All dogs bark. It’s a behavior that comes as naturally to them as talking does to humans. It’s how they share information with other dogs, communicate their needs to humans, and express feelings like fear and excitement.
Some pups, however, bark a lot. In fact, excessive barking is a common reason why dogs are surrendered to animal shelters.
If your dog won’t stop barking, you might be asking: Do dogs get tired of barking? And more importantly, is it possible to curb this behavior? We interviewed veterinarians and dog trainers to help answer these questions.
Since incessant barking can be a sign of an underlying medical or behavioral condition, we recommend getting guidance from your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Barking is the main form of communication for dogs. Some scientists theorize the behavior evolved into a dominant feature when dogs began congregating near food left by humans. Barking at threats and competitors allowed the dogs to stand their ground and claim the food.
Modern dogs also bark at real and perceived threats. Dogs “may let out a deep, loud bark to ward off the potential threat of an intruder, even when the intruder is a friendly neighbor walking toward their car,” says Bradley Phifer, a certified dog trainer and executive director of Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).
Dogs also bark when they feel fear, hunger, boredom, or loneliness. “They may bark when they’re scared, like when it thunders or when they hear fireworks. They may bark when they are distressed about being left alone,” says Laura Hills, a certified dog trainer and owner of The Dogs’ Spot, based in North Kansas, Missouri.
Barking can also signal contentment. “For example, dogs will often bark as a sign of excitement when greeting someone they know and love,” Phifer says.
It’s important to note, however, that barking can sometimes indicate a medical or behavioral issue. “They may be more prone to barking if they don’t feel well because they may have less tolerance for things going on around them,” explains Hills.
Different Types of Barks
Scientists have identified different categories of barking, says Dr. Valli Parthasarathy, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist with Synergy Behavior Solutions in Portland, Oregon.
In referencing a 2004 study, she says dogs who were confronted with an environmental disturbance (like a ringing doorbell) exhibited barking that sounded harsher and lower-toned. Play or isolation, on the other hand, elicited higher-pitched barks.
“This is a very simplistic explanation but with the idea that yes, there do appear to be different barks associated with different situations,” she says. “I often see similar patterns clinically as well.”
Do Dogs Get Tired of Barking?
Even if it seems like your dog just won’t stop barking, dogs will eventually stop if they become physically exhausted or if their needs are being met.
Everything dogs do (including barking) is done for a reason, Hills adds. “If they are doing it because they feel threatened, they are likely to experience some effects of adrenaline, which can give them an extra boost of energy, which can last a while,” she explains. “I imagine that the energy used may tire a dog out in the long run, but the dog might be energized in the moment.”
Reinforcing a dog’s barking – or any behavior – only incentivizes and causes more of it. “For example, if a dog is barking at a person from the yard and the person continues walking, in the dog’s mind they have chased them off and the barking is likely to continue,” says Dr. Parthasarathy. “Internal factors such as anxiety levels can also play a role in perpetuating barking.”
Dogs who realize barking will not have their intended outcome or whose needs are being met will stop barking, says Phifer.
How Long Can a Dog Bark? Genetics Offers Some Answers
If you’d like to adopt a dog but are averse to frequent barking, learn more about the breed you’re considering. Some dog breeds, including Beagles, Icelandic Sheepdogs, and Norwegian Elkhounds are notorious talkers, says Phifer.
“Within the breed, there will be individuals who are more or less talkative, but it is important to note that barking is a predisposition before bringing one of these dogs into your home,” he explains. “Therefore, owners will spend more time managing individuals of these breeds and training them to be quiet to prevent the barking from becoming problematic.”
The type of job a dog was bred for can also contribute to excessive barking. “For example, a dog such as a hound that has been bred to vocalize while hunting will be likely to be more vocal,” says Dr. Parthasarathy.
On the flipside, some breeds, like Borzois and Whippets aren’t big barkers. Basenjis don’t bark at all (they howl, scream, and even yodel) which can be attributed to an anatomical difference in the larynx.
How to Stop a Dog From Barking
Just as there isn’t one cause for barking, there also isn’t a universal solution, says Hills. “Meeting dogs’ needs, proactively practicing using environmental management, and teaching dogs what we’d like them to do in situations where they are likely to bark, are all pieces of the puzzle.”
The following are some ideas to consider.
Book an Exam With your Veterinarian
Excessive barking can sometimes indicate an underlying medical or behavioral condition. “This would be a great time for a veterinary visit to ensure that the pet is not experiencing a new medical problem that could contribute to a behavioral change, like changes in vision or hearing,” says Dr. Walt Burghardt, a board-certified staff veterinary behaviorist at BluePearl Specialty + Emergency Pet Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. In some cases, he says the veterinarian may recommend consulting with a veterinary behavior specialist.
Scan Your Environment
Is there anything in your dog’s environment that might be prompting excessive barking? For example, “If there is something obviously new or different like other animals in adjacent homes or domestic or wild animals roaming in the neighborhood, or even changes in human routines,” says Dr. Burghardt.
Then look for ways to avoid or prevent the barking, says Parthasarathy. “For example, if the dog is barking through a chain link fence at people walking by, consider putting something up on the fence to block the view, or preventing the dog access to that part of the fence.”
Then find ways to replace the behavior, says Parthasarathy. “For example, if the dog is barking when the neighbors come home from work, can they be given a long-lasting interactive toy just before that time so that they are occupied with that rather than barking?”
Provide Adequate Enrichment
Meeting a dog’s physical, mental, and emotional needs is key to helping dogs bark less, says Hills. “Normal healthy dogs need physical (aerobic) exercise. If they don’t get enough, they may use their excess energy in ways we wish they wouldn’t.”
Playing fetch or other games and sports like agility, flyball, treibball, and scent work are other options, she says. As are dog toys. “You can also feed your dog from a food puzzle. There are lots of do-it-yourself ones like placing dog food and/or treats in a muffin tin and placing tennis balls over the top,” says Hills. “There are a lot of commercially made toys, too. Having a variety of toys that are rotated can prevent boredom.”
In the case of anxiety-provoking sounds like thunder and fireworks, Hills says a white noise machine or calming music might help.
Ask Your Veterinarian About Supplements
A dog with a behavior problem like anxiety may benefit from a calming pheromone or dietary supplement (provided it’s supported with data), says Dr. Burghardt. “But more severely affected animals may need prescription medications and a comprehensive behavioral plan from their veterinarian or behavior specialist to get long-term relief.”
How Not to Respond if Your Dog Won’t Stop Barking
Verbal and physical reprimands, as well as anti-bark devices like electronic and shock collars are not recommended, says Dr. Parthasarathy. “Causing physical discomfort may stop the barking but in the long term will likely increase anxiety and doesn’t address the underlying reasons for the barking.”
Continue to use positive reinforcement training, make sure they are getting enough mental and physical stimulation, and redirect your dog from the cause of barking to something like an interactive toy or game. Not only will these things help cut down on your dog’s barking, but they will help you and your dog build a strong bond.