How Dogs Talk: Understanding Why Barking is a Normal Part of Dog Behavior with Absolute Dogs’ Lauren Langman

Barking is an intrinsic part of a dog’s communication arsenal. They bark to express themselves, alert us to visitors, and because it’s just in their nature. It’s a behaviour that’s deeply ingrained in their nature, playing crucial roles throughout their evolutionary history. Knowing that barking is a normal dog behaviour is key for any pet owner, as it helps us understand our furry friends better and react to their barks more sympathetically.

However, not all barking is created equal. While some barking is totally fine and expected—like letting you know when someone’s at the door—it can also cross the threshold into being a nuisance, especially when it becomes excessive or inappropriate. The key to effectively managing dog barking lies in telling the difference between barking that is appropriate and that which is not. Excessive or inappropriate barking, often due to overexcitement, boredom, or anxiety, doesn’t really serve a purpose and can be pretty disruptive.

Understanding why dogs bark is the first step towards managing it in a way that keeps everyone happy—your dog included. By figuring out the underlying reasons behind a dog’s bark, you can come up with a plan to curb the unnecessary noise, making your home a calmer place.

According to Lauren Langman, co-founder of the online training resource Absolute Dogs, once you have identified the underlying reasons for barking, you can address the cause through the magic of games training. Lauren has turned her lifelong passion for dogs into a multifaceted career spanning more than two decades in the canine care and training sector. She is the owner and master trainer at Devon Dogs, an innovative training facility at East Bowerland Farm in Okehampton, and also hosts the “Sexier Than a Squirrel” podcast, the top dog training podcast in the UK.

On Friday, 19 April, Absolute Dogs will host a free livestream offering an in-depth look at barking behaviour. Below, we touch on a few of the topics that will be further explored during Friday’s event.

Understanding Why Dogs Bark

Historically, barking has been a key way for dogs to communicate. In the wild, early dogs would bark to alert the pack to the presence of threats, such as predators or intruders, effectively serving as an early warning system. This not only kept them safe but also helped the pack work together better.

As dogs evolved and became domesticated, their barking adapted to the needs and complexities of their new lifestyle. Barking became a way for dogs to communicate both with other dogs and their human companions. They might bark to let us know someone’s at the door, tell us they’re hungry or uncomfortable, or react to things like other animals or cars outside. Barking also helps dogs keep their territory safe. A good bark can scare off intruders and tell other animals to back off, protecting both their space and their human family. This territorial barking comes from their wild ancestors, who needed to defend their resources from others.

The act of barking is a complex behaviour that dogs have developed over thousands of years. It has played a huge role in their survival and allowed them to become one of the most successful species to live alongside humans. Understanding this helps us see why dogs bark and how important it is in the way they interact with the world around them, Langman says.

Reasons Your Dog May Be Barking

Dogs bark for a multitude of reasons, each serving a specific purpose in their communication and interaction with the world. One of the most fundamental reasons a dog barks is to alert others to potential danger. Whether it’s a stranger approaching the door or a car pulling into the driveway, dogs use their bark as an alarm system, signalling to their human companions that something unusual is happening. This natural alarm system is a part of their protective instincts, and is often appreciated by dog owners looking for a little extra security.

Excitement is another trigger for barking. You’ve seen it—when dogs are playing, or when they’re super happy to see family members, their joyous noises show how social and happy they are. Similarly, frustration can lead to barking, such as when a dog is confined behind a gate or wants to interact with other dogs or people out of reach. This barking isn’t just noise—it’s a vocalisation of their current emotional state, indicating that they are not happy with the situation and want something to change.

Fear and anxiety can also cause a dog to bark. This type of barking is typically more high-pitched and might come with other signs of distress, such as pacing or hiding. It serves as an expression of discomfort or fear, possibly triggered by loud noises like thunderstorms or fireworks. On the other side, barking can stem from boredom or as a method for seeking attention. Dogs left alone for long periods might bark to express their loneliness or to simply hear their own voice, while others might bark to prompt interaction or engagement from their owners.

The key takeaway is that barking is often more of a symptom than a standalone issue. It’s a clue to a dog’s emotional state and needs. According to Langman, by understanding the emotional triggers behind why dogs bark, you can better address the root causes—whether that means more exercise to burn off energy, training to manage reactions to fears, or simply spending more quality time with your pet. Addressing these underlying issues not only helps reduce unwanted barking but also contributes to a happier, healthier dog.

Using Training Games with Absolute Dogs

Training games are a great way to manage behaviours like barking. At the heart of Langman’s Absolute Dogs approach, these fun, interactive activities can engage your dog’s mind and strengthen the bond between you and your pet, creating a more peaceful and friendly atmosphere at home. Games tap into a dog’s natural instincts and redirect them towards positive outcomes, effectively teaching them the right way to react to different situations and cutting down on excessive barking. For example, training games that reward quiet behaviour help dogs learn that calmness can be beneficial. This method is especially handy for keeping dogs quiet in situations that would normally get them barking, such as when guests come over or when they hear surprising noises.

Consistency and patience are your best friends here. Just like any form of training, reducing unwanted barking is a process that requires time, understanding, and regular practice. It’s not about quick fixes; it’s about teaching your dog over time how to cope in various situations without resorting to constant barking.

Remember that working on barking issues is part of being a good dog owner, helping you understand and meet your dog’s emotional and mental needs. Sticking with a consistent training routine leads to a quieter home and helps your dog feel more secure and happy. This way, you’re not just cutting down on noise—you’re also building a stronger, more loving bond with your dog.

To learn training games that will help you build a stronger, more loving relationship with your dog, tune in to Absolute Dog’s free livestream event on Friday, 19 April at 6:30 p.m. BST.

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