Canine Barking 101

Barking… is communication, pure and simple.  It can be cute, scary, helpful and obnoxious.  It can also be difficult to control if it becomes a habit.  The first trick to barking (if it becomes problematic) is to find out WHY your dog is barking.  A good trainer tries to find out the reason for the barking before they try to fix it. As the dog’s owner, you can help find answers. Think about the following:

What does your dog gain from the barking? Is it your attention?  Or does your dog require distance from something it fears?  What does the barking sound like?  How long does it go on? What makes it start and what makes it stop?  Are your dog’s mental and physical needs being met?

Trainer Turid Rugrass breaks down the “sound” of barking into the following:

Excitement:  high frequency, hysterical, pretty consistent and the dog can’t physically stay still.

Guarding: shorter, deeper, growling

Fear: high pitched, long series of barks

Frustration: endless rows of “static” barking

Learned: the dog barks, takes a break and looks around.

Alert:  one “woof”, listens

This breakdown seems pretty accurate. She also specifies how to deal with each type of barking problem.

First and foremost, always make sure that your dog’s needs are being met. She suggests using redirection, basic obedience commands, teaching the dog to do something else instead of barking, and management. Fear and Guarding require a bit of desensitizing and counter conditioning. Frustration barking usually requires “impulse control” building exercises. Each type of problem barking has its own protocol, and needs to be addressed appropriately. Once the reason for the barking is understood, then a plan of action can be made and progress to get it under control can begin!

Barking is a behavior that can take time to fix.  Changing a habit is seldom done overnight….so be patient. The use of short cuts and quick fixes (however great they sound) seldom end well. The idea of using shock collars is one such “short cut” that may inadvertently create severe problems down the road, so don’t use pain to fix this problem.  Prevention is best, but if barking is already a problem,  there IS help available!

For more information,Turid Rugrass’s book “Barking” is a great resource!  You can find it and more on her website:

Turid Rugrass Website