Dog Training Denver, Conifer to Fairplay, Colorado

Affection & Praise Family Dog Training, Inc.

    Established 1996                     (303) 910-3931

                     “Building Lasting Relationships through Training and Understanding”


Excessive Barking

Excessive barking is a common and frustrating problem.  All you have to do is walk around any of the mountain neighborhoods and you will hear dogs barking everywhere.  Of course one of the reasons we have dogs is that they alert us when someone enters our property.  That is a good thing.  We would just like our dogs to only bark appropriately.  This article is about how to achieve that.

There are two kinds of barking:

  1. 1. alarm barking

  1. 2.barking for attention and/or other rewards

Alarm Barking

Rover barks whenever he sees or hears something he finds threatening.  In this case, Rover’s barking means “go away, stay away or else!”  Rover’s barking also means “yo, pack leader, what are we going to do about this threat!?” 

Even though dogs have evolved from wolves long ago and are quite different from them, they still have some things in common too.  Picture a wolf pack lounging around and a bear is wandering up to their territory.  At that point it is the responsibility for the wolf who sees the bear first to sound the alarm.

So when Rover barks when he hears something, in his mind he’s doing his job.

When the pack leader hears the alarm, he or she will get up and survey the situation.  The pack leader will decide to do one of four things: attack, run away, display threat behavior to chase the bear off or relax as the bear heard us and is moving away.  So when Rover barks he wants a decision from you, his pack leader.

Here are some common mistakes we make:

*If you yell at Rover in an aggressive tone, Rover will just think that you are barking at the same thing he’s barking at and will generally bark more.  Rover doesn’t speak any English and your yelling sounds like barking to him.  Have you ever noticed that when one dog starts barking, all dogs around him start barking too.  Well, now you’ve joined in the fray as well.

*If you don’t do anything, you are confusing Rover as to who the pack leader is.  Rover will think “hey, it’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it.  I guess they want me to decide what to do about this threat.  I’ll just keep barking and hopefully the threat will go away.”

Here are some solutions:

*When Rover barks, go see what he is barking at and then when you determine there is no threat, talk to Rover in a happy tone of voice.  He won’t understand what you are saying but he’ll respond to your tone.  As soon as he stops barking, praise him.  If there is someone at your door that scares you too, talk to Rover in a worried agitated tone.  That will cause him to continue to alert.  You are the pack leader, you make the decisions as to who is friend and who is foe.

*If Rover barks all the time at everything, the best thing is to step up his socialization (please see the section on socialization for more information).  For instance, sit with Rover at the window and give him a treat every time someone walks by, while talking to him in a happy voice. You only need to do this until Rover thinks that people walking by predict good things like treats and not a threat.

*If Rover barks at other dogs and people when you are out walking with him, you can talk to him in a happy tone of voice and also keep your body posture relaxed.  If you get tense and/or yell at Rover, he will justly think “see, mom freaks out every time a strange dog or person walks by, must be bad news.”  Initially stay far enough away from what he is afraid of and then as Rover progresses, gradually get closer to it.

People and dog aggression problems are complicated issues that can put people and dogs at risk.  They can also cause lawsuits.  Therefore it is best to hire us or another behaviorist to help you if your Rover has aggression issues.

Barking for attention and/or other rewards

When Rover barks for attention or other goodies, any attention you give him, even telling him no or yelling, will reward the behavior and therefore increase it.  So as soon as Rover barks at you, just turn around and walk away.  If you ignore the barking, the barking will go away as well, but it always increases first for a bit.  This is called an extinction burst (see the section “Behavior Training.”)

If Rover barks when you are away, first check out the section on Separation Anxiety.  Sometimes Rover barks out of loneliness or boredom when you are away.  In those cases it really helps to exercise Rover quite a bit before you leave, for instance by playing fetch.  Leave Rover with activity toys like a stuffed Kong, bone or Buster Cube to keep him busy.

If all else fails, you could get a bark collar.  Don’t ever get one that shocks Rover.  That could teach him that his yard isn’t safe and cause separation anxiety.  A bark collar that sprays citronella is very effective.  Bark collars that beep generally are only effective for dogs that wind themselves up and just monotonously bark and howl.  It interrupts their pattern.

This article is a summary only of a treatment protocol for excessive barking.

For more information please call Affection & Praise Family Dog Training at (303) 910-3931.