Understanding Why Dogs Bark

Ten thousand years ago, the wolf ancestors of modern dogs roamed wild and free. But soon, these clever and adaptable animals found an advantage in associating with humans. Thus, an unspoken bargain was formed: food, water, and shelter, in exchange for companionship.

Eventually man learned to exaggerate the natural instincts and talents of the wolf through selective breeding. Dogs evolved into separate breeds used by man for different useful tasks, such as herding livestock, hunting wild game and even fighting crime. But even though man was able to exaggerate certain instincts and abilities, we have not been able to eliminate certain unwanted traits such as continuous barking.

The problem comes from the fact that dogs were bred to work! Many modern dogs are bored because they have no outlet for the mental and physical energy for which they were bred. As a consequence of this boredom, modern dogs have developed behavioral problems. Often this behavior is exhibited through barking. This is sometimes useful behavior, such as when chasing off a prowler. Other times it can be bothersome and inconvenient. And let's not forget the legal ramifications. In many communities, a barking dog can mean fines and even time in court!

So now that you know barking is a problem, how do you correct the problem? If you shout at the dog, the dog will simply assume you are barking too, and continue its tirade. After all, the dog doesn't understand English any better than you understand doggish! Some dogs may start to bark for no other reason than to attract the attention of their owners. Which is why some dogs will bark when their owners have left home. They are attempting to call them back. When the owner eventually does come home, the dog thinks that its barking ploy has worked!

So we can imagine one way to deter barking would be to ignore the dog. Eventually you can hope that the dog will become tired of barking after not getting the attention it wants. Another way to keep your dog from barking at night or while you're away, is to play with it before hand. Hopefully this will expend that playful energy, calming and quieting the dog.

 It is important to understand why dogs bark. Dogs bark to tell you they need or want something, and these needs can be various things. For Example:

  • They may want to go outside or come in.
  • They may be hungry.
  • Or, maybe they just want you to play.
  • Dogs get bored, frustrated, anxious or excited and will use barking to let you know how they feel.

Some dogs were bred to bark for a specific purpose, such as hounds, guard dogs or some herding breeds.

Expecting a dog not to bark is unrealistic. Make sure your expectations are reasonable since some breed’s inherent need to bark can be much greater than others.

Here are some helpful tips on what to look for and how to handle unnecessary barking.

  • Dogs that are left outdoors tend to have more barking problems and require more personal contact and socialization. It takes some special effort on your part to care for their needs.
  • For dogs that are both inside and outside, increase your play and exercise time. An exercised dog will be more relaxed and will spend additional time resting.
  • Take your dog out on errands. Even a quick car ride offers the stimulation of a new world of smells and sights and will give your dog a mental workout.
  • Be careful not to unwittingly reward barking behavior by yelling, which may work temporarily but in reality is increasing the barking behavior.

Ignoring the barking and then rewarding your dog with play, praise and food, is frequently more effective than yelling and the results will last much longer. Unfortunately, this method requires a cast iron will, a good set of ear plugs and understanding.

Know your dog’s barking cues and avoid them. For example; bring your dog inside or close the blinds when your children are getting off the school bus. Take your dog to the back of the house when the mailman arrives. Just a little extra effort and love can go a long way in reducing your dog's barking.

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