Anticipatory Barking

Does your dog’s barking drive you mad?

Barking is one of the most annoying things our dog does, isn’t it. It can be so hard to stop.

And this is the point. When our dog barks we try to stop the barking rather than change the cause of it.

There is a huge market in devices to stop barking by making it uncomfortable for the dog. This by either an electric shock or an uncomfortable sound, vibration or smell.

In America and maybe other countries, horrendous surgical de-barking is still legal.

Like when a baby cries, barking has an urgency about it.

Barking annoys the neighbours.

Most dogs will alarm bark on hearing a sudden sound. It’s natural and to be expected.

An aggressive bark will mostly be as the dog tries to increase distance between him or herself and something they feel is a threat.

Most dog owners will at some time experience demand barking. This when the dog wants something. Or attention barking.

Is not most barking actually in anticipation of something?

Some alarm barking will be in anticipation (or fear) of something that the dog fears might follow. Aggressive barking may be in anticipation of a threat getting too close.

Demand barking is in anticipation of the dog successfully getting what what he or she wants. It’s the same with barking for attention.

Nearly all my noisy Working Cocker Pickle’s barking is anticipatory in some way.

When we get up in the morning he barks with excitement in anticipation of running outside. (Now I wait for a short while and do something else first before going to the door).

He then will bark in anticipation of his breakfast (I now feed him randomly).

He then sits at the door barking for someone to come downstairs and into the room. This person has made a routine of giving the dogs a biscuit first thing. He now waits a few minutes first.

I used to draw in breath before getting up to take the dogs out. Pickle knew that was the signal for getting ready to go out. He barked. (I now sometimes draw breath without going out, or take the dogs out without first drawing breath!).

In the early evening my 12-year-old Pickle recently started staring at me and barking. I really don’t know why, but it will be in anticipation of my usual reaction (to talk to him). I now either call him onto my lap (not what he’s barking for whatever that might be), or I get up and walk out of the room.

Importantly, I now give him some wanted attention before he begins to bark.

….and so it goes on.

Looking at most barking as anticipatory doesn’t have to be very scientific.

We can cut down the barking by breaking the connection between the trigger and what the dog anticipates. Just common sense really.

More instances: If the dog is alarmed at a certain sound, then make that sound trigger food. Thios changes what he anticipates (counter-conditioning).

Does seeing another dog trigger barking in anticipation of it getting too close? Let seeing another dog trigger walking your dog away from it while you cheerfully feed him. (Counter-conditioning).

Routines and rituals.

The best way to deal with a lot of barking which has an anticipatory aspect? Regularly change our routines and rituals.

Dogs are very clever at reading the smallest signals. They only have to take place two or three times to create that pattern that causes barking!


About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site:
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