Let's face it: Some dogs just love to hear their own voice! Unfortunately, most owners and their neighbors hardly share the same adoration. There is no doubt that dogs that bark excessively are a nuisance and can cause many a sleepless night. For this reason, correction of the problem is essential to your sanity, and that of those who live around you.
A dog might bark excessively for a number of reasons. The first is boredom. Dogs that have nothing else to do might simply "sing" to themselves to whittle time away.
Another potential cause is territoriality. Outsiders, be they human or animal, will almost always elicit a bark out of a dog if threatening to encroach upon its territory. Dogs can also use the bark indiscriminately as a communiqué to other outsiders to stay away. In such instances, the far-off bay of a neighborhood dog or the slamming of a car door down the street can trigger a barking episode.
Separation anxiety is another common source of nuisance barking. Some dogs have it so bad that they bark continuously when their owner leaves them, even for a short period of time. Often, the owner will return home to find their dog hoarse from so much barking.
When attempting to break your dog of this annoying habit, always remember this one principle: If you respond to your dog's barking fit by yelling at it or physically punishing it, you are going to make the problem worse. Dogs that are isolated from their owners for most of the day don't give a darn about what kind of attention they receive (positive or negative), just as long as they get some.
Dogs that are barking out of boredom or from separation anxiety will soon learn that their action will eventually get them attention, and they'll keep doing it. Even dogs that are barking for other reasons can catch on quickly that such vocalization will bring them a bonus of attention from their beloved owners. As a result, no matter how mad you get, or how sleepy you are, avoid the urge to punish your dog for its barking.
The first thing you need to determine is whether or not separation anxiety has anything to do with the problem. If you think it does, treat it as you would any other case of separation anxiety. In many cases, dogs that bark for this reason alone can be broken of their habit.
Keep in mind, though, that the source of the barking might involve a combination of the factors, not just one. Dogs that bark for reasons other than separation anxiety need to be given more attention throughout the day. A dog that tends to bark through the night should be given plenty of exercise in the evening to encourage a good night's sleep. A nylon or rawhide chew bone can be helpful at diverting its attention. Feeding its daily ration later in the evening can also promote contentment for the night.
For those times of the day or night that the barking seems the worst, consider bringing the dog inside the house or inside of the garage. This, of course, will not be possible if you failed to instruct your dog as to the ways of household living when it was a puppy. Nevertheless, removing your dog from its primary territory and/or increasing the amount of contact with members of its pack can help curb the urge to bark. Also, if possible, encourage your neighbors to keep their pets indoors at night, since nighttime roaming of neighborhood dogs and cats are major causes of nuisance barking.