Is Letting a Dog Bark Cruel?

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He may be saying, "Thank goodness you're home!"
He may be saying, "Thank goodness you're home!" (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Whether it's your pup or the one down the street, it's frustrating to hear a dog bark and bark and bark. When a dog barks, he's telling you something. He may be alerting you to a stranger's presence, asking for a potty break or expressing boredom or frustration.

Annoying—But Not Cruel—Barking

Depending on the situation, it can be cruel to let your pup "bark it out." The ASPCA identifies several reasons for barking. Some, though obnoxious, isn't unpleasant for the dog. This includes alarm barking, such as when the mailman comes to the house; attention-seeking barking, which you may hear when Bubba wants to play; greeting barking, his way of saying he's happy you're home; territorial barking, triggered by other people or animals in your pup's territory; and socially facilitated barking, sparked by the sound of other dogs barking. This type of barking is usually short-lived and can be addressed through straightforward, consistent training.

Under the Weather

Your dog's bark is his voice, and if he's not feeling well, he may communicate that through barking. If Bubba's bark is ongoing, you should pay a visit to the vet and have him examined. He may be in pain that's causing him to act out; ignoring his bark in this case can have potentially dangerous consequences. If he gets a physical thumbs-up from the vet, it's time to think about other reasons for his bark.

Ongoing Barking

The ASPCA identifies three types of barking that tend to be excessive in nature: compulsive barking, frustration-induced barking and separation anxiety barking. Though they don't necessarily cause Bubba pain, they indicate that he has a basic unmet need. Ignoring this type of barking isn't cruel in the sense that he's being abused, but it's difficult for the dog and anyone within earshot of his barks. Compulsive barkers sound like a broken record and often pace or run back and forth in the same spot. Frustrated barkers vent when they're in a situation they don't like, such as being tied up. Separation anxiety barkers act out when they're left alone, often engaging in other behavior such as pacing, destruction or moping.

Quiet!

There's no reason to let a dog bark, even if it's not technically cruel. If Bubba's an excessive barker and has been given a clean bill of health by the vet, you'll have to determine the reason for his barking. Ask yourself where and when the barking occurs; whether there's a target, such as a person, another animal, or an object; and what triggers the barking. Sometimes it's a relatively simple fix, such as not keeping Bubba tied up outside all day. In some instances, more exercise and interaction with you in and out of the house will calm him down. Removing the stimulus can help: for example, if he's set off by the neighborhood cat sitting outside the glass door, close the curtains. However, in more complex cases, such as with separation anxiety barking, you may need the help of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist to help you address the cause of the problem. Addressing the cause of Bubba's barking will make him, and your neighbors, happier in the long run.

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