Why is my dog barking?!
This is actually a pretty interesting question depending on how deep you want the answer to be.
Interesting Factoids About Barking
Something that's interesting is that captive animals make more noise than non captive animals. My take on this is that if you if you make a bunch of noise in the wild, you're bound to:
- scare away your food, or
- draw the attention of other bigger predators.
And dogs bark far more than wolves do. This happens whether we're talking about captive or wild dogs/wolves.
A Different Question to Ask
To answer the question 'why is my dog barking,' we actually need to ask another question. The question we should be asking is:
Why do dogs bark?!
Dogs Bark for Three Reasons
Dogs bark for three basic reasons.
- Dogs bark at prey.
This was developed because dogs have evolved to find prey and corner it. Once the prey was cornered, the dogs would bark so that the humans would be able to find both dog and prey. This served the purpose of dispatching the prey then turning it into food for dog and person. Very functional.
Dogs will bark at territorial threats or personal threats.
Dogs were basically the first alarm system. When they sense something going on within 'their' range that they perceive as being too close, they'll bark just like your home alarm system will go off for a similar reason. Dogs may also bark because they feel threatened as an individual.
Dogs will bark at things that frustrate them.
I think this wasn't so much developed from having served a function. It's more the equivalent of a hang nail. Hang nails have no purpose for us, yet we still have them because we need our actual nails. Dogs barking when they're frustrated serves no real purpose for humans, but because we wanted dogs to bark in basically all other situations that are relevant to dogs, they also bark when frustrated.
Let's Get More Specific
Now that we have a general idea of why dogs as a species bark, the real question is why is your dog barking?
Like all other behaviors, I use my G+P+S=B formula or Genetics + Past + (current) Stimulus = (current) Behavior. While there are exceptions, most dogs can easily learn to bark in response to a given stimulus (and thoroughly enjoy doing so). In other words, the genetics of your dog (to some extent or another) predisposed your dog to developing a barking issue. Another note on the genetic aspect of this formula is the breed of your dog. Some breeds of dogs are bred to bark a lot, while other breeds are bred to be very quite. Your dog's past can basically be defined as "a series of (current) stimuli and the behavior that follows." In other words, your dog had to have had a past that eventually led to it developing a barking issue. If you can identify the type of barking your dog is doing, then start to think about how you reinforced the idea or the behavior of barking (even if not intentionally) or how you allowed the idea or the behavior of barking to be reinforced even you didn't actually do the reinforcing.
What to Do Next
Hopefully this provided you with some insight into your dogs barking. However, if it's a problem that you don't know how to fix or what to do with, then it makes sense for you to reach out to a trainer who a) understands dog behavior, and b) can help you with the problem. In other words, contact me directly (whether through the contact form or calling 314-655-8208) and we can discuss how training might be a good fit for you!