Even though they may appear to be barking for no reason, dogs are in fact trying to communicate something to their owner or anyone who is willing to pay attention.
Dogs bark to alert their owners of trouble, such as an intruder or perhaps fire. But a dog’s idea of an intruder may differ to that of the owner and could include cats, possums, other dogs or even birds flying across the property.
Why dogs bark and ways to help them
Lack of exercise/inadequate yard space/ boredom
Dogs become bored when they are confined in a backyard. Boredom can be compounded if the yard is small or a dog is kept on a chain or locked in an enclosure or in a run. Dogs like to explore and enjoy new experiences.
Treat your dog like a member of the family and include them on family outings, take them on regular walks and bring them inside to spend time with you. Taking them to doggy day care is inexpensive and gives them space to run and play.
Lacking human company/ loneliness
Dogs are social animals and enjoy the companionship of other dogs and of their human owners. It they’re left for long periods of time without companionship they can become discontented or lonely.
To alleviate this loneliness, take your dog to doggy day care, give them lots of toys to play with during the day, come home for lunch or have a family member or friend visit during the day or get a second dog.
Hunger or thirst
Make sure you’ve left your dog access to plenty of fresh water and give them well-balanced food every day so they remain healthy and contented. Your dog will bark, howl or whimper if they have not been fed or have no water to drink.
If your dog barks for food and you feed them only once a day, try splitting their food between morning and night to see if this helps. Leaving them a bone to chew on throughout the day not only provides food but gives them an activity to focus on.
An obvious or underlying medical condition can be the cause of howling, whimpering and barking. Flea or worm infestations, skin allergies and some injuries can also cause a dog to make excessive noise.
Take your dog to a veterinarian to eliminate any medical condition from being the cause of excessive noise.
Remove the source of provocation or remove the dog. If the source of provocation is a person, discuss and solve the problem with the person. Or if the person is unapproachable, contact the Dispute Settlement Service.
Make sure your dog has comfortable shelter away from all of the weather elements. They often cry for attention if they are uncomfortable due to hot, cold, windy or wet weather conditions.
- Birds: Seek out a dog trainer to train your dog not to bark at birds.
- Possums: House your dog indoors during the night.
- Dogs and cats: Locate the owners of an intruding dog or cat and discuss the problem with its owner. Ask the owner to confine their animal to its own property. You can also seek out a dog trainer to train your dog not to bark at other dogs or cats.
- Activity of your neighbours: Retrain your dog not to bark at normal noise and activities taking place on neighbouring properties.
Sirens and alarms
Some breeds of dogs bark or howl at the sound of sirens and alarms. Dogs have sensitive hearing and the volume or pitch of a siren/alarm may actually aggravate your dog.
Reassure your dog and either bring them inside or distract them from the noise until they quieten. Some dogs can be desensitised to the sound of sirens and alarms to solve their barking - check with your vet or a dog trainer.
Storms and thunder
Reassure your dog and either take them inside or stay with them until they quieten. If your dog will be at home alone and you know there will be a storm, prepare a quiet, safe place for them to retreat to.
Dogs can assume an uninvited visitor is a threat. Welcome your visitor in and reassure your dog, allowing them to socialise with the visitor so they learn they are a friend and not an intruder.
Change of territory
Dogs are territorial creatures and when you move house they can become insecure and stressed, resulting in behavioural problems. Some dog may try to jump the fence or dig out in an attempt to find its way back to its own territory.
A period of time is required to adjust to a new house and neighbourhood, and it's important to ensure they can claim their new territory. A dog’s territory is an area they've claimed as their own by scent-marking landmarks.
You can help by keeping to old routines as much as possible, keeping your dog's bedding, toys and food bowls, spending time on the floor with them (this adds familiar smells at their level) and above all being patient and giving them lots of attention and love.
Change to family structure
Dogs are naturally ‘pack’ animals. When placed in a family environment, a dog perceives the family as its pack. A change to the family situation - a new baby, children leaving home, a new partner, someone leaving after a separation - disrupts and upsets the hierarchy of where and how they fit into the pack structure.
If a change results in aggressive behaviour and resentment in your dog, seek help from a dog trainer or your vet. You need to take firm but loving action towards your dog so they understand and learn to accept the change to your family and their new position in the pack.
An owner’s responsibility
While it’s acceptable for a dog to bark to warn its owner, it’s the owner’s responsibility to train their dog not to bark at normal occurrences such as possums, cats and birds.
Barking at normal movement or noises from adjoining properties should be considered unacceptable behaviour. Training techniques can be taught to your dog to stop this reaction.
You can get more information about helping your dog at the following sites: