Dogs are intelligent, empathetic, and fun-loving animals that enjoy expressing themselves with their entire bodies. They wag their tails when happy, point their ears and assume an alert position when sensing something unfamiliar, bare their teeth when threatened, roll on their backs if they want belly rubs, and nudge their owners with their heads and lean against their legs if they wish to cuddle.
Dogs’ primary means of communication, however, is barking. The volume and intensity of their barks tell a lot about their feelings and how they respond to their immediate environment. Hearing loud barking at five in the morning or when you’re trying to put a baby to sleep are sure ways to get your stress levels up. Further, dogs will sometimes bark without a sensible reason.
But why do dogs bark at nothing sometimes? And what should you do to get them to stay quiet when silence is necessary?
We’ll cover the answers to these questions and investigate why dogs bark.
Why Dogs Bark
Before you can learn how to get a dog to stop barking, you have to understand why they do it in the first place. If you can determine the cause of their barking, it becomes easier to address the issue, so your dog can calm down and fall quiet more quickly.
There are many reasons why dogs bark loudly, and here are some of them:
- Something triggered their territorial tendencies. This happens when a stranger or a stray dog your pet doesn’t recognize wanders around your house or enters your yard. Dogs typically “mark” their territory by urinating on the area, and when that fails, their aggression often rises to the surface. As a result, they start barking to warn the intruder to stay away.
- They feel bored or lonely. We see many funny videos on social media about pet dogs looking forlorn, gazing out the window, howling, and barking because they’re not allowed outside. Dogs also have a barking spree when left alone for too long, like if you overslept and forgot to let your dog inside your room, as is your habit in the morning. It’s funny seeing dogs behave like children with tantrums, but this behavioral issue needs to be addressed; otherwise, it could get worse.
- They are scared or feel anxious about something. Dogs also feel fear and anxiety. They are highly empathetic creatures who can feel their owners’ emotions and respond in one way or another. If their owner feels sad, they often lay their head against their owner’s knee to offer comfort. If they sense that their owner is agitated or visibly scared of something or someone, they will often look for the cause immediately and mirror their owner’s reaction. Dogs also get scared of loud noises like fireworks and people shouting and throwing things in their direction. When a dog’s defense response is stronger than its fear, it will start barking towards the sources to keep them from getting near.
- They want to get your attention. There can be many reasons for this, but most of the time, it means they are hungry, and it’s taking you too long to prepare their food. Dogs who eat on schedule (and likely have minimal to zero training) are prone to barking loudly to express their displeasure and remind their owners about mealtimes.
- They want to warn you about a dangerous situation. Like most animals, dogs can often sense danger earlier than humans. They have an acute sense of hearing and excellent sense of smell, allowing them to detect dangerous people or situations. Some gifted dogs can even sense illnesses in humans and pending ailments like a heart attack, anxiety attack, and low blood sugar. Unless your dog is trained to perform specific actions when they sense danger, i.e., nudge you towards your medicine cabinet or phone if you’re about to have an attack, it will likely bark loudly to direct your attention towards an impending threat.
So when and why do dogs bark at nothing?
For starters, they might be barking at something. A stray cat or a stranger lurking out of sight might have annoyed or made them feel threatened. It’s usually a good idea to check the direction they’re barking to see if something is causing their agitation. However, if there is no reason for it and yet your dog barks incessantly, it could be because of any of the following:
- They see something you can’t see. Dogs have a reflective layer behind their retinas called tapetum lucidum, which bounces light through the retina for the second time. This increases the amount of light entering the retinas, allowing dogs to see more than humans in dim or low-light conditions.
- They hear sounds you can’t hear. Humans are easily agitated by high-pitched sounds because they hurt our ears and are unbearable to endure for longer than a few seconds. But sounds at an even higher frequency are beyond humans’ auditory capacity. Interestingly, young children can hear sounds above 15kHz, but adults cannot. Considering that, it is possible that your dog is bothered by a high-pitched noise and is barking in response to it.
- They’re bored. Dogs can be noisy when bored and have nothing interesting to do. Some dogs would lie down and be lethargic, but those with excess energy can start barking instead.
