To understand why your dog barks unnecessarily is a tricky subject.
Barking is something dogs often do to sound the alarm of a potential threat (in his mind). Unfortunately for you and your neighbours, these ‘threats’ can include squirrels, birds, people or dogs walking by, noises, the garbage man, etc. Dogs may also bark when excited to initiate play, however this isn’t the focus of this blog.
A dog that barks at everyday occurrences is not a good watchdog. A dog like this is similar to a car alarm that keeps going off for no reason. People will eventually take no notice, even when he barks for a legitimate reason. He will only annoy the entire neighbourhood.
A good watchdog is one that barks only when something out of the ordinary happens; when someone attempts to enter your property or when there is imminent danger like a house fire. Dogs naturally protect their territory but you need to teach him what is not a threat to you, your family or the territory.
Dogs that bark a lot can be of various personality types. The very confident dog will feel it is his duty to ward off everything and everybody from his turf. He is insistent in his warnings and is vigilant in keeping things away. The timid or fearful dog may be very worried about these scary threats, as he feels vulnerable. He will do everything in his power to keep them from approaching his domain so he or his pack isn’t hurt. This can even escalates into growling and biting.
A dog may also be barking to call the pack back to him (separation anxiety) as he is worried for his safety and that of the pack.
These are all natural survival instincts for dogs. Since they are dogs living in a human society, we need to teach them in their own language what warrants concern, what is acceptable barking, and what is not.
Things that you can put in place to help the situation include:
Don’t react to your dog every time he barks by calling him, going to him, or yelling at him. You are only reinforcing his ‘calling of the pack’ responsibility.
Provide a safe place for him to sleep and relax when he is left alone. Patrolling an entire house is a huge job that will require lots of barking.
Provide your dog with a sense of strong leadership from you. He will feel less vulnerable if he knows you are capable of taking care of him and the pack. This includes setting rules, getting him to work for you by following and focusing, and not acceding to requests from him for attention, games, coming in or going out, etc.
Understanding the temperament of your dog, the constant messages he’s sending to you and others, and the scope of his concern is paramount to educating him and controlling the barking. Some solutions that are available to stop barking can possibly make the matter worse. So any gimmicky item (bark collars etc) can actually put a great deal of stress on your dog. Although it stops him from barking unnecessarily he definitely is still feeling the need to bark and will not actually understand that he shouldn’t be.
If you’re frustrated by your dogs barking and require help understanding your pet, I highly recommend that you seek proffessional help. Find a trainer that you’re comfortable with and follow through on their instructions.