Dogs bark for many reasons – it’s their natural communication and way of ‘talking’ to people, other dogs, and other species. Some dogs were bred for their barking, to warn humans of approaching danger such as the Maremma Sheepdog and Anatolian Shepherd Dog, while other breeds such as Beagles were bred to bark to let humans know where prey is. For these breeds, this trait is in their genetics and cannot be changed.
For other dog breeds, the most common causes of barking are anxiety, boredom, excitement, guarding, pain, illness, fear and to get attention.
Why do dogs bark at neighbours?
A lot of dogs bark at neighbours. The reasons for this could include, your dog being startled by the noise, their response to only seeing heads above the fence which they find strange, or their attempt to guard the property by warning others. It may also be something your neighbour has done in the past which has caused your dog to be scared or worried by their presence – for example, yelling at your dog when they have previously barked.
Before we dive into what to do to help with this issue, it’s important to remember that barking is a normal canine behaviour, and our aim should not be to eliminate it, but to reduce it if it’s excessive.
Finding Out the Why and When
To start changing any behaviour, the first step is trying to find out the cause. Specifically for barking at neighbours, we recommend:
- Setting up cameras, and/or recorders like your phone or an iPad and use Apps such as Dog Monitor, Bark n Mad, or Fit Bark which records all your dog’s barking or behaviour.
- Talking to your neighbours if possible or writing them a letter explaining that you are doing what you can to reduce your dogs barking and would appreciate honest feedback.
- Keeping a diary so you can record where your dog is when they bark, what time of the day, for how long, and what it sounds like. This is all crucial information that allows you to work out the best approach.
Once you have all that information, it’s time for some basic prevention strategies:
- Control the environment
There are many things you can do in your dog’s environment that will reduce excessive barking. It may be as simple as bringing your dog inside the house to prevent them barking at the fence or closing curtains to prevent vision through a window. Other more labour-intensive ideas are putting up a shade cloth along the fence to prevent a dog seeing neighbours or building a second fence or barrier to prevent access to an area of the yard.
- Denning/Crating/Keeping Inside
Sometimes you may have to resort to a short-term confinement option to prevent your dog’s access to the yard at certain times of the day. Any area needs to be introduced slowly and positively so your dog loves to be in there. For example, it may work well bringing your dog inside when your neighbours have a party or are working in the yard.
Training can help to change associations. You want your dog to learn that your neighbours are OK to be there. We can do this by pairing the neighbour’s voices, activities, or their presence with something your dog loves (usually food but it may be a toy such as a ball). This is called counter conditioning – making something scary, the predictor of behaviour, appear nice. So, when your neighbour appears or begins to talk, this = treats. You can then train an alternate behaviour to barking such as ‘go to your mat or bed’.
Barking is your dog’s way of communication so you shouldn’t aim to stop it for good. Work through the steps; understand the cause of your dog’s barking, control your dog’s environment, and use kind training methods to teach your dog what you would like them to do instead of barking.
If you need more help with your dog’s barking, reach out to a qualified dog trainer.
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