted. Even excessive and relentless. And it may not help relations with your neighbours or with creating a peaceful home environment. It can also impact your relationship with your pet.
In this article, we explore the reasons why dogs bark and how you can include bark training into your routine to help eliminate excessive noise to make your world a quieter place.
Why do some dogs bark more than others?
Dogs have hearing abilities well beyond our own. In fact, they can hear four times beyond what we can and register much higher frequencies. Their sense of smell is also acute, up to 10,000 times more sensitive than our own. Therefore, a car horn in the distance, the sound or smell of another animal, or a noise or smell undetectable to us can trigger a dog to respond. Unfortunately for some dog parents, this response isn’t always short-lived.
For those in this position, there are a variety of reasons why your dog might bark often or incessantly.
Different breeds are known to be more "talkative' than others. Jack Russells, Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, Beagles and a range of Terrier breeds are typically known to be barkers. These breeds were trained to do so in their working capacity, often as herding or hunting dogs. They would bark to alert their owners of predators, prey, or use it as a form of authority over herd animals.
Territorial by nature
By nature, dogs are territorial creatures. Not all will challenge another human or animal entering their space, however some will. They might use barking to assert their authority and mark their territory. They might also do this when other people or animals approach a member of their family (their "pack").
If you hear a dog barking incessantly throughout the day, it’s possible their owner is not home. The dog might bark out of boredom or loneliness and does so to attract attention. In contrast, a barking dog at night may be triggered by sounds or smells more detectable during the normally quieter hours.
Speaking of attention, you might indeed be home but are often busy focusing on other things. Your dog might bark at you to try and make you notice they’re there. They may simply want a pat, to play, or let you know they are hungry. Regular lack of attention can quickly lead to excessive barking.
Greeting or excitement
Who doesn’t love an energetic dog waiting excitedly when you walk through the front door? Sometimes though, the excitement can be too much to contain and your dog will bark to express their joy and greeting to you. And for some dogs, this enthusiasm might continue longer than normal as they struggle to manage the increased adrenalin.
Fear and learned behaviours
Dogs who have been raised without a safe and secure home life can suffer from long-term behavioural issues. This usually stems from fear. They might become startled or anxious at the smallest of sights or sounds, particularly when out for a walk. Additionally, without proper training - especially for more vocal breeds - an adult dog’s learned barking behaviours can be a real challenge to overcome.
Bark training: for a quieter, more peaceful life
There are a variety of bark training tools available to help eliminate your dog's unwanted barking. Often, people yell or react to the bark, which can be misinterpreted as you responding to them.
The best tactic is to avoid giving them any attention at all, including neither touching them nor looking them directly in the eye (except during training). Instead, employing the below training methods can provide an effective solution to the problem.
The "quiet" command
The "quiet" command is perhaps the simplest and most well-known training technique to help control unwanted barking.
When your dog begins to bark, say the word "quiet" in a firm but calm tone. Once your dog stops, even during a slight pause between barks, place a treat in front of their nose, give it to them and provide praise. Continue this process for as long as it takes until the barking stops. This should be done daily at first, but remember - always use low calorie treats to avoid overfeeding.
While this is an effective method, on its own, it may not work for all dogs. This could especially be true when the barking is particularly excessive or the dog has other more challenging behavioural issues. In this case you may need to seek expert behavioural therapy to assist.
The "speak" command
Some trainers take the approach of teaching dogs to "speak" (bark on command), before teaching the "quiet" command. This can be a good way to encourage more than one trained behaviour. It can also be easier to teach as a bark can come more naturally to the dog.
Start by asking your dog to "speak". When they bark on command, reward them with a treat and praise. Repeat the process until your dog is able to bark on command. You can then try the "quiet" command.
Manage their surroundings
Most importantly, it's important to try and identify the triggers of your dog's barking. If your dog is constantly at the window on the verge of shattering the glass, you might want to place a curtain or screen in front of their sight to avoid them seeing outside.
If your dog barks at other dogs you come into contact with on a regular basis, you can try desensitising them to the experience. You can do this by asking the other dog's owner to step out of sight, far enough away from you and your dog. As they come into view, distract your dog with treats until they disappear again from view (at this point you stop giving the treats). You'll need to repeat this process a few times before it starts to take effect. You can then try getting the other person and dog to come closer and closer as your dog remains adequately distracted.
Some triggers can be harder to detect than others, particularly due to a dog's ability to hear and smell things we can't.
In such cases, a quick and effective way of helping to disturb unknown sensory experiences is to turn on a fan. The humming of the white noise, coupled with the disturbance of airflow, can help to dissipate any smell or sound triggers.
Use a gentle spray collar
A gentle and effective training tool comes in the form of a spray bark collar. Simply fitted around your dog’s neck, these collars deliver a light spray to detract unwanted barking and can be useful tools at any time.
In particular, the PetSafe® Spray Bark Collar has innovative bark detection technology that only sprays when your dog barks. The collar is able to identify and distinguish your dog’s bark from all other noises, including other dogs. When the collar is triggered by your pet's bark, a gentle burst of either unscented or Citronella spray is emitted to kindly remind your dog when it's time to be quiet.
Benefits of the PetSafe® Spray Bark Collar
- Light spray
- Easy to refill
- No false sprays
- Fits most dogs (8lb and up)
- Recyclable cartridges
- Water resistant
- Safe and harm-free
PetSafe® Spray Bark Collar: purchase information
The PetSafe® Spray Bark Collar can be purchased via the PetSafe® online store for £80.99.
The collar comes with an USB charging cable, one Citronella spray cartridge, one unscented spray cartridge and a product manual. There is a satisfaction guarantee with a 30-day refund period and a three-year warranty.
Note that each cartridge supplies 35-40 sprays and can be replaced for £13.99 for a pack of three cartridges.
Unwanted barking really can drive anyone barking mad. If this situation applies to you, for the cost, a spray bark collar can be a worthwhile investment to help make bark training a safe and simple process for you and your dog. And to help create a more peaceful environment for everyone!
Please note that for dogs with long-term behavioural issues or severe forms of anxiety, we recommend seeking the advice of a behavioural therapist.
Does your pooch have a spray bark collar?
Article sponsored by PetSafe®