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behavior and training
Excessive-dog-barking

The essentials

  • Dog barking is natural — Just like humans talk, dogs bark to communicate their feelings.
  • Barking may be genetic or medical — Excessive barking could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, or your dog’s breed may naturally be more vocal than other dog breeds.
  • Training is key to prevention — For cases that aren’t medical, training and playtime are essential to reduce the amount of barking.

Whether you’ve just adopted a dog or you’ve been living with your doggie for years, you may be wondering if their love of yapping at passersby (and anything and everything else in their line of view) is normal. How much barking is really considered excessive dog barking? Dogs bark for many reasons, and it’s important they do so to communicate. But if you’re looking for a little relief, here are some causes of dog barking and what to do if it becomes excessive.

Why dogs bark

Dogs may bark for many reasons. Just as you use your voice to express concern, fear, or happiness, dogs bark to communicate. Maybe they bark to say hello to another dog in the neighborhood, or a guest at the door has put them on high alert. Some dogs may bark when they want extra affection, and dogs with separation anxiety might bark when they are lonely and missing their human. Barking is natural, but excessive barking can become an annoyance for your household and even your neighbors.

It’s in their nature

Some breeds are naturally a little more chatty than others. Beagles are considered one of the most vocal dog breeds, and other dogs that bark a lot include chihuahuas, yorkshire terriers, cairn terriers, basset hounds and other hound breeds, poodles, and pomeranians. Regardless of breed, most dogs will bark when they feel threatened or if they feel that their family or territory is being threatened. Excessive dog barking may just be your dog’s way of telling threats to back off.

Behavior issues

Dog barking can be behavioral. Dogs are natural pack animals, and they like to be around other dogs or their owners. When you leave for work, Fido may feel lonely or bored, so they may bark to express their feelings. If your dog has separation anxiety, they may bark when they are alone to hear their own voice and ask for attention. In addition to barking excessively, dogs with separation anxiety may also pace the house or yard, and chew or destroy household items and furniture.

Underlying medical conditions

If your dog seems to be barking more than usual, they could be trying to tell you something is wrong. They might be in pain from a cut on their paw, or they might be experiencing vision or hearing loss. Older dogs may bark excessively when experiencing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, which is similar to what humans experience with Alzheimer’s disease. Any source of pain, discomfort, or diminishing senses can lead a dog to bark as they try to express that something is wrong.

How to prevent excessive dog barking

Whether your dog’s barking is interrupting your family dinners or keeping you up all night, it can be frustrating to hear the constant noise and not know how to help your dog find peace or relief. No matter the cause of the barking, there are ways to train your dog to better communicate, and you can help narrow down the reason for excessive barking.

👉 Don’t yell at your dog for barking; this is ineffective and confusing. Instead, use consistent, short, and positive training sessions.

1. Visit your veterinarian

If your dog has started barking more than usual, the first thing to do is call the vet. A veterinarian will be able to determine if there are any underlying health issues that have caused your dog to call out for help. A vet can diagnose a behavioral problem or determine if the excessive dog barking is due to a medical condition. Worried about the cost of an unexpected vet visit? Pet insurance may cover some or most of these visits. For example, pet insurance provider Fetch now covers new behavioral issues and accompanying training if the excessive barking ends up not being related to a medical condition.

2. Remove the cause

If your dog is in good health and is still being vocal, they may be barking for other reasons. They might feel threatened by the new dog that moved in across the street, or they’re struggling with socialization following the pandemic lockdowns. You may need to give them more exercise by taking them on longer walks, or consider working on socialization skills by taking your pup to a doggie daycare or dog park. If you can modify a situation that makes them uncomfortable, like keeping them inside the house when you know the neighborhood kids will be getting off the bus, that can also curb barking.

3. Add training and playtime

Training is a great way to teach dogs better communication skills, and extra playtime can help keep them from feeling bored or lonely.

Use vocal commands — Teach your dog to understand the term “Quiet.” Aside from being more aggressive, the term “Shut up” is more complex and harder for the dog to learn. Remember to keep training sessions positive to reinforce good behavior.

Ignore barking for attention — Some dogs bark just so you’ll give them a scratch on the head. Don’t encourage this behavior by giving in; instead, wait to give them attention or a treat once they have stopped barking.

Teach new communications — Dogs may bark to go outside or to greet other dogs. Use treats and training to teach them to communicate in other ways. For example, teach them to jingle a bell on the door handle when they want to go outside, or use treats to encourage them to walk past doggie passersby quietly.

Consider crate training — Crate training may be helpful for dogs with separation anxiety that are barking a lot. Just be patient, as crate training may take several weeks, and don’t use this option for more than 5 hours for adult dogs. Also, make sure to give your dog safe toys in the crate to keep them occupied.

