Behavioral problems

What to Do if Dog Barks for Attention?

Mercè Garcia
By Mercè Garcia. April 23, 2024
What to Do if Dog Barks for Attention?

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When dogs need something, they have a natural way of letting us know. This shouldn't surprise us, considering their social nature and ability to form deep emotional bonds with those around them. Some of the most common — and loud — ways dogs have of communicating with us are through barking. We can expect dogs to bark for several reasons, from going to the toilet to alerting us of an intruder. However, what happens when our dogs are barking to get our attention?

In this AnimalWised article, we will explore what to do when your dog barks for attention, the causes and factors influencing this behavior, and how to address this situation.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Wants Attention All the Time
  1. What makes dogs bark?
  2. Why do dogs become attention-seekers?
  3. How do I get my dog to stop barking?

What makes dogs bark?

Dogs are sociable creatures that communicate with people and their environment all the time. However, did you know that dogs also speak a variety of languages, each with its own meaning, including howls, barks, and whines? You should understand your dog's behavior and the meaning behind their barks in order to deal with attention barking. The following describes how to distinguish attention barks from other kinds of barks:

Attention barking:

  • Your dog is barking constantly and repeatedly, while making eye contact.

  • These barks are often accompanied by other excitement signals such as a wagging tail, jumping, or pacing.

  • Attention barks typically only happen when you're around.

Other types of barks:

  • Alarm barks: your dog may bark loudly and fast to alert you of potential threats or strangers.

  • Fearful barks: these barks are often high-pitched and with signs of fear or anxiety, like cowering or hiding.

  • Playful barks: your dog's barks might be short and sharp during playtime, showing excitement and enjoyment.

  • Loneliness barks: if your dog barks when left alone, it might be separation anxiety or loneliness.

Although barking gets a lot of attention, it's not the only way dogs communicate. By understanding their body language, we can decode their behavior and better understand their needs. This is why it is so important to look out for other indications that your dog is scared, nervous, or suffering from underlying medical conditions. Look for pacing or restlessness, excessive panting without exercise, destructive behavior like chewing furniture or digging, a sudden loss of appetite, or constant licking or scratching, which could signal allergies, parasites, or anxiety.

For a deeper dive into how dogs communicate, check out our article.

What to Do if Dog Barks for Attention? - What makes dogs bark?

Why do dogs become attention-seekers?

As mentioned earlier, dogs bark for many reasons, but sometimes it's just to get your attention.

Boredom is a frequent trigger for attention barking in dogs. Dogs, like most mammals, require regular mental and physical activity. When these needs are not met, frustration and pent-up energy can manifest as vocalizations such as barking. This is a basic dog need, and if you are not providing it, you can fully expect your dog to try and get your attention.

It is also important to remember that dogs are inherently social animals and thrive on interaction with their human companions or other pets. If a dog feels isolated or lacks sufficient social engagement, barking may serve as a means to solicit attention and interaction. Not only that, but sometimes dogs that are left for long periods of time become far clingier when their owner is there, and what is perceived as attention seeking is actually a separation-related issue.

Sometimes, without meaning to, you might give your dog attention (treats, playtime, talking) when they bark, accidentally rewarding them for this behavior. Every time your dog jumps up at you, paws at your leg, or drops a toy in your lap, it’s easy to ‘reward’ them with a cuddle or a game, but this means that the behavior is reinforced and so your dog will do it more often. Only you can decide if you enjoy this interaction or if you look on it as a problem.

How do I get my dog to stop barking?

We've talked about how dog barking is usually a way for them to tell us something. Attention-seeking barks aren't always a bad thing. Sometimes they're actually quite helpful, like when your pup lets you know they need a bathroom break. So, the goal isn't to silence them completely, but to get them to communicate their needs in a less annoying way.

So, how do we break the cycle? Here are some tips:

Ignore the barking

This might sound strange, but giving your dog any attention, even telling them to "shush," can actually be rewarding their behavior. It can even turn into a frustrating game of who can shout the loudest! We know ignoring them can be tough at first, especially when they bark extra hard to get a reaction. But staying calm and patient is key.

Reward the quiet moments

Attention-seeking barks often come in bursts with pauses. Those quiet moments are your golden opportunity. Reward your dog for staying quiet. This could be anything from a treat, a cuddle, or some praise, anything positive. The goal is to show them this is the behavior you want.

Furthermore, it is important to gradually increase the length of time you wait to reward them after they stop barking. This way, your dog learns that barking gets them nothing, but quiet behavior gets them the attention they crave.

Fight boredom

Remember, barking often stems from boredom. Make sure your dog gets enough physical and mental exercise every day to keep them stimulated. Puzzle toys, Kongs, or even just some playtime can make a big difference.

Identify barking triggers

Does your dog bark for attention at specific times, like when you sit down for the evening? Try to pre-empt these moments. Have a stimulating toy ready to distract them, or try some calming activities like grooming.

Also, if your dog barks when you leave for work, this might mean that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety. Look for other signs such as destructive behavior and panting or trembling. Read this other article to learn more about this situation and how to address it.

Finally, it is worth noting that sometimes, barking can be a sign of underlying medical issues like anxiety, pain, or even vision problems. If you suspect a medical cause, consult your veterinarian to rule anything out.

What to Do if Dog Barks for Attention? - How do I get my dog to stop barking?
What to Do if Dog Barks for Attention? -

If you want to read similar articles to What to Do if Dog Barks for Attention?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

  1. Deldalle, Stéphanie, and Florence Gaunet. "Effects of 2 training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog (Canis familiaris) and on the dog–owner relationship." Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 9.2 (2014): 58-65.
  2. Masson, Sylvia, et al. "Electronic training devices: discussion on the pros and cons of their use in dogs as a basis for the position statement of the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology (ESVCE)." Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2018).
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What to Do if Dog Barks for Attention?