- They feel anxious or don’t want to be alone. We see this a lot in puppies and newly adopted dogs. Regardless of age, it takes a while for dogs to feel comfortable and safe in a new environment. Many also become attached to their owners as they acclimate to their new home. It is only natural that they feel anxious if you leave them alone at home for hours to run errands or go to work. Most of the time, dogs cope with their separation anxiety by barking loudly, hoping their owners will hear them and return immediately.
- They are in pain. Dogs usually whine when hurt, but when their pain escalates, some bark and let out sharp yelps. If your dog is whining and barking, its body tense and clearly in pain, take them to the vet immediately.
Barking comes naturally to dogs. From your pet’s perspective, it is unnatural if you try to silence them every time they bark. When they bark excessively, determining how to stop a dog from barking becomes valid.
Signs Your Dog Is Barking Too Much
How do you differentiate between normal barking and excessive barking? How do you know it’s time for an intervention and learn how to get a dog to stop barking? Below are the signs to look out for.
- Your dog barks for so long that they eventually sound hoarse.
- Your dog continues to bark, even if you’ve already addressed what triggered them in the first place.
- Your dog pants heavily and becomes very thirsty afterward.
- Your dog’s incessant barking elicits complaints from members of your household and neighbors.
When people start seeing your dog as a nuisance and regard their barking as a disturbance to the community, that’s a sign for you to start training your dog and learning how to quiet them when it looks like they’ll keep barking for an extended period.
How To Stop a Dog From Barking
Here are the best and most effective methods of quieting noisy dogs:
- Address what triggered them. For example, if a feral cat is on the fence or squirrels are running across your yard, try to chase them away. If they are barking at pedestrians you meet while walking down the sidewalk, steer your dog away to avoid agitating them further. However, if you can’t walk away or remove the stimulus, redirect your dog’s attention back to you and reward when they are focused on you and not the stimulus. Removing the offending object or getting your dog away from the triggers is the easiest and often fastest way to make them stop barking.
- Distract your dog. This is another way to approach the situation if your dog barks because of a specific stimulus. Offer treats or toys, or issue a command that will force them to focus on you instead of the trigger. Reward their obedience with pats, hugs, and praise to keep their attention from straying back to the original problem.
- Ensure your dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation. This solves the problem of pet dogs barking due to boredom. Dogs, especially energetic breeds that need lots of exercise and love playing outdoors, need avenues to channel their excess energy. If they don’t have that, they can feel frustrated and easily agitated by various stimuli. Taking your dog for a leadership walk, or playing with them, will satisfy their need for physical and mental exercise. They will also learn to socialize with people and other pets, so they become less likely to bark at strangers and strays.
- Train your dog to recognize and follow a “quiet” command. You can learn techniques from a professional dog trainer or experienced dog owner. But generally, the way to train dogs is to offer a treat every time they follow a command. In this case, offer a treat whenever they fall silent when you say, “Quiet.” Once trained to follow orders, barking excessively at the wrong time and place will become less of a problem for you and your dog.
- Consult a veterinarian. If your dog is under extreme stress or shows signs of health problems, take them to a vet immediately. If their barking is health-related, getting them proper medical attention and treatment is the best way to address that. More importantly, your dog’s health won’t be compromised.
Get Better Outcomes with Professional Dog Trainers
Since the reasons for excessive barking can range from a health condition to pure mischief, it’s always a good idea to talk to professional dog trainers about the issue to be safe. They know enough about dogs to recognize health issues, so they will recommend a vet visit if necessary.
However, the main reason to get in touch with a dog trainer is to give your dog proper obedience training. This is necessary if your dog’s barking is due to a behavioral issue. Professional dog trainers and behaviorists specialize in behavior modification. They can help your dog develop good behaviors and respond less aggressively to stimuli. More importantly, they will instill obedience in your pet so they will follow whenever you instruct them to be quiet.
You’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to look far for a licensed dog trainer in Jacksonville or Tampa. Unleash Fido is a highly-rated dog training center offering many services. Besides dog training, they also provide professional grooming, boarding, private training, and a doggie boot camp.
Contact us if you have questions about our services. When you’re ready, you can book a class or one-on-one session with our trainers.