Identifying The Sources Of Problem Barking
Excessive dog barking, often called nuisance barking, can negatively impact dogs and their guardians, as well as anyone who lives within earshot of them. In Australia, nuisance barking is the single most common complaint that local councils receive.
This study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, aimed to identify correlations between nuisance barking behavior of dogs in Australia and potential contributing factors. The authors recorded data from bark counter collars placed on 25 dogs who had been reported for nuisance barking. They also administered questionnaires to the dogs’ guardians on characteristics of the dogs and household and environmental conditions.
According to questionnaires, 84% of dogs were confined to backyards while their guardians were away, and 64% were found to bark more in the absence of their guardians (“owners”) than when the guardian was present. Plots of data on barking frequency also showed sporadic peaks in barking, suggesting that dogs were barking in reaction to outside stimuli, including human passers-by and other dogs. Additionally, the authors found a marginally significant positive correlation between barking frequency and number of dogs in neighboring homes. Taken together, the results suggest a relationship between nuisance barking and external environmental stimuli, particularly other dogs. The authors note that such a relationship is not surprising, as barking is a natural canine behavior meant to “call in conspecifics to help deter an intruder.”
Of potential interest to dog guardians, the authors found no correlation between barking frequency and experience of guardians as dog companions (based on the guardian’s number of previous dogs), number of hours dogs spent home alone, or minutes of weekly exercise. The authors state that these findings are consistent with others that suggest “it is not the amount of time that the guardian spends with the dog that influences nuisance barking behavior but rather the ‘quality’ of the relationship between the guardian and dog, with a good relationship reducing the occurrence of problematic behaviors, including nuisance barking.” The authors did find a significant negative correlation between barking frequency and amount of obedience training a dog received. They suggest that obedience training may reflect or contribute to positive dog-guardian relationships.
The authors recommend that any dog exhibiting nuisance barking should undergo a physical and behavioral examination to identify potential underlying issues. For the same reason, they also warn against using temporary solutions to decrease barking, including anti-bark collars or installation of non-see-through fences that limit the amount of visual stimuli that triggers barking. Finally, the authors recommend that authorities in Australia use bark counter collars to obtain measurements that will help them set standards for categorizing and identifying nuisance barking.