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How to stop your dog barking

There’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night to a howling dog. Or walking down the street when your pup won’t stop barking at strangers. Because we don’t speak doggy lingo, it can be hard to know how to stop your dog barking when you need it.

But fear not! It turns out we humans aren’t too bad at deciphering our pup’s language. And, once we can figure out what they’re saying, it can be easier to give them what they want and stop a barking dog when you need to.

A  group of scientists in Hungary recently decided to do an experiment between dog owners and their pups. The aim? To see whether humans could understand what emotions dogs were expressing when they barked. Was it fear, excitement, anger, sadness?

So how did they do? Pretty well, actually. According to the scientists,“Overall… you could see that people can discriminate six barks, and most of them were quite successful in this”

Most dog owners will know this already. We can get pretty good at deciphering our pups’ needs. Maybe it’s because they’re so similar to us. According to dog expert, Cesar Milan, “Not surprisingly, they use many of the same noises we do to communicate their emotions: dog sighs when it is bored, whimpers when it is sad and unleashes a deep and throaty bark when it is alarmed.”

While our first reaction is often to shush a noisy pup, it’s important to recognise what your furry friend might be trying to tell you first.

  • High-pitched, short barks
  • Looks like: Wagging tail, jumping up and down

    What it means: Looking for attention/excited -- “I want to play!”

  • Whining and whimpering
  • Looks like: Ears drawn back, tail held low

    What it means: Afraid -- “I’m feeling scared and unsafe”

  • Loud, abrupt barks or low growl
  • Looks like: Tense body, ears perched

    What it means: Feeling protective/territorial -- “I don’t like them!” -- “back off!”

  • Abrupt and random barks
  • Looks like: Confused demeanour, not responding when you call them

    What it means: Deafness -- “I’m confused and can’t hear myself”

    Being able to understand what your pup is trying to communicate when they bark can be tough, and it usually takes time to get to know them and their personality.

    One trick to understanding your dog’s language is reading their body language as well. Are they jumping up and down and wagging their tail? They’re probably excited and want to play. Are they tensing up when they’re around other people or animals? They’re probably uncomfortable around others and need some space.

    There’s nothing worse than hearing your pup howling in the middle of the night. It can be frustrating when they wake up you, your family and your neighbours. Here are a few tips to stop your dog barking:

  • Don’t yell
  • Dogs are like mirrors; they copy your behaviour. So if you’re yelling at your pup to quiet down, most likely they’ll just yell right back. What starts off as you trying to shush your pup often ends up being an owner-vs-dog screaming match.

    The key is to stay calm. Be assertive, but not angry.

  • Take them for a walk
  • Part of the reason why your pup is barking is because they need to let off some steam. When a dog isn’t getting regular exercise, they’re going to build up all this pent-up energy, and often let that out in barks.

    If your pup is sounding off, consider taking them for a quick walk around the park, or a play in the backyard

  • Give them space
  • It may sound tough, but often the trick to curbing your dog’s barking is to leave them alone and not give them any attention for a bit. Once your pup quietens down, reward them with a hug or a treat; they’ll then associate being quiet with something positive.

    At the end of the day, our dogs are animals and they act like them. Barking is a natural thing for them, so you’ve got to let them release that tension. But that doesn’t mean you should put up with midnight howls and barks at strangers every time you head to the park. The goal is to find a healthy balance.

    By learning to read the difference between your pup’s barks, you can apply simple techniques to get your dog using their inside voice.