Why Dogs Bark and Growl

Does your dog growl or bark when a stranger approaches your house
or when something goes bump in the night? If so, you’re not alone.


Most dogs will vocalize
when they are exposed to new or different situations, including strange people
or animals entering their territory; being separated from their pack, mother or
even your family members; or new or alarming sounds. Dogs may also bark or
growl when they see prey, such as squirrels, and they may bark for attention,
food or if they are anxious. Dogs often growl when they are fearful or
trying to assert themselves in a situation. If the dog’s fear or assertiveness
is alleviated by growling or barking, the dog will learn that his behavior is
acceptable and the behavior may become more frequent or severe. Some
medical problems may cause growling or barking and older pets experiencing
senile changes may have barking problems. Intense and continuous barking may be
considered compulsive. Check with your veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s
barking or growling problem. Behavior training and drug therapy may be helpful
in reducing barking for pets with medical, geriatric and compulsive
disorders.
Socializing your puppy can help
Acclimate your puppy to
a variety of different people, environments, situations and noises to help
lessen anxiety as your puppy grows. Make sure your puppy spends time alone so
that he doesn’t develop separation anxiety while you are away from him. Proper training
is essential to preventing behavior problems, such as growling and barking. Ask
you veterinarian for more information about puppy training. 
Correcting a barking or growling problem
Correcting a barking or
growling problem first requires that you have effective management of your dog.
Once you have achieved this, you can begin to train your dog to lessen his
barking or growling behavior by using rewards for quiet behavior. The reward
should be something that the dog really likes such as a favorite treat, tummy
rubs, or a favorite toy. Punishment is generally ineffective in correcting
barking problems. Too much punishment may even exacerbate the behavior and
cause the dog to be fearful or aggressive.
Begin your training with
situations that you can easily control (such as a family member making a noise
that causes the dog to bark) before moving on to difficult situations (such as
a strange animal in your yard). When your dog barks at the stimuli (for
instance, a doorbell ring), immediately interrupt the barking. When the dog is
quiet offer the dog a reward for their behavior. Without the reward there
is no incentive to remain quiet.Reward your dog when, at your request, he has
stopped barking. Only reward the dog when he is quiet and gradually increase
the amount of time that the dog needs to be quiet for him to receive a
reward.
As the barking or
growling problem decreases, make sure to direct your dog to more appropriate
behavior, such as play, and the problem should lessen over time. Don’t forget to
discuss training options with your veterinarian to find the one that will work
best for your pet.