Barking – “ruff, ruff”

February 28, 2021

If you have a dog that is barking a lot, a little “Ruff, Ruff” turns into a rough time for you very quickly.  Barking is a misbehavior that grates on our nerves and causes a lot of stress for us. 

Barking problems fall into one of three categories. 

One category is the dog’s overly stimulated. It’s excessively excited. You’ll see this a lot of times; as two dogs are playing together, they start barking, and the barking escalates, and it becomes higher pitched. And the dog is just barking and screaming all the time throughout that play. Or you might see it as a greeting behavior. The dog is overly excited and is barking as it is greeting someone.

The second type is fear. Dogs will bark when they’re scared; this is an alarm bark. It’s a rapid warning type bark. What the dog is saying, is there some a scary monster is out there? And I don’t like it. They might do this when they’re in the house and see something out the window, or it might be they are on a walk, and something spooks them. 

And then the third type is frustration. We commonly see frustration barking in classes. People have their training rewards on them. The dog gets bored because a lecture is occurring, and the dog starts vocalizing and saying, I want those cookies. The dog’s frustrated because it’s not getting the rewards that it knows are available, or it might be your dog’s ball rolls rules under the couch, and it can’t get it out. So it barks, and you probably reward it by going and getting the ball out for the dog. 

What these three types of barking have in common is a lack of calmness.

Dogs are not calm when they are barking.  The solution is to nurture calmness and produce an internal and external state of calmness in our dogs. We can nurture calmness by helping them make better choices, especially when we are not in a position to actively train the dog and give it input that quiet, calm behavior is advantageous. 

Ways to Prevent Barking

We might close curtains so that the dog isn’t seeing things out the window. If we have two dogs playing, we might interrupt that play after a couple of minutes. Have them lay quietly on their mats, and then release them for more play. And we might do that every few minutes to keep that excitement and that arousal down to a more manageable level for the dog, or it might be, we keep the dog out of frustrating circumstances. We might keep the balls that are going to roll underneath the couch put away. And the dog has the non-rolling type of toys in the house, so they’re not causing frustration for the dog.

And We Want To Promote Calmness so It Can Grow

We also want to ensure that we actively reward calmness and promoting it in our dog’s lives. Mat games are one example of a game you can use to promote calmness.

But there are also less structured activities that promote that internal calm state you need in your dog. One of the things we can do as a very casual event during the day is as our dog is just laying calmly on the couch or its bed or the floor, we can go up and deliver a reward to the dog.  We want to make it a nonevent, just very casually, go up and reward that calm dog, and then turn around and go away and do whatever you would have been doing. 

Also, we can make sure our dog is getting quality rest, and this is super important. Many dogs spend hours looking out the window, just waiting for something fun to occur out there. That’s not quality rest for the dog. It’s vigilance. We want quality rests where the dog is just wholly relaxing. For some dogs, that might mean we have to close the curtains to make it so that they can get that quality rest. We might decide to put them in their crate to help give them that rest. I do this with Hooley regularly. At about six o’clock, she struggles to settle in and relax. So I help her by putting her in the crate. 

You can use food toys, long-lasting chews, and lickimat or bowl to promotes calmness. All of those things will stimulate a calm internal state for your dog and help it calm down and relax. 

We can resolve Barking problems, but we have to be proactive.

When you have a barking issue in one area of your dog’s life, let’s say the dog barks to tell you that it wants to go out. Then that barking tends to grow and spread into the other areas of your dog’s life. You then find that you have a dog that’s barking during training because it wants the food. And then you find you have a dog that’s barking when it’s excited because it sees a dog or a person on a walk. It spreads, and it becomes a bigger and bigger problem. 

We can’t put it off and say, Oh yeah, well, I’ll deal with that later. We need to deal with it right then at that moment. So instead of teaching your dog bark to go outside, teach it to ring a bell or some other signal that’s going to make it so that you know the dog wants to go out. 

If your dog is barking at something, try distracting your dog, give it something appropriate to do. And then you have a rewardable behavior. 

If your dog is overly excited, work to bring arousal down with a go to the bed or go to your mat type game that you play with your dog. And you can remove your dog from frustrating or scary circumstances and teach the dog. That life is good. The things out there are great will significantly reduce that barking problem. 

I hope you found these tips for barking issues to be extremely helpful. 

Does your dog bark a lot? In the comments section, please tell me what questions you have on barking issues. Or how you plan to reduce your dog’s barking problem.

Rhonda’s Comment

Rhonda Farfan on Feb 28, 2021, at 12:14 pm
Just watched your video about barking and will definitely try to work on Wally’s barking issues. As you know from the video I shared Wally tends to bark the most wildly at delivery people or other cars coming and going from our house, including our own cars…..He also goes pretty nuts over deer and squirrels or any animal he sees, even birds. I will try the suggestions you made and let you know how they work.

