Dogs bark for a number of reasons, leaving many owners to wonder how best to solve the problem. Here are the most common causes for barking in dogs and some tips to minimize it.
For a fearful dog, it’s best to broaden their horizons so they’re not frightened by everything they come across. Give them good experiences with different people, places, and things. For more details about this process, see our counter conditioning and desensitization handout. It’s also helpful to give them a job. When you ask them to sit, they know something good is about to happen, so they’ll worry less and you can take care of whatever scared them.
Bored dogs need more exercise and something to do. A few words to live by are “a tired dog is a good dog.” Get them out to play, take them to the dog park, or go for a walk. You can also give them a job, teaching them tricks with positive reinforcement. Have them put the socks away, put dirty towels next to the laundry basket. These things will stimulate their mind and leave them with less time to hang out and bark.
If your dog barks when someone approaches your home or anytime they're outside, territorial aggression may be the cause. Territorial barking can be hard to eliminate because it is frequently, and unintentionally, reinforced. For example, when the mailman approaches, your dog thinks they're putting on the greatest performance of their life. "Watch me get this guy out of here with just a few barks!" The mailman approaches, the dog barks. The mailman deposits the mail and walks away. They think the barking worked! The best way to address this issue is to immediately take them back into the house or away from the window as soon as they start barking. If you let them practice barking at people, they'll get really good at it! You can also teach them an alternative behavior. For example, as soon as a person walks by the house, you can toss treats into the next room. With enough repetition, your dog will learn that people approaching the house means it's time to run away from the window to get treats.