You’re sitting on the couch after a very long day at work, sighing in relief as you take a moment to breathe…when you hear a car pull up outside. ‘Oh no, here we go again’ you think while your dog sprints like a cheetah to the window and proceeds to howl like its ancestral wolf. For anxious or dominant dogs, non-stop barking can be a frequent occurrence and, if you’re like me, one that annoys you.
Fortunately, there are quick and easy fixes that will benefit both you and your best friend. The first step? Rooting out the source of your dog’s non-stop barking at any and every noise it hears.
For a quick screening, look up your dog’s breed and note its biological sex, males especially non-neutered males.
Smaller dogs tend to be louder than larger dogs, and often have accompanying anxiety, such as the dachshund. In contrast, some larger dogs may be more inclined towards dominant behaviors, especially breeds historically bred for that purpose, such as the Doberman Pinscher. In some cases, the line can blur; chihuahuas, which are generally high anxiety and high dominance, are a good example.
Bottom line: You know your dog best and should be able to determine whether it is an issue of anxiety, dominance, or both before proceeding. Once you decide the cause use these strategies to correct the underlying problem.
Don’t reward bad behavior
The most common mistake I see owners make is rewarding their dog’s bad behavior. Often, an owner will give their dog a treat or play with them when they’re barking to try and quiet them. Now, any smart dog and dogs are pretty smart, will take this as approval of their behavior—leading them to develop a behavioral pattern.
If you don’t want non-stop barking, then don’t reward that behavior.
Use training to end non-stop barking
To train your dog these commands, hold a treat about half a foot from the dog’s mouth with an open palm. When the dog lunges for the treat quickly close your hand and give a firm “No”. Do this a few times an hour for the next day or two (do not give the dog the treat yet). Once the dog no longer lunges for the treat, then you can teach them the “OK ” command and give the dog the treat.
Now that your canine companion knows basic commands, which should help immensely on its own, add a crate to the picture. If you’ve never crate trained your dog, it may seem like you’re putting them in a little doggy jail, but you’ll find that most dogs actually enjoy having a crate. It gives them a safe place to go when they’re feeling anxious, and that’s very important for any pet. There are plenty of crate training guides, and they’re very easy to follow, so invest in a crate as soon as possible.
The last thing we’ll look over is something called exposure therapy, which is a common practice for anxiety treatment. This process is designed to expose your dog to its fears and help them overcome them. For some dogs, this may be anxiety around other dogs or people, loud noises, unfamiliar places, or a very particular phobia—like garbage trucks, which seem to be my dog’s Achilles heel.
Exposure therapy takes gradual steps and should never involve “flooding” (putting your dog in highly stressful situations). If your dog has anxiety around other dogs then introduce them to one dog, then two, then three, etc. until they’re running laps in the dog park.
Some dogs, like mine, need a little extra, and we’d put some hemp oil in his food before the first few therapy sessions. Although the benefits of hemp oil are not well documented in animals, it should be a reasonable substitute to prescription anxiety medications.
After learning commands, using a crate, and going through exposure therapy, your dog should be an absolute rock star; free from any anxiety or dominance-related issues. But, if you’re struggling with that or non-stop barking, it’s always smart to consider hiring a professional dog trainer for additional help.
Vicky Ward is a neuropsychologist with a deep interest in holistic health, nutrition, and fitness. Her hobbies include yoga, jogging, and cooking. When she’s not working, she can be found reading Christian fiction or taking a nap.