Common reasons why your dog bark
Before I delve into the different types of barking and how to deal with these, here are some things to consider that can impact on most barking behaviours:
Careful socialisation, habituation and desensitisation
Good socialisation should be a key component in every puppy’s life, and this also applies to getting a rescue dog used to their new environment. A dog who is well adjusted to the world around him, is a calm dog who will naturally have less things to bark at or about.
And even for adult dogs, it really never is too late to teach an old dog new tricks. That includes us humans too.
Always remember; quality over quantity. Give your dog control over their environment and offer choice whenever possible.
Smaller dogs often tend to be a bit more vocal, no matter the breed. And no, it’s not ‘small man syndrome’. There is just so much more for a smaller dog to be scared of. Imagine being only a few inches above the ground and moving around our human made world. Everything is huge and potentially threatening, from that stranger’s big hand reaching for your head to the car’s exhaust pipe spewing stinky smoke right into your face.
Small dog owners can also often overlook the importance of training their little friend, and therefore preparing them for the human world around them and how to navigate and cope. Studies show that dogs participating less frequently in activities and training are more fearful in novel situations. And fear often leads to barking.
Let’s look at this behaviour from the inside out: diet impacts hugely not only on a dog’s health but also on their behaviour. Nutrient availability and diet composition affects behavioural regulating hormones and neurotransmitters in a dog’s brain, and gut (the second brain, as it’s called).
One of those, the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, has a big influence on a dog’s mood. And if the serotonin production is out of kilter, the dog’s mood is out of balance, which can lead to stress, excitability, inability to settle and more. All of those behaviours, more often than not, result partly in barking.
There’s of course much more to this topic and I could, quite happily, go on and on about the importance of a good quality diet but let’s move on to the next subject.
Another internal component is of course genetics; some dogs have been bred to bark. Don’t get a Chihuahua and expect to enjoy the blissful sound of silence together. With naturally ‘barky’ breeds you may have to work a little harder to find a good sound equilibrium, but don’t despair, it is possible. That said, some dogs are just a bit chattier than others and we can’t blame it all on DNA.