There you are in bed, relaxing with a book, when suddenly a series of woofs startle you. No matter how many times you tell your pup to stop, he just keeps on barking. Although you may feel that he may be barking at nothing at all, your little guy has plenty of "reasons" -- from extreme boredom to a strange cat in your yard. Below is a list of possible causes for barking, and a suggestion on how you can train him to bark a bit less.
When you're bored, you might flip through the channels on your TV or surf the Internet. When your dog's bored, he has limited options to relieve that boredom, so one of his favorite responses is to bark nonstop. This is especially common in working dogs who need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, like German shepherds. The excessive barking happens when you're home and when you're away from the house, and telling your pup to shush up usually only alleviates the barking for a few minutes, if at all. Taking your little guy for daily walks, throwing fetch, teaching him basic obedience and leaving a treat dispenser out when you leave can put the clamp on his noisy mouth. Anything that tires him out physically and mentally will keep him quiet.
When your dog doesn't like something, you're probably going to hear about it. Whatever triggers his aggression, be it a stranger or another canine, he's going to launch into a chorus of annoyingly loud barks and act completely ridiculous. If he's acting territorial, he might charge anyone who dare comes near his property, while if he's fearful he may let out a few barks while keeping most of his weight on his back feet, ready to sprint back to safety at any moment. Aggressive barking in itself isn't a big deal, aside from waking up everyone in your neighborhood, but you need to stamp out or at least control the other behaviors that arise from aggression. Talk with a certified dog trainer or your vet to decide on the best solution -- you don't want to tackle an aggression problem by yourself.
When you get your pup's blood flowing and his heart racing with excitement, prepare your ears. Some dogs are content with just running around like madmen and fetching their favorite toy when they're excited. Others take the more vocal route and start barking. The barking is usually in response to something. If you're standing a few feet away from your dog and holding his squeaky ball, for example, he might start barking at you, as if to say, "Give it to me!" Sometimes dogs get especially aroused when they see another dog or person outside. Instead of reacting aggressively, they bark, bend forward, throw their butt in the air and wag their tail.
To Alert You to Something
When your pup hears a knock on the door, he probably jumps up and starts letting out his canine shouts. He's alerted and trying to warn you that something's happening and maybe you should have a look. The same thing may happen when he's outside and sees a car drive down the street or someone walking. He's not always barking aggressively or excitedly. Sometimes he's just alerted to something and instead of staring at it, he decides to bark. In other cases, your puppy's trying to alert you to something he wants. Maybe he needs to relieve himself outside or he's out of water.
If your pup can't get to a toy under the couch or he's upset you've placed him in his crate, he might bark out of frustration. The worst thing you can do is give in and get his toy or let him out of his crate. Instead, wait until he's done barking and throwing his fit.
What To Do
A bit of conditioning can bring silence back to your house. Enlist the help of a friend or family member and have them knock on your door once. When your pup barks, wait for him to stop and give him a treat. Keep doing that consistently and begin working in the "quiet" command as your dog stops barking. Your little guy will begin realizing what the command means, and you can use it the second he barks to get him to stop. Always remember to give him a delicious treat when he complies.
By Chris Miksen
About the Author
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.