Fact checked by a Hello Ralphie expert veterinarian
It’s unreasonable to expect your dog to never bark. However, excessive barking, especially when it’s directed at your neighbors, can quickly become a nuisance. All of that unwanted barking can cause your neighbors to complain and create a strain in a once pleasant relationship.
To help put a stop to your dog’s incessant barking, we’ll examine why they bark in the first place. We’ll also go over some of the most effective training methods you can employ to stop your dog from barking at the neighbors. Think your dog may be exhibiting signs of anxiety? Take the quiz in our dog anxiety article.
So, Why Do Dogs Bark?
Barking is one of the many ways our dogs communicate with each other and the rest of the world, including us. While some breeds are more prone to excessive barking, all dogs will bark to some degree.
While it’s impossible to know exactly what a barking dog is trying to communicate, there are some common causes. Barking is often triggered when dogs see unfamiliar or unwelcome people.
Here are some other reasons why a dog could be barking when it sees the neighbors:
For Territorial and Protective Reasons – Dogs will often bark when a person, or another dog, enters an area they consider to be their territory. This is meant to be a warning. The dog doesn’t understand property boundaries, so they may perceive neighbors as challenging their territory.
To Communicate Alarm – Dogs can also bark when they’re startled. It’s meant to intimidate whatever caused the dog fear and alarm. Your dog’s barking could be a result of the fear and anxiety they’re experiencing around your neighbors.
To Get Attention – You’ll often hear barking when dogs want to go outside and play. If your neighbors outside, especially with their own dog, your pet could be trying to greet and play with them.
Separation Anxiety – In many situations, dogs bark when the dog owner is socializing with the neighbors. This could be a symptom of their separation anxiety. They miss you and want to join in, or they view the neighbors as their rivals for your affection. This type of barking will often be paired with restlessness and pacing. Is your dog following you everywhere? Read more about reasons why.
A Response to Loneliness and Boredom – If your dog sees you communicating with the neighbors, especially if you haven’t had chance to play with the dog beforehand, they’ll often bark to get your attention. Remember, dogs are naturally social animals that don’t like being left alone for lengthy periods. If you’re getting home and greeting the neighbors before your dog, there’s a good chance your pooch barks because he or she is upset.
Other Causes – There are countless other reasons why your dog could be barking at the neighbors. It’s sometimes difficult to nail down the exact cause. However, the main takeaway is that it can be stopped with appropriate dog training and conditioning. A consult with a virtual veterinarian can help determine the specific cause of your dog’s barking.
Training Your Dog to Stop Barking with the Marking Method
The marking method is one of the most effective ways to train your dog to stop barking. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:
Step 1 – When your dog starts barking, clearly mark the bark with a word, like “good,” and give them positive reinforcement, such as a treat. It’s important that you do this as soon as the dog barks.
Step 2 – The next time they bark, add a verbal cue, such as the word “bark” or “speak.” Reward the dog as you do this. Repeat the process until the dog connects the action of barking with a reward. This will teach the dog that they get a treat if they bark when prompted, but not when they bark without a verbal cue.
Step 3 – Wait for the dog to bark without your verbal cue and don’t offer a reward. Return to the verbal cue after this has occurred several times. Only offer a reward when his barking matches the cue.
Step 4 – After using your barking cue, loudly say a different cue, such as “quiet” or “hush,” when the dog stops barking. Give the dog a treat as you say it. Repeat this process until the dog understands they’re being given a treat when they stop barking following this quieting cue.
Step 5 – Eventually, you can practice this method in a location where the neighbors are visible, such as the front lawn.
Meeting the Neighbors – It can also be helpful to set up a controlled meeting if you’re on good terms with your neighbors. Limit contact at first and slowly get your dog used to them. This will help the dog understand that they’re friendly and not a threat to you, the dog, or the dog’s perceived territory. However, always put human safety first!
What Else Can You Do?
As mentioned above, there are many situations where a dog’s barking is actually just a symptom of anxiety and emotional distress.
Luckily, we’ve written an article that will teach you everything you need to know about dog anxiety. We have even paired it with our useful Dog Anxiety Quiz, which will help you know if your dog is suffering from anxiety. If you have more questions, speak with a Hello Ralphie vet to better understand your dogs behavior traits.
If you’re curious about dog anxiety and want to know if your dog could be suffering from it, click the following link: Understanding Dog Anxiety and Dog Anxiety Quiz.