Barking is a normal canine behaviour for dogs. It’s how they communicate, not only to each other but also to tell you their needs. However, living in a suburban environment, a dog who barks can also cause tension among the neighbourhood.
Why do dogs bark?
Dogs can bark for a number of reasons, mainly due to boredom, excitement, anxiety or from a stimulus/trigger.
Managing barking can be done by first identifying its cause. Look at when the barking occurs, what is happening in the environment at the time and the type of barking – is it constant or intermittent and can the dog be distracted?
Check in with your neighbour as to whether your dog barks while you are away from home. Does the dog bark all day or only some of the time? In some cases, dogs bark when home alone and owners are unaware that their dog is barking.
Barking is often an indicator that your dog is not having its needs met. A dog’s needs are made up of biological needs, emotional needs, social needs and cognitive needs. Dogs are known to bark if they are bored or under stimulated. They may also bark due to fear of people coming in their territory or unfamiliar noises. It is also natural for a dog to warn us about potential intruders and unfortunately they are often unable to distinguish between welcome guests and people strolling by.
Please note, this advice is generic in nature and we recommend speaking with your preferred veterinarian who can provide behaviour advice and complete a full health check to make sure there are no medical reasons for your dog’s barking.
Changing barking behaviour
Dogs can be reactive to visual movement through fences and windows. Try to reduce visibility to high traffic areas or bring your dog into the house to remove visual or auditory barking triggers.
If your dog barks for attention, try to ignore them completely by avoiding eye contact and leaving the area. Make sure to praise and reward your dog when they are calm and quiet to reinforce the positive behaviour that secures your attention.
A common reason dogs bark is due to boredom. Provide an interesting environment full of enrichment for your dog. Our pets are incredibly smart and if their environment has the same routine over and over, they will not be mentally stimulated. Ideas can include planting pet safe plants for your dog to sniff and investigate, hide food around for them to sniff out or provide treat balls or food puzzles and take them on regular sensory walks and allow them to sniff at their own pace.
What doesn’t work?
Avoid punishment such as yelling at your dog, physically punishing them or using a remote e-collar. These techniques are likely to induce fear and risk your dog defending themselves escalating to your dog using aggression.
How to talk to your neighbours about barking
Barking dogs can cause tension among neighbours. If your neighbours are approachable, reach out and work with them to try find a solution.
It’s important to understand the impact barking is having on both parties without becoming angry or judgemental.
You may consider asking your neighbour to treat your dog for good behaviour and supply them with some treats. Asking your neighbour to treat instead of yell at your dog in frustration can prevent reinforced barking and protective behaviour from your dog.
What to do if the barking doesn’t stop
If you have tried speaking with your neighbour about their dogs barking with no luck, you can call Domestic Animal Services through Access Canberra on 13 22 81 and make a nuisance complaint.
Who can I report barking to?How do I make a complaint?
You can report animal nuisances to Domestic Animal Services via Access Canberra on 13 22 81.
This information was created in partnership with Domestic Animal Services and RSPCA ACT.
You may also contact the Conflict Resolution Service to discuss the matter and receive some free dispute coaching, or enquire about mediation.