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Why do Dogs Bark?

Updated on May 24, 2016

Dog Barking To Initiate Play


Most dogs bark at some point and in many instances we expect or welcome this response. But what if your dog is barking for what you perceive as no reason? What if they are barking at a time you need them to be quiet? There are many strategies you can use to train you dog to bark less.

It is important to try to determine why they are barking as this can help to determine what strategy to use.

Reasons Why Dogs Bark

Sounding an alarm
During play
Instigating play
Warning to another animal
Noise or disturbance
Health Issues

Dog Barking Asking for Food

How to Tell Why Your Dog is Barking

According to the K9 magazine it is possible to tell why your dog is barking from the sound of the bark and the body language of the dog.

Type of Bark
Continuous rapid barking
This type of barking is a warning to the rest of the pack/family. It's is a warning that someone is coming, to get ready to defend our territory.
Prolonged or incessant barking
This type of barking indicates a feeling of loneliness.
One or two sharp short barks
This indicates a greeting, a way of saying hello
Single sharp short bark, low pitch
A "stop that" warning when disturbed or hurt
Single, sharp short bark, higher pitch
A startled response to a sound or new event. Repetition is calling others to see this suprize
Single yelp or very short high pitched yelp
A response to a sudden pain
series of yelps
"I'm scared" or "I'm hurt"
Stutter bark
A bark to initiate play.
Rising bark
A play bark to show excitement

A Tired Dog is Less Likely to be a Barking Dog

A tired, quiet dog
A tired, quiet dog | Source

Training you Dog to Stop Barking

There are many strategies you can adopt to train your dog to stop barking, some of these are listed below.

Distraction with a toy.

If your dog has something in their mouth they can't bark. Encourage your dog to bring you a favorite toy. Some dogs enjoy toy play, some even like to carry items around in their mouth. This serves both as a distraction and a physical way to stop barking.

Teach your dog to bark on command.

Using treats or praise to teach your dog to bark on command and then command them to to quiet. This can be tricky, make sure a few seconds pass before rewarding for stopping barking. It can be unclear if you reward to soon, the dog may be confused about the action you are actually rewarding for. Use a stimulus you know will cause the dog to bark - doorbell, walking past another dog etc to initiate the training. Keep the dog on a leash, give a little tug and then reward if the barking stops. Use commands such as 'speak' and 'quiet'


There is much debate about whether to ignore a barking dog. This is easier to do if a dog is in an enclosed room or crate but no so much if the dog is outdoors are during interaction with other humans/dogs.

If you do decide to use this method, do not interact in any way with you dog while they are barking. No touching or speaking. Once the dog stops barking reward with a treat and a well done. Be prepared to wait for as long as it takes. If you give up after 20 minutes and treat your dog to make them stop barking, next time your dog will bark for longer!


By ensuring your dog has sufficient physical and mental exercise daily you can impact the amount of barking that occurs. A tired dog will be less likely to bark from boredom or frustration. You can achieve this in a variety of ways. Long walks, playing in the yard with toys or providing mentally stimulating games during feeding or playing times.

Remove the reason for the barking.

If you dog barks at other dogs while out walking, cross to the other side of the road instead of passing them. If your dog barks at passers by your home, close the curtains.

Desensitize your dog to whatever is causing it to bark.

Start by positioning your dog far away from the stimulus. For example if you dog barks at other dogs that pass during walks, Start by standing a long distance away from the other dog. Reward with treats and then move closer, treating if the dog if he continues not to bark. repeat this gradually, removing the treats if the stimulus disappears. gradually the dog will learn that a dog passing them during a walk means treats.

A Toy will Distract your Dog From Barking


Things to Remember when Training

  • Be Patient - it can take time for your dog to modify behavior.
  • Be Consistent - everyone in the home must use the same response every time a dog barks.
  • Be Positive - don't tell the dog off for negative behavior, praise the positive response you are seeking.

Training your Dog.

© 2014 Ruthbro


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