The doorbell rings, a school bus drives by, a dog is across the street or you’re standing in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter what you do; it seems like Fido is barking at everything. Why is Fido barking and how can you stop it?
Why Do Dogs Bark…
The answer can depend on your dog’s environment. Most nighttime barking takes place outside, which opens up the cause to many options. Dogs’ hearing is significantly better than ours, and they can hear noises we don’t notice. If your dog hears a strange sound, it could entice barking.
Wildlife is another culprit for barking at night. You may not notice them, but raccoons, deer, rabbits, opossums, and other animals like to explore after dusk.
In some neighborhoods, if one dog barks, they all start to bark. This group barking occurs when one dog hears another dog barking and follows along. The barking may be to warn others of a stranger to the neighborhood (such as a coyote or burglar), or it could be for no reason at all. The dogs assume there must be a good reason for the barking, so they join in.
Your dog may just be bored and looking for something to do, so he results to barking. He may make a game out of it by barking at every sound he hears, or he may be barking at nothing at all. If he is pent up with energy, he is more likely to do this, so make sure you are giving your dog adequate exercise.
Dogs are social, pack animals, and if they are left outside alone all night, they may get lonely. Howling is a way for a dog to express he is lonely. Dogs may also bark incessantly to try to get your attention.
How To Stop It
- Bring your dog inside
- Make sure he gets enough exercise during the day
- Keep him company and give him attention
There are many possible reasons your dog barks at the doorbell. First, it may have startled him. He may have been snoozing, chewing on a toy or chasing a ball and the activity was interrupted by the doorbell ringing. Dogs are used to something happening after a sound occurs, so they associate the ringing to you opening the door.
If your dog continues to bark after he sees you going toward the door, he could be barking out of curiosity. He wants to know who’s behind the door, and he hopes it will be someone who gives him attention in the form of play or petting.
Another reason is that he wants you to know the doorbell rang (as if you didn’t hear the noise too). You may not be in the same room he’s in when it rings, so he can’t see your reaction. He’s notifying you that there’s a person at the door, trying to gain access.
How To Stop This Behavior
Have a friend ring the doorbell while you sit in a room nearby. As your dog barks, ignore him and don’t get up to answer the door. Wait until your dog stops barking; this may take a while. Once your dog stops barking, call him to you and give him a treat and praise.
Ask your dog to sit and go to the door to welcome your friend in. If your dog follows you or begins to bark again, go back to sitting quietly and ignore him. When he stops barking, giving him a treat and ask him to sit. Repeat this until you can successfully open the door with your dog remaining seated. Have your friend greet your dog and praise him. Repeat this multiple times daily until your dog learns to sit quietly when the doorbell rings.
Your dog most likely thinks the mailman, delivery people and others walking by your home are intruders, so he begins barking. These people are briefly near your home and then leave the area, which makes your dog think he’s done his job at scaring off the “intruder.” This type of barking is known as “alarm barking.”
How To Stop It
It can be difficult to eradicate this behavior completely, but you can control it. Work on a “quiet” command with your dog. After your dog barks 3-4 times, show him a treat. When he stops barking to get the treat, say “quiet” and let him have the treat. Repeat this about 15 times, and then try to use the command to stop his barking without using a treat. If he hasn’t quite caught on yet, work on it more with the treat.
You can have a friend pretend to be the mailman and deliver your mail. Every time your friend comes to the door, give your dog the “sit” command and show him a treat. Have your friend stay around until your dog is quiet. This helps your dog learn that his barking is not scaring off the “intruder.”
Is Your Dog Playing?
Your dog may be trying to initiate play with the other dog(s). A play bark is typically short and repetitive. He should also have a wagging tail and raised ears. If he is displaying any type of aggressive posture, he is not attempting to play.
Perhaps the other dog is not in the mood to play. Try to distract your dog by playing with him instead. You could offer him a different toy or suggest a different activity like going for a walk.
Is It Territorial?
Your dog’s instincts tell him to avoid fighting at all costs, so instead, he has other methods to deal with conflicts. If your dog feels threatened by another dog being in his territory (such as the sidewalk in front of your home), he will give an assertive bark. Your dog may also have fixed eye contact and a still tail.
My Experience With A Territorial Dog
My dog, Sally, is big on territorial barking. She can be territorial over our home and even our family, so I try to be proactive in these types of situations. If I see her getting fixated on a person passing our house with their dog, I tell her to “leave it.” Sally typically does a good job of not barking when I am proactive. However, sometimes I’m not paying attention and she begins barking before I notice her fixating. In these situations, I say “no” firmly and stand between her and the other dog to show her that I’ve got this and that she doesn’t need to be protective of me. I’ve learned that Sally does best when I am proactive in these situations instead of reactive, so I try my best to set her up for success. However, this isn’t always the case, and Sally can be awfully stubborn.
Is Your Dog Aggressive?
Just like people, some dogs don’t jive well with one another. Dogs who give a low, quiet and prolonged bark are most likely barking out of aggression. Remember, your dog doesn’t want to fight or get hurt, so to save energy, he barks to assert his dominance. Your dog may also growl and bare his teeth. He may have his head down as well, but if his tail is wagging, he is most likely not aggressive and is looking to play.
If he behaves this way, you should try to remove him from the situation in a safe manner. Be careful not to put yourself in harm’s way. Guide him away from the dog, and reassure him that he is safe and doesn’t need to feel agitated.
If your dog barks when you leave, he’s probably telling you not to leave. Dogs miss us and don’t want us to be away from them. Their world revolves around us.
How To Stop This Behavior
If you think your dog experiences separation anxiety, you may be able to ease his distress. First, have the same routine when you leave your home (e.g., put your shoes on, then jacket and then grab the keys). Stay calm as you go through your routine. Once you’ve finished the final step before leaving, grab a treat for your dog to help him associate your leaving with something positive.
Dogs dream just like we do. Your dog enters the dreaming stage of sleep during the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle. During this stage, your dog’s eyelids may twitch rapidly. Your dog may make other noises during the REM cycle. Your dog could be dreaming about playing with a new toy, chasing a rabbit or something more intense, like an intruder breaking in.
How To Halt This
There’s no need to wake your dog from his slumber since he could be having a pleasant dream. If you’re really annoyed with the barking, you can wake him up. However, we advise against this because he could be startled and bite in response to you scaring him. Typically, dream barking doesn’t last long, so if you can handle a couple of minutes of it, we encourage that.
Would You Try A No-Bark Collar?
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and your dog is still barking constantly, you may want to consider a no-bark collar. There are different types of no-bark collars that you can use depending on your preferences. Our article (linked above) also covers the criticisms that no-bark collars face, so you can make an informed decision. And if you’re against trying this method and you’ve tried everything else, online dog training classes can help them learn to be more obedient.
What does your dog bark at the most?