Barking mad? What to do if your dog just won’t stop yapping…

Do you have a dog who loves the sound of their own bark? While barking is part and parcel of being a dog, some canines take it to the extreme. BBC News recently reported on residents in one Welsh county that are being sent ‘barking mad’ by the incessant noise of dogs. There were 76 official complaints to Gwynedd Council between
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29th November 2022

Do you have a dog who loves the sound of their own bark? While barking is part and parcel of being a dog, some canines take it to the extreme.

BBC News recently reported on residents in one Welsh county that are being sent ‘barking mad’ by the incessant noise of dogs. There were 76 official complaints to Gwynedd Council between August 2019 and July 2020, but 135 were reported over the past 12 months, up to July 2022. The rise is believed to be due to new pets taken on during Covid lockdown. 

The RSPCA says: “Barking is a form of communication and is a completely normal dog behaviour. However, if the amount your dog barks increases or becomes excessive, it can be a sign that something isn't right, and it may also cause problems for other people. If this happens, it's important to address any underlying problems which could be causing your dog to bark more.”

Dogs Trust adds: “The key to reducing and even preventing barking is to understand why your dog is barking in the first place. When you learn what your dog hopes to gain from barking, you can show them that they can get what they want by behaving in a calmer, quieter way.”

What causes excessive barking?

There are various reasons why a dog may become more vocal. These include:

  • Being left along – some dogs experience separation anxiety, which may present as barking
  • To express how they’re feeling – excited, frustrated, bored or scared
  • Because they want something – such as their favourite toy
  • To get attention – and they repeat this behaviour because it works
  • Lack of socialisation – If a dog has been well socialised as a puppy by experiencing a range of new things in a positive way they are less likely to be afraid or unsure of everything when they get older
  • An underlying health issue – for example, problems with your dog's hearing could be causing the barking – always consult your vet for advice

Why your dog barks when left alone

The RSPCA states that research suggests that around eight in 10 dogs find being left home alone difficult. “We fear dogs bought during the pandemic may suffer from separation anxiety. During this time, many dogs and puppies will have spent little or no time by themselves and may now be used to busy households. As we progressively return to work, school and 'normality' more and more, we're concerned that our pets may struggle to adjust, leading to separation-related behaviours.”

Dogs Trust says: “Unless your dog has been taught that being alone is an okay part of life, this can be scary or frustrating. If you return home when your dog is barking, your dog might feel that barking was a good thing to do because it worked to bring you home. Simply ignoring your dog’s barking when left alone, and waiting for them to stop before returning, will not stop them from barking because it doesn’t change the way they feel about being on their own. Teaching your pooch to relax when left alone is a vital step in stopping them from barking when you’re not around.”

Why your dog barks for attention

Dogs Trust advises: “Dogs can learn that barking is a great way of quickly getting our attention. Even us telling them to be quiet may be rewarding because they enjoy being looked at and spoken to. Other dogs may learn to bark at their mealtimes, usually when their food is being prepared. If their food is given to them when they’re barking, they’re likely to bark again next time because they have connected barking with their food arriving. Just as some dogs get excited around food, others can’t get enough of playtime. If barking results in a fun game, they may learn to bark every time they want us to play with them.”

Why your dog barks because they’re scared

Dogs Trust says: “When your dog is frightened about something and feels under threat, whether the threat is real or not, they might bark at whatever is scaring them to make it go away. If barking works to get rid of the scary thing, your dog will learn to bark again next time they want to feel safe. For example, some dogs may be frightened by the postie coming up the path and pushing letters through the door. If they started barking as the post-person arrived, they might connect their barking with them turning and walking away. Your dog has no way of understanding that they were going to go leave anyway, so barking seems to do the trick.”

Why your dog barks because they’re bored

Dogs are intelligent, active and social animals so they need lots of exercise, things to do and company to keep them happy and healthy. If your dog is bored, they might spend more time barking.

The RSPCA advise that it’s important to make sure your dog has enough to do every day to stop them from getting bored: “Establish a good routine – your dog may be barking to communicate that they want to play, want food or need attention. Make sure that you have a daily routine in place for your dog which includes mealtimes as well as play and exercise, at around the same time each day. A good routine can help your dog to know what and when activities are going to happen and may help to stop them from barking for activities at other times.”

How to help your dog to stop barking too much

Veterinary charity PDSA advises: “As with any behaviour problem, your first port of call should always be your vet, especially if your dog has only just starting barking out of the blue or their barking is getting worse over time. They’ll be able to tell you if there’s anything wrong medically and discuss some of the reasons your dog might be barking. It’s important to seek advice early, as the longer a dog is left without help, the worse the problem will become and the harder it will be to get help for them.”

You could also follow these 5 top tips from Dogs Trust:

  1. Don’t tell your dog off

Although their barking may be frustrating, never tell your dog off. Telling them off could make them anxious or confused about you. This could make things worse; encouraging them to bark even more in worry or confusion. Some dogs might even see you shouting as you joining in and making noise with them.

  1. Avoid things that your dog finds scary

If your dog is barking because they are scared, try to avoid the scary thing as much as possible. For example, if your dog barks at passers-by through a window, cover this up to block their view. If they bark because they are scared of being alone, try to avoid leaving them as much as possible. Consider using a pet sitter or dog-walker. Scared dogs might need further support from a behaviourist to find out exactly what they’re scared of and help them change the way they feel.

  1. Teach your dog calmer ways of telling you what they want

If your dog is barking for something specific, like to make another dog go away, it’s useful to teach them that doing something quieter and safer will get them the same result. For example, your dog can’t bark and sniff at the same time. So, diverting their attention to the floor to sniff out tasty treats instead of barking can be very effective. Doing this consistently will teach them that quietly ignoring something, rather than barking, has a good outcome.

  1. Make sure your dog is staying active

Your dog may be more likely to bark if they’re bored and not getting enough mental or physical exercise. Make sure you spend quality time keeping your dog engaged and active each day. Providing your pal with lots of fun activities will prevent them becoming bored – and will be a load of fun for you both.

  1. Don’t reward your dog for barking

Reward them for staying quiet instead. If your dog barks at mealtimes, ignore the barking and wait for them to stop before feeding them. Plan ahead and distract them by giving them a toy when you know you’ll be preparing them a snack. If your dog barks to get you to play with them, ignore them. Turn away from your dog or even leave the room and do something else instead. When they are quiet, pick up a toy and invite them to play – a fun game is an excellent reward for being quiet.  


There are various products such as spray or electric collars, compressed air sprays and rattle cans which claim to stop barking in dogs, but these should be avoided at all costs. Animal welfare charity Blue Cross states: “We are against training tools that cause pain and fear in your dog. Items like bark collars seem to offer a 'quick fix' but they do not address the cause. Their main function is to startle, cause pain or discomfort, or scare a barking dog to teach them that barking brings unpleasant consequences. While some of them might work in the short-term, this is only because it stops your dog from barking while the device is being used. They do little to address the reason behind the barking. So, they do not solve the real issue. They can also do more harm than good by causing your dog unnecessary stress and even pain. Using devices that punish pets will likely damage the bond between you and can lead to further behaviour problems.”

Need more help?

  • For expert guidance the RSPCA recommends that you contact a clinical animal behaviouristwho'll be able to put a treatment plan together for you and your dog.
  • Dogs Trust’s Dog Schoolis a nationwide network of experienced dog trainers, providing high quality, welfare-friendly dog training instruction during fun, educational classes.

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