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What to Do When Your Dog Is Barking Viciously

Black and white photos of Viciously barking dog

Dogs are naturally vocal creatures. They let their wants and needs be known by using their voices. Barking, howling, growling, whimpering – you can tell a lot by what your four-legged fur-friend ‘says’. You can also tell quite a bit by the body language that goes along with it. Although it’s a frustrating situation to deal with, viciously barking is not uncommon in dogs. However, it is something that should be addressed. The following guide will explain why it happens and what to do when your dog is barking viciously – at people, other pets, and/or random things.

However, it is advisable to contact the nearest veterinarian in case your dog is barking viciously.

The Result of Territorial Issues

Instinctually, dogs are territorial animals. There is no changing that fact, however, there are many intricate layers to it. While a dog is bound to be protective of his territory, some can take it to the next level, and that can lead to bigger problems. Dogs that go to the extreme when ‘protecting’ their territory, can end up posing a threat. Barking viciously at passers-by could very well be due to being overly territorial. Rectifying this behaviour is usually done by bringing in a specialist in animal behaviours and/or making use of behavioural therapy.

Overprotectiveness of His Human(s)

dog barking aggressively to protect its human

Much like being overprotective of a territory, vicious barking can also be the result of the dog being overly possessive of his humans. Although most dogs are fairly protective of their owners, those that are overly so, tend to escalate it much farther and can end up being aggressive. This is when it becomes a serious issue.

Why the Behavior Must Be Corrected

Even if an incident has yet to happen, the escalation of aggressive behaviour which usually begins with viciously barking means that it gets more and more likely each time. Any type of aggressive conduct needs to be nipped in the bud immediately. And, it needs to be curbed in the correct way.

Why Punishment is Not the Answer

Yellow lab sitting on hard wood floor with hand in foreground wagging a finger.

Although you might be tempted to punish your dog for his vicious barking, that would not be the right way to handle the situation. By punishing your dog, you are simply reinforcing their mindset that people are bad and that they do bad things. You are effectively sabotaging any possibility of progress. Vicious barking should be dealt with swiftly and it must be dealt with in the correct manner.

How to Correct the Behavior

Barking viciously in and of itself is not an inherently dangerous behaviour. However, it is typically accompanied by other not-so-great conduct, such as lunging, that can quickly spiral into more aggressiveness or even possibly leading to an attack. Because of this, as soon as your dog shows any sort of combative actions, including but not limited to, vicious barking, you should consider formulating a solution. As stated earlier, punishment rarely works and in fact will typically have the opposite effect. Obedience training is often the first step, with bringing in a behavioural specialist being another option.

Factors that Come Into Play

Chihuahua trying to bite a set of hands

Aggressiveness rarely comes out of nowhere, there is usually a reason for the escalation in behavior. Ruling out any life changes or underlying causes, including medical causes, can help pinpoint the path to correcting the problem. Another thing to keep in mind is that animals, and dogs, in particular, are quite reactive to their owners’ emotions. They will base their own response on the severity, or lack thereof, of your reaction to the circumstances. To put it, if you show anger or frustration, your dog is likely to react in a similar way.

The Dos And The Don’ts

2 yellow post its that read Do's and Don't with check boxes stuck to a gray wood panel
  • Don’t punish your dog: As we said before, punishing your dog is likely only going to make matters worse. Yes, because it reaffirms their fears but also because vicious barking can come with, or be a direct result of, insecurity. A lot of reactive actions are because of fear. Punishing your dog is not going to alleviate those fears.
  • Do try to soothe him: Speaking an even tone, using your most soothing voice, try to calm your pooch. Yelling will only exacerbate the situation, so think of it like ‘talking someone off the ledge’, the goal is to calm the subject.
  • Don’t overreact: Because your dog bases his reaction to a perceived threat on your own reaction, it is extremely important that you try not to overreact – even towards the party, he is barking at. We never want to reinforce negative reactive behaviour.
  • Do stick with it: 99.99999% of dogs can be re-trained. Canines are both smart and resilient. Stick with him and eventually, it will pay off. If you give up on him now, it is guaranteed to make the problem worse – bolstering the fear and insecurity that resulted in the problem in the first place.

Obviously, the issue needs to be addressed, but there is no need to make it out to be worse than what it truly is. If ignored, yes it can turn into a dangerous situation, but admitting that there is a problem is more than half the battle, right? Even the sweetest dogs can have an issue with vicious barking, or overreacting to certain things. And, there is an endless variety of exactly what could be causing it. The diagnosis might be complex but once that has been established, it is a perfectly fixable issue. With a little bit of work, and plenty of love, hugs, and sloppy kisses, the behavior can be modified.

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