Why Do Dogs Bark When Excited?
Excitement Barking in Dogs
Excitement barking in dogs is often seen in dogs who are presently happy or have an expectation of something good that's soon to come. While dogs don't have access to your weekly planner, and as such, don't know what's on your schedule tomorrow or next week, they are capable of anticipating close events based on successive associations.
Excitement barking in dogs is over all not a bad thing: the dog is simply manifesting "joie de vivre," that is "enjoyment of life." We can all take example from dogs, and start acting more appreciative of all the simple things in life such as being around loved ones and cherishing the food we bring to our tables.
However, things can turn problematic when Rover takes his excitement barking to a higher level. Perhaps, you suffer from migraines, and have a lower tolerance level of noises, or you live in a tight-knit neighborhood where excessive barking may lead to a visit from animal control. These can certainly be difficult situations.
The Sound of Excitement Barking in Dogs
How does excitement barking sound? Excitement barking has a rather distinctive sound. It is sort of high-pitched and upbeat.
Turid Rugass in her book "Barking: The Sound of a Language" describes it as being a high frequency sound that may sound a bit hysterical. The barking is more or less constant or it may present as a series of barks with some pauses in between. Whining may also be present in the middle of barking.
While excitement barking is the voice of joy, there's sometimes an underlying element of anxiety and stress when dogs bark out of excitement and over react to things. These dogs benefit from a stress-reducing program.
The Accompanying Body Language
On top of having a distinctive sound, excitement barking is often accompanied by a certain body language. Because the dog is teeming with frantic anticipation, you'll likely notice what impact the rush of adrenaline has on his body.
On top of the excited barking, you may therefore also notice quivering, an inability to stand still, jumping up and down, spinning and a quickly wagging tail.
Asking a dog to perform an obedience exercise despite all the excitement may lead to the dog ignoring the request or complying, but often not without accompanying displacement behaviors such as scratching an imaginary itch or yawning. This is due to the difficulty of the task.
It's not like these dogs are trying to blow you off purposely, they are just too over threshold to be able to focus. It takes a good level of training to have a dog follow directions despite strong emotions such as joy or fear, but it's a better approach if time is taken to teaching the dog how to better cope with them.
The Context in Which it Appears
So when do dogs bark excitedly? As mentioned, excitement barking in dogs often takes place when your dog is super happy and is anticipating some cherished event. For example, many dogs get excited when you put on your shoes and walk towards the closet, where their leash is, in anticipation of a walk.
Other circumstances known for evoking excitement barking in dogs include the anticipation of the owner's return (sound of the car being parked, foot steps towards the door, keys) the anticipation of a meal (owner grabbing the food bowl, pouring the food), the anticipation of guests and the anticipation of going on a car ride to the dog park.
Some dogs also bark excitedly in the morning, as they anticipate starting a new day with all the associated perks such as seeing their owners get up and greeting them, eating breakfast and then perhaps going all together on a morning walk.
And then you have dogs who love their jobs so much, they can't wait to jump into action. I remember a dog trainer I apprenticed under, who had an older yellow Lab (her name was Mokka) who loved being involved in search and rescue. When she was tied up waiting her turn, she barked and barked and barked as she watched volunteers hiding amidst the deep brush and being searched by other dogs.
When it was this dog's turn, it was amazing watching with how much passion she rushed through the bushes to search with her nose eager to capture the slightest smells. Her barks of joy upon finding the person were the climax of her day.
Now That You Know...
As seen, dogs may have several good reasons to voice their excitement, and there's nothing wrong about that! Just as you like to express your excitement in words such as "Wow, look at that sunset, isn't it wonderful?," Rover has his own take on life.
However, we don't live in a perfect world and too much barking can be problematic in apartments, so how can you tackle this form of barking?
There are several strategies you can employ, but make sure to never suppress your dog's barking with harsh methods and avoid anti-bark collars like the plague. Use of such tools and methods can lead to problematic behaviors, often even far worse than the barking itself!
How to Stop Dog Excited Barking
Excited barking in dogs can be significantly reduced by investing some time on implementing some strategies that can come handy for those peak times when Rover's behavior is over the top. Following are some tips.
- Act calm yourself. Consider that dogs often feed off our emotions so if you act hyper your dog will likely act hyper too.
- Train a mutually exclusive behavior, that is, a behavior that is incompatible with barking. For instance, if your dog barks excitedly when you come home from work, train him that you won't give him any attention until he holds his favorite toy in his mouth (if your dog's mouth is stuffed with the toy, he can't bark!). Our Rottweiler Petra learned this behavior on her own. Upon opening the door, she looked for her toy and greeted us carrying it around. Carrying the toy seemed to have a calming effect on her although you could still hear her muffled whining a bit.
- Prevent rehearsal of the problem behavior. In this case, don't greet your dog when he's too excited and barking. No fussing or playing as this often winds dogs up more. Just enter the home, ignore him, get some things done and give him attention only once calm. Talking, looking and touching an excited dog can reinforce the barking.
- Reward calm behaviors. If as soon as you get the leash and walk towards the door, your dog barks, make a swift about-turn and go sit on the couch instead. Wait for the barking to subside, and try again. A lack of barking makes you advance and barking makes you recede, so any time your dog barks, go back to the couch and wait again for a pause in barking and then get up and try again. If at some point you are able to put on the leash, but the dog barks as soon as you are heading out the door, drop the leash and go back to sitting on the couch. Then wait again for a pause in barking, and try to pick up the leash again if no barking takes place. Do this until you are out of the door and finally out on the walk.
- Train your dog better impulse control. Dog impulse control training exercises can teach your dog how to better cope with highly-arousing events.
- Pre-empt your dog's excessive excitement by providing outlets. For example, if your dog barks out of excitement when in the car, crate him for safety and provide a super valuable chew to focus on and to help release his anxiety. Alternatively, take him on many short trips, destination nowhere. The excitement should fade after some time.
- If your dog barks excitedly when guests come over, toss several treats on the ground for him to eat or let him fetch a toy. This keeps your dog busy and gives your dog an outlet.
- Loosen the power of associations. For example, if your dog gets very excited at the sight of the leash, make the leash lose its salience. From now on, keep the leash near you and attach it to your belt and walk around with it, keep it next to you on the couch while you are watching TV, pick it up at random times and put it down, grab it when you go to get a drink from the fridge. The goal is to make grabbing the leash lose its value and become booring!
- For excited barking when guests arrive, practice some visits first with some volunteers. Place yourself between your dog and the door with the guest outside to let your dog know you'll be handling the situation. If your dog barks as you're opening the door, close it. Rinse and repeat several times until your dog is quiet. When your dog is quiet, ask your volunteer to not fuss over the dog. If your dog barks or jumps, let your guest turn his back to him and even walk towards the door if it continues. Rinse and repeat until your guest is able to walk inside and sit on the couch without bring barked at.
- For dogs who bark excitedly in the morning, start getting up when your dog is quiet. Your dog barks as you're getting up from bed? Lie back down! Rinse and repeat until you dog understands that silence makes you get up, while barking makes you go back to bed!