A dog’s bark speaks volumes

Cheri Spaulding/File Photo

What’s in a bark?  

Have you ever wondered what your dog is saying when they bark? It could be “I hear a noise!”, “I’m nervous!”, “I’m bored!”, “I want to visit with that dog!”, “I want that!” Those are the 5 main statements I hear every day from dogs. 

Let’s take a look at those barks:

Boredom Barking — I hear this from dogs who are left alone a lot. It’s a sad rhythmic tune of 4 medium tone barks. This can be alleviated with increased exercise and mental stimulation. A good long “sniff walk” can brighten up your dog’s life! 20 minutes of walking with your dog, letting them periodically stop to sniff for 10-30 seconds, twice a day does wonders for them. And many people don’t realize how much most dogs love toys! Invest in a couple interactive toys to leave with your dog to play with. A stuffed Kong is always a hit at my house.

Anxiety Barking — It’s a constant barking when your dog feels “abandoned.” You may also find evidence of damage to doors or walls. This is a really good time to call a trainer who is familiar with separation anxiety in dogs.

Barrier Frustration Barking — Dogs often do this when they are left in a yard with only a fence between them and the rest of the world passing by. You can help your dog by moving their location to a quieter, less visible place, where you can give them interactive toys to amuse themselves. Some dogs will have this behavior while left in the car, try containing them in a covered crate. 

Another form of barrier frustration barking is dogs who bark ferociously on leash, but couldn’t be bothered to bark when off leash. When you see another dog approaching, give your dog something else to do, with lots of rewards. I like to ask my dog, Geo, to target my hand when I see a dog coming. He does this when I tell him “Touch.” He touches his nose to my hand.

Demand Barking — Dogs learn this one quickly. They bark a forceful woof that leaves you clinging to the ceiling. They know that we open that door or feed them their dinner like a short-order cook. It turns into a habit. To stop it takes nerves of steel, but it can be done! You have to ignore the bark! You pretend you don’t hear or see them vocalizing or even using a paw as emphasis. If your dog barks when you are working at your computer or doing another focused task, you can prevent your dog’s chances to demand attention by putting them in a comfortable “settling place” and give them something to keep them busy — treats, toys, distractions.

Watchdog Barking—This is a tough one because it depends on where your dog barks, and at what. Identify what sets your dog off. Management is the answer. If the mailman is the villain, close curtains, block off access to windows where he can be seen, and give your dog something else to do. The best set-up is when you know when the mailman is arriving. You can make mail delivery time “off duty time” by putting your dog in his crate with a chewy to munch on.

There are subsets of these barks too. I have learned Geo’s bark for deer, and his bark for squirrels. He’s slightly more subdued and his bark is different sounding when he barks at deer, but if the evil squirrels show up, his true watchdog appears with his “squirrel bark.”  

I do honor his barks by going to see what he is barking at. When I’ve identified what it is, I tell him, “Thank You,” signifying that he can go off duty. I think that is fair and it cuts down on the barking. This is how I’ve learned what his bark signifies.



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