Canine Communication: Exploring the Reasons Behind Dog Barking
One of the main ways our dogs communicate with us is through barking. A dog's bark can tell us many different things, but it's important to understand your own dog's different barks, their triggers, and what their barks mean.
Excessive barking, especially at night, can be an issue for some dog owners. Let's take a look at why dogs bark, as well as some practical tips for reducing the amount your dog barks, particularly at night when you’re trying to get some shut-eye!
Why do dogs bark?
There are many different reasons that a dog may bark. It's a dog's way of communicating to us, the dog owners, as well as other dogs and other people. Barking is also a way for your dog to express their emotions or get out some excess energy.
The language of barks
We know there's lots of different types of barks that your dog may use for vocal communication in different situations. Let's take a look at some of the most common ones:
- Playful barking: A high-pitched and repetitive bark may be a sign your dog is trying to initiate play. It will usually be coupled with playful body language, such as the play bow.
- Alert barking: Rapid barking with pauses in between to alert their owner to something dangerous, unusual or concerning.
- Territorial barking: Repetitive and increasingly intense barks, sometimes combined with growls. This is your dog trying to convey ownership over a person, object or place. e.g. their home.
- Boredom barking: Repetitive barking over long periods of time, caused by boredom or lack of physical and/or mental stimulation.
- Attention-seeking barking: Incessant barking directed at a person or people. Your dog may be trying to get your attention and signal a need they want to have met, such as the need for interaction or stimulation. These barks may be particularly sharp and high pitched to capture your attention!
- Separation anxiety barking: Often includes howling and mournful whining or yelping. This is a dog struggling when their owners have left them alone.
- Canine cognitive dysfunction barking: As dogs age, they may become confused and start struggling with cognitive dysfunction. This can lead to nonsensical barking with no real trigger, or an increase in barking from their norm.
If you notice a sudden increase in your dogs barking and you're concerned, have a chat with your vet. There are some medical reasons that can cause a dog to suddenly start barking more.
Night time barking
Night time barking can be frustrating for everyone involved. Your dog may be trying to communicate their needs, while the dog owners are just trying to get some rest - and the neighbours probably don't appreciate it too much either.
Just like during the day, dogs can bark at night for a range of reasons. Perhaps they're signalling they need to go outside to go to the toilet, or that they are thirsty and can't access their water.
It's also possible that your dog has sensed a perceived threat. As a dog's hearing is much more sensitive than a human's, they can hear noises that we can't. Barking is a common reaction when your dog hears something that concerns, excites or scares them.
Other common reasons for night time barking include a build up of excess energy due to a lack of mental stimulation during the day, attention-seeking and wanting to be close to their owners, illness or physical discomfort, fear of their surroundings or circumstances, or loneliness.
How to stop dog barking at night
In order to help your dog to stop barking at night, you need to identify the underlying cause for their barking and address the root issue. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to tackle your dog’s night time barking:
White noise machine
If your dog is responding to loud noises or is just a bit more anxious at night time, try a white noise machine. Just like with human babies, white noise machines can help lower the stress levels for your pooch and give your pup something else to focus on than the noises outside. If you don’t want to purchase a white noise machine, you can find white noise sounds on Spotify or Youtube and play it through your home speakers.
Physical and mental stimulation
Make sure your furry friend has had plenty of opportunity to burn off their excess energy during the day, and give them a chance to put their mind to work. Puzzle toys, interactive toys, walks, plays at the dog park, long-lasting treats, and quality time playing with their owner - these are all things you can do to help your dog burn off their energy during the day, which will help them feel sleepy and calm at night.
If you’re a nine to fiver, taking 20 minutes before or after work to take your pup on a quick walk around the block can do wonders to help curb their daytime boredom.
Create a night time routine
Include all good things your dog likes to do to wind down, such as playtime with their family members, a nice dinner, a gentle brush and cuddles in front of the telly. Treats are a great option to incorporate in a night time routine. High-value treats such as Calming Functional Jerky act as a positive association with bedtime, as well as offering your pooch something to focus on.
Maybe it's time for a new comfy bed, a bigger crate or a change in location to sleep closer to their pet parents. Your dog needs to feel they have a safe space to sleep in, or they won't be able to settle come bedtime. Sometimes it could be as simple as opening the bedroom door so the dog can wander in and see you're still there when they need reassurance.
Get professional help
Sometimes pet parents have to accept they need some extra help to support their barking dog. A certified professional dog trainer can work with you and your dog to get to the bottom of the compulsive barking, support you in training sessions, and help give you tools to manage.
Do dogs get tired of barking?
While your dog can sometimes wear themselves out from barking, it's unlikely that this will be enough to make them stop. Barking is a self-reinforcing habit, meaning the more the doggo barks, the more they will want to keep barking, especially if they're feeling unheard.
It's best to address your dog's barking head on rather than waiting for them to tire themselves out or get bored - you could be waiting for a long time!
What breed of dog barks the most?
Some dog breeds get labelled as being more vocal. Chihuahuas, Beagles, Jack Russell Terriers, Pomeranians, Westies, and Dachshunds are all among the breeds that are said to bark the most. Nevertheless, it is important to note that excessive barking problems cannot be solely attributed to breed, as they commonly arise from a complex interplay of environmental and personality factors.
Dogs are social animals, so the best thing you can do is ensure you socialise your puppy well and early, so they get to know a lot of different dogs, people and situations. Also make sure you always offer plenty of physical and mental stimulation.
Positive reinforcement and natural dog treats
Positive reinforcement rewards your dog for behaviours you are trying to teach, rather than punishing them for undesired behaviours. For example, reward your pooch for not barking, rather than punishing them when they do bark. Never use fear or shock collars to try to stop your dog from barking.
Positive reinforcement works to create positive associations with the desired behaviour. Positive reinforcement is a powerful training tool, and can be applied to training your doggo out of night time barking. Whatever your dog responds to best (treats, pats, verbal praise) should be employed when they are calm and not barking.
Our tasty range of natural dog treats are a great tool to use in positive reinforcement dog training as they act as a high-value reward for your doggo. You can also rest assured knowing they contain no fillers, preservatives or nasties.
Get WAG and support your doggo
Rather than asking ‘why do dogs bark?’ ask yourself: ‘why is my dog barking?’. Once you get to the bottom of what your dog is trying to communicate, you can support their needs and help put a stop to the barking.
Here at Get WAG, we have a wide range of treats and goodies for your pooch so you can reward them for good behaviour and set them up for success at night time.
Shop the range online via our website today, or in-store at Coles.