Jan 16 2009

Is your dog barking too much? Here are two more common causes

Yesterday’s post looked at two common causes for excessive barking: social isolation and territorial behavior.

Dogs may also bark too much as a result of fears and phobias, or because they suffer from separation anxiety. Here are some guidelines to help you understand and address these two types of barking behavior, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States.

Common cause #3:  Fears and phobias
Your dog’s barking may be a fear-based response. Loud noises – such as thunderstorms, firecrackers, and construction noise – often trigger this kind of barking. Look to see if your dog’s posture indicates fear: ears back and tail held low.

Here are some tips for helping your dog be less fearful:

  • Identify what is frightening your dog so you can desensitize him. You may need professional help with this process. If the fear is severe, you can talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication while you work on behavior modification.
  • During thunderstorms and other frightening times, mute outside noise by leaving your dog in a comfortable area in a basement or windowless bathroom.
  • Turn on the TV, radio, or loud fan to drown out loud noises.
  • Block you dog’s access to outdoor views that might be causing fear.
  • Avoid coddling your dog – you don’t want to reward fearful behavior with attention and affection.

Common cause #4: Separation anxiety
Does your dog only bark when you’re away, and does the barking start right after you leave? Does your dog also display other behaviors that show a strong attachment – such as following you from room to room, greeting you frantically, or acting anxious when you get ready to leave?

If so, the cause of barking may be separation anxiety. See the HSUS fact sheet on Separation Anxiety for more information on addressing this problem, including counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques, as well as guidelines on the use of anxiety medication.

What about bark collars?

Bark collars are not a good solution because they don’t address the underlying cause of the barking. This can lead to symptom substitution, where a dog becomes destructive or aggressive, or engages in behaviors like digging or escaping.

A bark collar should never be used for barking due to separation anxiety or fears and phobias because punishment will only worsen your dog’s fear and anxiety behaviors. For other types of barking, a bark collar should only be used in conjunction with behavior modification that addresses the reason for the barking.

This information is adapted from the HUSUS fact sheet Solving Barking Problems.

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