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Why do dogs bark?

why do dogs bark

Why do dogs bark?

You may be wondering why dogs bark and often it’s during exciting situations and to exhibit attention seeking behaviour. If your dog barks manically at the production of their lead, during playtime or at the arrival of a family member or visitor, then it is likely that your dog has linked their barking to the exciting outcome. Your dog may even think their barking is what makes the walk, game or arrival happen! You can find out more about how dogs learn behaviour on our blog “How dogs learn”.

Barking at people

If attention seeking barking is directed at you (or another person) then they should ignore the dog avoiding attention and even eye-contact. If the barking continues, the person should leave the room until the barking stops then reappear and continue as normal.

Barking at other dogs

If your dog barks at other dogs; try walking them at a distance where your dog can be aware of the other dog’s presence but not react by barking. Allow your dog to look over at the other dogs occasionally and reward them for remaining calm. Try engaging them in another activity such as training or a game. By getting your dog to focus their brain on another activity you will help to keep them calmer. Gradually, as your dog becomes more tolerant and less inclined to focus on other dogs, you can get a little closer. If at any point barking starts up again, simply increase the distance until they are calm again. With regular, controlled exposure your distance should soon reduce.


If your dog is barking aggressively at you, other people, or other animals then you should seek help from a suitably qualified behaviour specialist to help you both overcome this problem. Similarly, if your dog barks when left home alone they may be suffering from separation anxiety and need further help and support.

Dogs also bark when they see or hear something that they are unsure of or frightened by; take a moment to try and work out what he is directing his barking towards. So, you may now be thinking why does my dog bark? How can I stop it? Here’s some tips.

How to stop a dog from barking

Stop for silence

As with all attention seeking behaviour, removal of that attention or outcome is what will stir a change. For example, if your dog barks during a specific activity e.g. whilst preparing your dog’s dinner. Progress towards their goal outcome (being fed) should stop. You should also refrain from giving any attention until the barking stops. Once your dog is quiet, progress can continue. The principle of stopping an activity for calm and quiet applies for all excitement barking.

If your dog is barking because he is frightened then you will need to take time to teach your dog how to be confident in that situation. The method of how to stop a dog from barking in this case will be different. We recommend taking advice from a qualified behaviourist or dog trainer in these cases.

Time out

In some instances, it’s not possible or realistic to stop the exciting activity i.e. a visitor arriving at the house. In these cases, you should remove the dog. The best way to remove the dog without giving the attention they want is by using a house line. You can pick up the house line and remove your dog from the situation for a “time out”. If, once allowed back in, your dog immediately begins to bark again, you can briefly exclude them again. Of course, the house line should only be fitted when he is supervised.

Act immediately

In order for this to be effective, the consequence (i.e. stopping the activity or removal from the situation) must occur immediately when the barking starts and resume as soon as they are quiet so your dog can make the association. If you continue to ignore your dog once they have stopped barking then they will not be able to make the link to the consequence.

Stick it out

Be aware that when you first start this dog training method, your dog may increase their barking. This is because they have learnt in the past that barking is what brings success. The worst mistake to make at this time is to respond as you will simply have taught your dog to bark harder and louder in future! 

Top tips for stopping your dog from barking

Is this article not for you? Check out our post on barking at people or other dogs

Fiona Whelan ~ Pet Behaviourist

Fiona has been working at the Training and Behaviour Centre as a behaviour specialist since 2002, and previously ran her own training and behaviour establishment in Lincolnshire for seven years so has a wealth of experience as a behaviour counsellor.