Much like we human beings sometimes love to hear ourselves talk (or update our Facebook status messages over and over), dogs seem to gather a certain level of enjoyment out of barking.
The fact is that when a dog is barking, he or she is trying to communicate with you.
So how do you tone down the barking while still respecting your older dog’s right to free speech?
Furthermore, can you tone down the barking? Should you? Those are really good questions.
The first thing you need to do is understand why your senior dog is barking. There are a number of reasons for this behavior, all of which tend to circulate around the idea that your pooch has something to say. When they bark; they’re talking ( in their own language of course) and believe it or not, but many dogs are even taught sign language. Observe!
- Some dogs bark for attention, plain and simple. They may bark because they want to be let outside or they may bark because they’re hungry, but the basic foundation of this barking behavior is attention-grabbing.
- Some dogs bark because they’re bored. If he or she lacks in social stimulation or exercise, for instance, he or she may take to barking as a way to quite literally pass the time.
- Some dogs bark out of frustration. This may come for a number of reasons and may be interrelated to other barking reasons, like boredom or attention-seeking. Some dogs get frustrated when their owners walk too slow, for example, while some dogs bark when they aren’t getting enough reinforcement.
- Some dogs bark because of separation anxiety (see my note below), a subject we covered somewhat with this piece. Barking included with separation anxiety may result in some other problems, like home destruction or soiling, and may require more assistance from a trained professional.
- Some dogs bark because they want to play. This is a way of demanding more immediate, active attention. While this sort of barking isn’t the most common in older dogs, senior pooches still like to get active with their owners and still like to roll around and have fun. Barking is par for the course.
- Older dogs who are suffering from dementia will often bark at night when you go to bed.
- Finally, some dogs bark to call alert to something. A dog may have spotted a stranger coming up the walkway, for instance, or may be responding to a knock at the door or an unfamiliar presence.
*Note: Dogs who are left out doors with little involvement from the owners or anyone else for that matter may bark out of frustration. DO NOT ignore an outdoor dog who is constantly barking. Find out why and see if you can do something to help!
With Understanding Comes Wisdom
So here’s the thing: dogs bark for all sorts of reasons. Some of these reasons are “good,” while some are on the more annoying side of things. Regardless, you can’t stop a dog from barking any more than you can stop yourself from talking and/or updating your Facebook status.
The best course of action is one of understanding. You must relate to your dog and determine why he or she is barking.
Controlling or augmenting the behavior of an older dog will go absolutely nowhere if you don’t “get” your dog’s behavior first. Once you truly understand why your dog barks, you can move on. We’ll have more on this subject, including a compassionate approach to barking, in future entries.