How to stop excessive dog barking

Barking is a form of communication, and it's completely normal dog behaviour. However, if the amount your dog barks increases or becomes excessive, it can be a sign that something isn't right - and it may cause problems for other people as well as for you.

If this happens, it's important to address any underlying problems that could be causing your dog to bark more. Let's take a look at why dogs bark and what you can do if it becomes a problem.

Why do dogs bark?

Dogs bark for many different reasons. It might be to express how they are feeling - for example, when they're excited, frustrated, bored or scared. If a dog feels threatened, they may bark to tell somebody to stay away or leave.

Other times, dogs may bark because they want something in particular, such as their favourite toy. Dogs may also bark when they're in distress, for example when they're left alone.

If your dog is barking excessively or more than usual, you need to figure out the cause. There may be an underlying health issue - such as problems with your dog's hearing - that could be causing the barking. If you suspect your dog's hearing is suffering, or that they may have another health problem, speak to your vet.

If your vet doesn't find anything wrong, they may refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist, who'll be able to put a treatment plan together for you and your dog.

How to stop your dog barking excessively

Here are some things you can do to help stop your dog from barking too much.

  • Prevent boredom - dogs are intelligent, active and social animals, so they need lots of exercise, things to do and company to keep them happy and healthy. If your dog is bored, they might spend more time barking. Make sure your dog has enough to do every day to stop them from getting bored.
  • Get them into a good routine - your dog may be barking to communicate they want to play, or that they want food or attention. Make sure that you have a daily routine in place for your dog that includes meal times, play and exercise, at around the same time each day. A good routine can help your dog to know what and when activities are going to happen and may help stop them barking for activities at other times!

If your dog barks when left alone

If your dog is barking when you're not around, they may be in distress. Separation-related behaviour, known as separation anxiety, can show itself in a number of ways, including barking. The good news is that there are things you can do to help, which would also help reduce the barking.

If your dog barks at visitors or passers-by

Some dogs bark at people passing by your house or garden. You can try preventing your dog from seeing anybody passing the house by reducing their access to windows or gardens.

It's a good idea to have tasty treats and exciting toys to hand, as you can use these to distract your dog should they hear somebody. Start to feed or play with your dog once they've become quiet. It's best to seek the help of a dog trainer or behaviour expert if your dog is behaving in this way - they can put a training plan in place to reduce the behaviour.

If you're concerned about a barking dog

The occasional bark or 'woof' is usually not a problem for neighbours and others in the community, but when barking becomes disruptive, it's often considered unacceptable and unpleasant to many people. If you're concerned about a dog barking excessively near you, here's what to do:

  • Speak to the owner - but only if you feel comfortable. They may not be aware there's an issue, or they may already be using some of the advice above to try to stop it.
  • Contact your local council - if speaking to your neighbour hasn't worked or isn't an option, try contacting your local council about the noise complaint. This can help resolve the underlying issue, and if there is a welfare complaint they'll contact us.
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