Barking dogs cause many irritations and can cause conflicts between neighbours. Did you know that a dog easily produces the volume of a circular saw?
For a short while this is tolerable, but persistent barking works on the nerves. Especially when this is in quiet moments like in the morning, in the weekend or late at night. Dogs that constantly bark are a nuisance to the environment. Why does a dog bark anyway? If we have the answer to that, we can adjust the barking behaviour, so that the nuisance is reduced. In order to discover this, we go all the way back to the 'origin' of the dog.
The domesticated dog descends from the wolves. The dog probably came to humans because of the waste heaps outside of villages. Humans saw the usefulness of the animals because they warned when someone approached. The animals also benefited from living in a village, as this provided for easy meals. Later, man started to select dogs. Dogs that barked were used for guarding. Quiet and quick dogs were used for hunting. Later, other combinations were made where barking dogs were used for hunting, the Basset is a good example of this. These dogs track down the game and show the hunter with their loud bark where it is.
If you look back in the history, you can say that we ensured that certain breeds have more of an inclination for barking than others. At the top of the 'barking ladder' are, among others, the Beagle and the West Highland White Terrier. But you also have breeds that rarely bark out of nowhere, like the Akita and the Alaska Malamute. But even if a certain dog or breed has an inclination for barking, it's still possible to change this. The extent to which a dog barks depends not only on the genes, but also on the result of learned behaviour. In addition, barking can be caused by stress or pent up energy and dogs can also use barking to ask for attention.
Different kinds of barks
Barking can be divided into roughly six groups: caution, excitement, fear, frustration, defence and attention.
- Caution bark: this is literally one bark that is often missed, because the dark only sounds it once. The dog wants to say: something needs attention. It's possible that someone is approaching or that the dog heard something. With this, dogs also say that it's up to us to take action. Sometimes they give another bark. If nothing happens following this, they usually revert to a series of barks.
- Excited bark: when a dog is excited about a certain situation, for example before going out, its bark is higher pitched than normal. It can also produce peeping sounds in between barks. The barking is not constant and often happens in series. During the barking, the dog is often running in circles or making jumps.
- Fear bark: this bark is very similar to the excitement bark. It is a high pitched bark, leaning to middle-high and somewhat longer than an excitement bark. You can hear the fear in the bark. With this bark the dog will also move a lot because of the restlessness caused by the fear. As the fear increases, the barking will decrease. If the dog can't get away, there is a significant chance that it will defend itself.
- Defence bark: A dog's bark is bigger than its bite? This bark says differently. It is a sharp, heavy bark. Sometimes the dog will also growl. Before the dog uses this kind of barking, it's often shown multiple signals. Signals to ensure that it doesn't have to fight. This bark can, for example, follow a fear bark, if the threat doesn't decrease and the dog will have to make clear what it means. If no attention is given to this, the dog will feel the need to defend itself.
- Frustration bark: a bark that is constant and a little lower pitched than a normal bark. The bark is now and then interrupted by a howl. The barking of the dog tells that it's frustrated or bored. During the barking, the dog may pace or start digging. He can also show its frustration by excessively licking or by biting itself bald.
- Attention bark: at a normal tone, the dog barks in series of three connected barks. After the third bark, it pauses to see if it's getting attention. If not, it will bark another three times, and continue to do so until it gets attention. This kind of barking is taught and the dog knows that if it persists long enough, attention follows.
In practise, the excited bark, mainly the frustration bark and the ongoing attention bark cause the largest hinder for the neighbours. You often see that these problem dogs are misunderstood. Some dogs get too little exercise, but also doing too much with the dog can cause restlessness and thus stimulate barking. Other dogs are insecure or frightened. To decrease the barking, a bark in itself is very useful and shouldn't be completely unlearned, it's very important to know the cause. Why is your dog restless when you leave or a while? Why is it following you everywhere around the house? If you can find out where the barking is coming from, you can start solving the problem. This will give the dog peace, which also brings back the peace in the house or during the walk.
Text: Dog coach Arvid van Putten, Prins Petfoods partner.