Debbie Schaefer of The Well-Mannered Dog, replied on Sun, March 1, 1:30 PM
Rhonda, you are going to rock it.  Yes, it will take a bit of work.  But all you need is systematic improvement.

Jo Ellen Comments

Jo Ellen Marquardt on Sun, Feb 28, 3:00 PM
Huckleberry barks when the footrest on the recliner is put down. He runs and barks at the door when someone comes from outside, even if we just go out for a few seconds and come back in with no knocking or bell ringing.  Huckelberry barks at other things too but these are the annoying ones because he wakes from sound sleeping and “peels out” on the floor to get there as fast as he can barking and barking, and growling.  He is so reactive I can’t get his attention, the recliner thing is getting better because I can anticipate it and tell him no.  But I don’t know when someone is going to come into the house from outside all of the time.  I have put him on a leash and kept him by me, but he still barks and pulls to get to the door. He is not aggressive at all but you would think he wants to eat the person opening the door. LOL

Debbie Schaefer of The Well-Mannered Dog, replied on Mon, March 1, 3:13 PM
Joy, try this, have a treat container on the outside of the door, and have people get the treats before they come in.  As they come in the door have them throw the treats at his head, this will change his emotional association and should reduce the barking.

Lindsay Calicott writes

Lindsay Calicott on March 1 @ 12:27 PM
My girl Rashida is a play demand barker. When I brought her home about 5 years ago, she would bark at me to get her ball and throw it. I would ignore her barks until she stopped and then praise her by throwing the ball. Eventually, she learned to bring the ball to me and for the most part, the barking stopped. Recently I had foot surgery so I haven’t been able to play in the yard with her. I just sit on the patio and have her bring the ball to me. The barking has started again. She will get the ball, bring it back halfway and start barking. I ignore it but it can go on for several minutes. Sometimes I just move out of her view and usually, she will stop barking and come find me. It is slowly getting better again. Is there anything else I should be doing?

Debbie Schaefer of The Well-Mannered Dog, replied on Mon, March 1, 3:17 PM
Lindsay Calicott, you are on the right track.  Walking away when she barks is a great way to get rid of the barking as it is the opposite of what she wants.

Anne Simons Asks

Anne Simons on March 20 @ 8:00 PM
You identify 3 causes of barking: over-arousal, fear, and frustration. Makes sense to “unpack” barking as likely the different causes call for different responses?
Where would you put what I experience as demand barking?
That is laser focus on me and incessant barking. Happens while we are out walking with him both on or off-leash.
I have been interpreting this as a demand for attention but maybe it is something else?

Debbie Schaefer of The Well-Mannered Dog, replied on Mon, March 20, 9:17 PM
Anne Simons, attention-seeking or demand barking is a frustration behavior.  Picture a child say “I want…” over and over and over again.  And is most dog’s cases at the top of their lungs.  So if you have rewards and you are not doleing them out, your dog is saying I want you to deliver the cookies.  Now if he thinks, you might throw and toy (because you have it on yourself and sometimes you do) you might have a combination of frustration and over-arousal.  So it might be a combination and not just 1 type.  

Wendy Wheeler Say’s

Wendy Wheeler on April 27 @ 9:35 AM
Grady barks exuberantly at people coming to the door and while greeting them.
We have found that if we put him in the garage or car parked away from the house while people enter, then bring him in, he quietly greets them as if the visitor belongs there. This is easy to plan when people come at an appointed time, but unexpected visitors are a different game.

We will work on the treats outside idea and the calm behavior toss. Also, rebuilding the “settle” mat behavior. But, what do you suggest in addition?

Thank you, Debbie for all your helpful posts!!!

Debbie Schaefer of The Well-Mannered Dog, replied on Sat, April 27, 11:51 AM
Hi Wendy and Grady
Any of calmness games (settle mat) you learned and Calmness protocols from the calmness menu are fantastic.
In addition, he needs help with arousal regulation (the ability to go from excited to calm), disengagement from the door plus games that change his association with the door (knocking or ringing of the bell, you opening the door etc.).

Do you remember any of those games from when you took class?  If not you have 4 fantastic options.
1. If he qualifies, sign up for the Serious Deep Deep Dive Workshops.
2. If he does not qualify for the Serious Deep Dive workshops, you could do the Chaos To Calmness Program
3. Sign up for Private Training
4. Sign up for the Self-Study Calmness Course.

Let me know if you have any questions.


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Author – Debbie Schaefer

Debbie has been successfully teaching dog lovers how to rambunctious, rude, disobedient dogs into Well-Mannered companions since 1987.

That means there are few bad behaviors Debbie can’t tame or troublesome pups Debbie can’t help turn into well-mannered dogs.

With training, your dog can be a great companion, a fun part of your life.