Burn energy with playtime — Your dog might be barking because they are bored or have too much energy. Make sure to schedule plenty of games of fetch and walks to help them burn off their energy and keep their mind stimulated in a positive way.

4. Talk to a certified applied animal behaviorist or trainer

Training a puppy or adult dog can be difficult to do on your own. If DIY training isn’t working for you and your furry friend, you should work with a professional trainer or certified applied animal behaviorist. These experts can find the cause of the barking, and work with you and your dog to learn better ways to communicate. 

When searching for trainers, look for professionals with one of these certifications: CPDT-KA, CPDT-KSA, or CBCC-KA. Make sure to read reviews for the trainers on your short-list, and don’t be afraid to ask for references. Also, avoid trainers who use punishment-based or dominance-and-submission methods for training.

5. Medications and supplements may be needed

The vet may recommend medications or supplements to help control any medical or behavioral causes of excessive barking. Don’t use medicines or supplements without talking to your dog’s veterinarian first. 

A vet may recommend calming supplements to make your dog feel more relaxed, especially during particularly stressful events, like thunderstorms or Independence Day fireworks. 

In medical situations, the vet may prescribe medication to treat or alleviate the underlying cause of the barking. For the worst cases, a vet may recommend psychoactive medication as a last resort for chronic barking if the barking is due to a behavioral issue. Most pet insurance policies cover medication, including anxiety medications for dogs.

You may be tempted to try CBD for dogs to reduce barking, but keep in mind that these products aren’t federally regulated and could negatively interact with other medications or supplements that your dog is taking.

6. Opt for safe anti-bark devices

You can use safe, anti-bark devices in conjunction with positive, consistent training to encourage your dog to bark less. Owner-activated products, like water sprayers, ultrasonic or audio devices, and shake cans made from an empty, sealable can and a few noise-making items like coins, can be used to interrupt a barking dog. But, be sure to use training techniques to positively reinforce the quiet behavior.

Things to avoid

A barking dog can be frustrating and disruptive, but remember that showing your agitation by yelling or cursing will only make the dog feel worse. Physical abuse should never, ever be used against a dog. It’s not only ineffective — it’s illegal. The Animal Legal Defense Fund provides information on state-by-state punishments for animal abusers. In 2019, Congress passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. It states that certain acts of animal cruelty, including killing, torturing, overworking, or neglecting an animal, may be deemed a federal crime. Those found guilty of animal cruelty could face up to seven years in prison.

Frequently asked questions

What is considered excessive dog barking?

Excessive dog barking may just mean barking that is more frequent than your dog usually barks. But, what if you’ve just adopted a dog or you move next to a house with a dog that seems to be barking a lot? Some cities have legislation in place that defines excessive barking. In general, excessive dog barking refers to ongoing barking that disrupts the peace or comfort of humans in close proximity to the dog.

How do I stop my dog from barking when I leave?

Dogs love their humans, and they may feel nervous or sad when you leave the house. Leave out safe toys and dog-friendly puzzles when you’re heading out so they have something to keep their brains active. When you are home, be sure to keep up with positive, consistent training sessions to teach your dog not to bark when you’re leaving the house. Also, make sure to exercise your dog regularly to meet their energy needs so that they are more likely to sleep when you are away.

What causes dogs to bark excessively?

When dogs are barking more than usual, they are trying to express something. They may be bored or lonely, they might want attention, or they might be scared. Some dogs may bark when they are excited or when they are trying to greet another animal nearby. Dogs can also bark to let you know something is wrong. They might be hurt or experiencing diminishing senses, like losing their sight or hearing.

My dog’s barking gives me anxiety. What should I do?

Dogs bark to communicate, so it’s important that they are able to do so. But if the barking has become excessive, you should first identify the problem. Does your dog hate the mail carrier or feel threatened by anyone walking past your home? If so, you might want to close the curtains or keep your dog away from the entrance of your home. Is your dog barking due to a noise, like thunder? If this is the case, there are ways to address noise phobias to ease a dog’s anxiety. The best place to start is by consulting with your local veterinarian.  

You should also have your dog examined by your vet to make sure nothing is wrong that could be causing them to bark for help. If there’s nothing medically wrong, they may recommend a professional trainer to help your dog learn how to communicate. Make sure to keep up with training at home, too. Even if you feel anxious when you hear your dog bark during training, remain in a happy, upbeat tone to help your dog learn and retain the desired behaviors.

Why is my dog barking at nothing?

If your dog seems to be barking at nothing, they might be in pain or have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). If excessive barking is a new problem, visit the vet to help identify any underlying medical issues. Your dog might also be barking because they feel lonely or bored. Make sure to give them plenty of love and attention. For times when you are gone, like when you need to run errands, make sure the dog has plenty of toys and their favorite comfort items, like a dog bed or ThunderShirt, to feel cozy and safe during your absence.