Dogs communicate with us through barking, whining, howling (and begging!). It's thought they learnt to vocalise more to improve communication with us.
However, unwanted barking – let’s face it – can be annoying and disruptive.
Watch our video to discover top tips from certified dog behaviourist and trainer Adem Fehmi on how you can stop your dog barking in the garden, in the home and when you’re out and about.
Why is my dog barking?
There are many types of barking and each one will need to be handled differently. This will depend on your dog’s history and their particular trigger. Four of the most common type of barking are:
What is territorial barking?
Territorial barking usually happens around the home. You’ll notice your dog barking when you have visitors over, when people pass by your windows, in the garden when neighbours pass by the fence, when people come to the door… the list could go on.
This is essentially your dog saying ‘back off, this is my space’. And when people do leave, they think they’ve achieved their goal, which only reinforces the behaviour.
To deal with this, dog behaviourist and trainer Adem Fehmi says: “You want to be pre-empting these situations before they happen. Try not allowing your dog to place themselves in windows or doorways where the behaviour could occur and reward calm, non-territorial behaviour – treats can work really well here.”
What is fearful barking?
Like the name suggests, this is where your dog is barking to ward off a perceived threat. This could be triggered by anything from other dogs to umbrellas (yes, really) and falls under what’s known as reactive behaviour.
This can be a complex issue for a pet parent and the management will be personal to each individual dog.
“Quite simply, the best course of action here would be to recruit the help of a local dog behaviourist,” Adem advises. “They’ll be able to provide a bespoke training plan to help build your dog’s confidence.”
What is anxiety barking?
This type of barking is often triggered when your dog’s physically separated from people or even another pet in the home.
This could be caused when you go out, or even something as small as being left in another room at night. And although this is often a speciality of new puppies, this can develop at any age, in any breed of dog.
Dogs are active, social animals, so will always need you to provide them with constructive attention and plenty of physical and mental exercise. But you do also need to build your dog’s confidence so they can be away from you without feeling stressed.
For more information and training tips on this issue, check out our page on separation anxiety.
What is attention barking?
Attention barking is also exactly what the name suggests. Your dog wants something – whether it be treats, affection, a walk – and is going to make sure you hear about it.
To avoid reinforcing negative behaviour, your best solution is to simply ignore any attention barking in the garden or in the home and instead reward calm, quiet behaviour with high value treats.
It may also be helpful to prevent some barking before it happens. For example, if your dog barks to be let out into the garden then try to let them out regularly, before they get the chance to warm up their vocal chords.
Our in-house veterinarian Dr Kirsten Ronngren also recommends keeping particularly vocal pups mentally stimulated throughout the day. “Attention barking can also be down to boredom, so puzzle toys that dispense treats can work wonders here.”
Top tips in summary
If their excessive barking persists then it’s always a good idea to consult your vet, or a certified animal behaviourist. But in the meantime here are some general tips to follow:
Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise.
Reward calm, quiet behaviour.
Pre-empt barking triggers and set your dog up for success.
Also remember that some breeds of dog are far more likely to be vocal than others. So if you haven’t got your dog yet and you prefer a quiet life, then put in the hours researching the right breed for you.
Dog barking laws UK
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, barking can be seen as a ‘statutory noise nuisance’. Dog owners can end up in court, and be fined up to £5,000 if they do nothing to stop the barking.
Dog barking laws Scotland
In Scotland, a continually barking dog is a noise nuisance. If a complaint is made, the dog's owner should try to find ways to stop the dog from barking.
If the barking still doesn’t stop, the owner can be served with an Order by the District Council, under Section 49 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
This means that the dog owner is forced into taking steps to prevent the barking.