Reason for Barking: An Attempt to Communicate
The dog, being a social animal, needs to communicate with his pack (humans or other dogs). He uses
barking as a means to gain food, water, shelter and comfort. Many dogs, for instance, will give several
sharp barks at their owners a few minutes before their regularly scheduled mealtimes. A dog will often
give several short, sharp barks as an invitation to other dogs or people to play. When a dog is left
outside in a fenced area and his pack members (his family) are inside, he will frequently stand at the
door and bark to communicate his desire to be let inside to join them.
However, sometimes, as we've mentioned earlier, an owner reacts inappropriately to barking and the
dog reads the owners actions as something good that he'd like repeated. Let's say that the dog brings a
toy to you and drops it at your feet. Then he stands there barking and looking up at you. Without
thinking, you pick up the toy and toss it across the room. That behavior signals a message to the dog
that you're willing to play with him whenever he asks. Of course, this will not always be convenient, yet
you've taught the dog that standing in front of you and barking will get you to play with him regardless
of what you're doing at the time.
This behavior is usually found in a high-energy dog who is bored and has nothing to do. At this point,
you have two choices. The first choice is to respond to the dogs demand by throwing the toy for him.
This response will probably escalate into a whole series of tossing and retrieving. One toss is usually
The second choice is to acknowledge the dogs boredom and, before you toss the toy, have the dog do
something for you. A sit or a down/stay would be appropriate. Once the dog complies with your
command, praise him and then toss the toy. If he brings the toy back to you and begins barking again,
repeat the procedure so that each time he demands your attention, he must earn it by doing something
first. Very shortly he'll decide that he doesn't want to be bothered with doing something just so you'll
throw the toy. He'll soon find something else to do and wander off to entertain himself.
To be fair to the dog, if he enjoys retrieving, he should be given ample opportunities to play fetch with
you at your convenience. Once he understands that you'll play the fetch game with him, he'll be a lot
less likely to pester you when it's not convenient for you to play with him.
For the very stubborn dog who will not give up, you can always give him some time out in his crate, say
five or ten minutes. Once released from time out, praise him lightly and return to your previous activity
as you ignore the dog. Sooner or later, he will learn that getting you to do something he wants does not
come without a price. He either obeys your commands or finds himself in time out, neither of which he
cares to do.
As time goes by and with proper responses to his behavior, he'll develop habits that suit you and
satisfy him as well. Playing a game of fetch with a toy is fun when you are the one who initiates the game
or when the dog brings you his toy and sits quietly until you can play with him. For sure, he'll learn that
barking unnecessarily gets him nowhere.
Reason for Barking: Excitement
Dogs verbalize their emotions much as people do. For example, they often bark during play when they
get very excited. They also bark when they're anticipating something that excites them, such as a game
of fetch, a special doggie treat or going out for a walk with his owner. Frustration also can create
barking in a dog. Let's say the dog wants to play with a favorite toy that is in his sight but out of his
reach. He may attempt to get the toy but, when those efforts fail, he may stand there and stare at the toy
while he barks incessantly until someone comes to retrieve the toy for him.
If you can determine the cause of the barking, you should allow it for a reasonable amount of time.
Lowering the level of excitement usually lowers the bark reflex, and you usually can control this. When
you wish to quiet the dog, change the cause of his excitement to a more calming activity. As soon as the
barking lessens, praise the dog with "Good, quiet." In the case of frustration, lessen his barking by
alleviating the dogs frustration or removing the dog from the cause of his frustration.
It's beneficial to both dogs and people that dog owners understand the causes and appropriate human
responses to barking. Often when small dogs bark they are sounding an alarm. Big dogs, on the other
hand, bark to issue a warning and/or threat. When people respond appropriately to barking, they
generally set the pattern for the barking to subside yet recur when necessary. Conversely, responding
inappropriately usually escalates the barking and thereby solicits more barking.
In short, with barking or other of their dogs behavior, owners should recognize positive behavior and
ignore or divert negative behavior. Remember, behaviors that bring pleasant results tend to be
repeated, whereas behaviors that bring on unpleasant results are usually not repeated. To a dog, being
ignored is most unpleasant, so the dog quickly figures out that, in order to get pleasant attention, he
must repeat certain behaviors (such as not barking unnecessarily) and stop others.