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Excessive Dog Barking: Reasons and Training Tips

All dogs bark; it’s a natural canine behavior. Some dogs bark more than others for different reasons, and some seem to bark excessively and without reason. But there are always reasons; they just may not be clear. Dealing with excessive barking can be a challenge, but there are solutions. Let’s explore some common reasons for excessive barking, training tips to help curb it, and when to call a professional to help your pup.

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Why do dogs bark? Reasons behind the noise

Dogs bark for various reasons, whether to express specific needs or emotions or to alert their pack, i.e., their household, to threats. Along with body language, dog barking is one of the primary forms of canine communication. And it’s not just barking; our canine friends use many dog sounds to communicate, including howling, whining, and growling.

Common reasons why dogs bark include the following:

  • Expressing emotions. Dogs bark to express various emotions, from excitement and happiness to fear and frustration. For example, a dog that barks when receiving a new toy may be expressing excitement, while a dog that barks at the vacuum may be expressing fear.
  • Communicating needs or wants. Dogs bark to communicate their needs, like when they’re hungry or need to go outside. They may also bark to communicate their wants, such as barking in front of the treat jar on the counter or a ball that rolled under the couch.
  • Alerting of threats. Dogs bark to alert their household to perceived threats. Unfortunately, many dogs don’t know the difference between a mail carrier and a would-be burglar and may just bark whenever they hear the doorbell ring or sense someone outside.
  • Territorial warnings. Dogs are territorial creatures and may bark as a warning to other nearby dogs. They might bark at a neighbor’s dog through the fence, dogs encountered on walks, or through the window at dogs walking past their house.
  • Anxiety or stress. Dogs with anxiety disorders, such as dog separation anxiety, or dogs that are stressed by specific stimuli or are reactive, may bark excessively when faced with a stressor or trigger. For example, a dog with separation anxiety left home alone may bark until their owner returns, and a dog with reactivity toward strangers may bark at a stranger on the sidewalk until they are out of sight.
  • Seeking attention. Lonely, bored, or understimulated dogs may bark as a form of attention-seeking behavior or try to engage in play. For instance, a dog that hasn’t had much exercise or playtime for a few days may be likelier to bark at their owner for attention.
  • Cognitive dysfunction. Older dogs may bark excessively due to canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, also commonly called dog dementia. Dogs with cognitive dysfunction can experience a host of behavioral changes, including anxiety, confusion, restlessness, and excessive barking.

Have you noticed any particular reason why your dog barks? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Understanding your dog’s communication

To understand what your dog is trying to communicate, it's essential to look at the entire picture, not just your dog’s barking. Pay attention to your dog’s behavior and body language, and consider the time of day and anything your dog might be missing.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my dog showing any signs of anxiety or stress?
  • When was the last time my dog had a walk?
  • Is it past my dog’s feeding time?
  • Did my dog have any playtime or mental enrichment today?
  • Could my dog be triggered by a new person, sound, or object?
  • Is there a pattern to my dog's barking (certain time of day or when certain things happen)?

Determining what your dog is trying to communicate can be like piecing together a puzzle at times. For instance, a dog barking at another dog while posturing in a play bow might be inviting play, while a dog barking at another dog with a stiff posture and raised hackles is warning to stay away. Your dog’s barks may not sound like different types of dog barks, but body language and behavior can add pieces to the puzzle.

Is your dog barking too much? Identifying excessive barking

If you’re wondering how much barking is too much, this can be different for each dog. Consider the following factors:

  • Duration. How long is the barking going on? Any barking that goes on for more than a few minutes without a clear reason might be considered excessive.
  • Frequency. Is the dog barking excessively throughout the day or night? More than a few bouts of barking a day in response to a need or trigger may be considered excessive.
  • Intensity. How loud is your dog barking? Does it increase in intensity? Your dog's barking could be considered excessive if it is loud or aggressive or increases in intensity without a clear trigger.
  • Disruption. How disruptive is your dog’s barking? If it causes multiple disruptions to your day or your neighbors are complaining, this may be considered excessive.

Strategies to stop excessive barking

To stop excessive barking, you can combine strategies to address your dog’s underlying needs, work on training, and manage your dog’s environment and/or triggers.

Addressing underlying needs

The first step in curbing excessive barking is to ensure that your dog's needs are met. This means ensuring they’re getting enough exercise and mental enrichment, adequate nutrition, and routine veterinary care. Just covering these bases may help address many common causes of excessive barking.


Once you know your dog’s needs are met, it’s time to start working on positive reinforcement training. Using high-value treats, start rewarding your dog for practicing quiet behavior. Do this by teaching them a “quiet” cue and rewarding them when they listen. This will take some time and patience, but be consistent. Eventually, your dog will learn that staying quiet earns them something delicious. You can also add other cues, like "relax" or "go to your place," to teach your dog to go to their bed or other spot in the house when something is happening.

Identifying triggers

If the excessive barking is related to a trigger, such as a doorbell or another dog passing by, it can take some time to desensitize your dog from these stimuli and counter-condition them not to react. Use treats to distract your dog from the trigger and reward them for not responding. Over time, exposing your dog to a trigger while pairing it with something more positive, like treats, can change their emotional response and make them less likely to react. On the other hand, if there is no trigger and you think your dog is barking purely for attention, it may be best to ignore the barking.

Managing the environment

Managing your dog’s environment can go a long way in reducing barking. If your dog barks at every sound they hear outside, try leaving the TV or some music on for them or blocking their view of the window. If your dog is barking for attention or seems bored, try incorporating some enrichment toys like snuffle mats, puzzle toys, and Kongs or other “stuffable” toys.

Pet owner education

There’s no shortage of online information about dog training, but it’s essential to identify reputable, science-backed sources. A quick internet search of “how to train your dog not to bark” may bring up many solutions, some of which can be harmful, like shock collars and dominance theory training techniques (commonly referred to as alpha training on social media). These methods are discouraged by the American Society of Veterinary Behavior and may even create more fear and increase undesirable behaviors in dogs. Look for educational resources from reputable organizations or consult your veterinarian.

What strategies have you tried to curb your dog's barking? Tell us about your successes and challenges in the comments below!

The dos and don’ts of training your dog not to bark

When to seek professional help

While many cases of excessive barking can be effectively managed through at-home training, some dogs need a little extra help. If your dog isn’t responding to training, or you think the barking could be caused by separation anxiety, reactivity, cognitive dysfunction, or any other potential behavioral problem, it may be time to call in a professional.

Start by talking to your veterinarian; they can help you identify which type of professional you need. Depending on your dog's situation, this might be a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. Some dogs may just need the guidance of a trainer. In contrast, others may have more serious behavioral issues that warrant a behavior modification plan and medications that will need to be overseen by a specialist.

Your vet may have a specific trainer or behaviorist they’d like to refer you to, or you can find qualified professionals through the following organizations:

Does pet insurance cover dog behavior training?

Some pet insurance plans offer coverage for behavioral training or therapy to address a psychological problem, such as separation anxiety, but most don’t cover standard dog training. Check your policy for complete coverage details and see what’s offered under special perks. Some pet insurers are partnered with other pet service providers for discounts on training, pet sitting, and grooming services.

The final keys to success: time, patience, and consistency

Dog training can be a journey, and most often, the problem won’t be fixed overnight, whether it's excessive barking or other common behavioral issues like jumping or leash pulling. Curbing unwanted behaviors takes time, patience, and consistency — so stick with it, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help from a trainer or behaviorist.


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