Why do some dogs bark more than others? Maybe your neighbor’s dog barks nonstop when he’s gone, or maybe your dog barks at every breeze, shadow or whisper. And then there are dogs that hardly ever make a peep.
You might love your dog unconditionally, but a dog that barks at everything and anything can get a bit exhausting. No one enjoys being jarred out of sleep to the cacophonous sound of dog barking in the middle of the night—especially when there seems to be no reason for it.
So, what causes one dog to bark more than the others? Here are three factors that could contribute to a noisy household.
Genetics and Breed-Specific Characteristics
Genetics and breeding for specific traits can play a big role in a dog’s proclivity for barking.
According to Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist based in Orange County, California, the frequency of a dog’s bark can vary from breed to breed, and it all depends on how their ancestors were bred.
“Barking was emphasized in some breeds more than others,” says Dr. Schwartz. She explains that this trait was likely “selected by our ancestors to help guard human settlements.”
Not all breeds known for barking will necessary be noisy, however. For instance, terriers tend to be more vocal. But not all terriers will bark excessively, says Dr. Schwartz. Huskies and Nordic breeds are also known to howl more than others, while most Basenjis don’t bark at all, says Dr. Schwartz.
Dogs get used to their environments, and they will react to sounds that are unexpected (like a knock at the door) and those that they don't hear often.
If a dog was raised in a bustling city where they’re used to hearing constant noise, they’ll probably be less apt to bark in a noisy urban environment. But a dog who was raised in a quiet, rural area may bark at any sound.
“A city dog wouldn't react to a siren (cops, ambulance) because it becomes part of the background noise, compared to a country dog [who lives] where things are quieter and less chaotic," says Dr. Schwartz.
Unintentional Rewarding of Dog Barking
“Some dogs learn to bark for attention regardless of breed,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Barking is a response to not getting their needs met.” She also says that, “Barking can be a learned behavior where the dog signals to the owner, ‘I need something.’”
“It goes back to that basic of rewarding behavior,” says Dr. Katie Malehorn, DVM a staff veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C. She explains that dogs will keep doing something if they are getting rewarded for it.
Many owners may pay more attention to the dog when he’s barking—accidentally rewarding him for the behavior, says Khara Schuetzner, a certified professional dog trainer and owner of The Doggie Spot based in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
Dr. Schwartz gave the example of one woman who gave her dog a treat every time he barked—giving him attention and fulfilling his need for food—and inadvertently training him to bark.
What You Can Do to Stop Dogs From Barking So Much
To help lessen your dog’s barking, figure out the root cause of the behavior.
Dr. Schwartz explains that you need to find out what the triggers are for dog barking. Once you figure out the triggering behavior, the best approach is to work with a dog trainer and veterinarian (or a veterinary behaviorist) to find the best ways to help your dog find alternative, more productive behaviors.
Dr. Malehorn says that you will need to be patient. Many dog owners won’t seek help or try to work on excessive barking until it becomes a serious issue. At this point, it is going to take time, consistency and a good training plan to break the habit.
By: Teresa K. Traverse
Featured Image: iStock.com/srugina