Disturbing the Peace

Why does barking go from normal to nuisance?

Almost all dogs bark, and usually for very good reasons. But few things will make you the talk of the neighborhood -- and not in a good way -- more quickly than letting your dog bark excessively. What counts as "excessive"? Nuisance barking is generally defined as howling, yelping, or barking that is frequent or habitual and can be reasonably considered a disturbance. (It’s true, however, that this is a fairly subjective assessment.)

Why do dogs bark?

  • Dogs bark to communicate.
    It is a deeply ingrained behavior, and over millennia it has served an important function for their safety, and that of their owners.
  • Dogs, like people, are social animals.
    Scolding or yelling at your dog when he barks will not make it stop. In fact, your dog may interpret your yelling as participation in the "conversation."
  • Dogs may bark simply because they’re bored.
    With few other outlets for expressing their frustration, a dog may resort to barking just so he has something to do.
  • Dogs bark to get attention.
    Because they are pack animals who bond deeply with their humans, dogs crave attention. If the only attention your dog receives is when he is barking, guess what he’s going to figure out pretty quickly...?

How can I keep my dog from barking excessively?

  • Train your dog to bark only when it’s appropriate.
    Interrupt inappropriate barking by distracting your dog. Drop a plastic soda bottle full of pennies or rocks somewhere near him. When the noise disrupts his barking, praise him with "Good dog, that's enough,"in a light, pleasing voice.
  • Spend time playing with your dog everyday.
    There are many reasons why spending quality time with your dog is vital her physical and emotional well-being. And one of them is that dogs who do not get enough interaction with people are more likely to bark.
  • Give your dog chews and toys.
    Another tool in fighting boredom and providing an appropriate distraction.
  • Keep your dog occupied when you can't be home.
    Doggie day care; a friendly and reliable dog walker; even neighbor who may crave a little canine companionship if they don’t have a dog of their own; stimulating canine-specific "puzzles with treats hidden inside: While you may be your dog’s favorite pack member, you can ensure you have back up.

Prevention is the place to start. You can prevent nuisance barking before it starts by making sure your dog is happy, healthy, and well-trained. Contact a dog club in your area for information about training opportunities.

You can find a local dog club at Club Search and Directory.