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Why Do Dogs Bark?

The Real Reasons Your Dog Won't Stop Barking — and How to Fix It

The two questions we get most often are, "Why does my cat meow?" and "Why does my dog bark?" and we finally have some answers to the second one. We checked in with Dr. Eva Radke, DVM, of The Vet Set in New York City to find out why your dog barks all the time and how to help him stop.

Most common reasons your dog is barking

  • For attention: He may want to eat, go outside, play, or simply get attention from you.
  • Frustration: He may be bored or was left outside or inside for too long.
  • Fear: Some dogs will bark out of fear of people, other dogs, new experiences, loud noises, or new objects in the house.
  • Protection: He may bark if he feels there is a potential intruder outside (human or other dog/animal).
  • Excitement: Many dogs will bark out of excitement when friends come to visit or they go for a ride in the car, to a new dog park, etc.
  • Health issues Some older dogs with deafness or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (dementia) will bark because they can't hear themselves or are confused.

Best ways to combat barking

  • Tire him out: Many dogs bark out of boredom, so if you keep him active, he'll be more likely to come in and rest rather than bark at you to do something.
  • Ignore him when he's barking: Dr. Radke said a lot of dogs will bark because they think they will get a reward when they do. If this is the case, ignore him completely while he's barking. "Believe it or not, yelling at him to stop barking IS giving him attention and he will continue to bark for this perceived reward," Radke said.
  • Distract him: While he's barking, try to get him to do something else instead. Ask him to sit, and see if he stops barking in the process. Reward him for sitting but not for the barking.
  • Use positive reinforcement: If your dog wants to bark at another dog, you have to train him to know that it isn't necessary. Dr. Radke recommends a lengthy training process for that. If another dog is approaching, distract your dog before he sees. Have him sit and reward him for that. As the other dog approaches, continue to praise your dog for not barking, and eventually he will associate praise and reward with keeping quiet around other dogs.
  • If you still need help, ask your vet: Sometimes nothing you try at home will work, and your vet might have another idea.
Image Source: Flickr user kjmniemi
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