When dogs are playing, they usually display energetic and joyful behavior such as wagging their tails, pouncing, play bowing (lowering their front end while keeping their rear end up in the air), and engaging in mock fights or chases. They may also pant, bark or growl playfully, and their body language typically appears loose and relaxed, indicating they are comfortable and having fun.
If your dog barks excessively during playing and you are worried about it, you are at the right place. This article explains everything you need to know about why your dog barks during playing.
Possible Reasons a Dog Barks During Playing
Dogs often bark to communicate with both humans and other dogs. When playing, barking can indicate excitement or an invitation to join in the fun. For example, a dog might bark at a toy to show excitement about the game or at another dog to invite it to play.
Dogs can bark during playtime to attract attention. They might want more interaction, more vigorous play, or perhaps they’ve found something interesting and want to share it. For example, a dog playing fetch might bark to indicate that they want you to throw the ball again.
If a game isn’t going as the dog would like, they might bark out of frustration. This can occur if a toy is out of reach, another dog isn’t playing ‘fair,’ or they’re not getting their way. For instance, a dog might bark continuously at a ball stuck under the couch because it can’t reach it.
Sometimes, too much excitement or play can lead to overstimulation, causing a dog to bark. This can happen during active play or when there’s a lot of sensory stimulation, such as in a dog park. For example, a dog might bark non-stop during a high-energy game of chase with several other dogs.
Fear or Anxiety
Even during play, a dog may experience moments of fear or anxiety that provoke barking. A larger dog may play too roughly, or a sudden loud noise might startle them. For instance, a smaller dog might bark defensively when a larger dog plays too aggressively.
How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking When Playing?
Train the Quiet Command
Start by training your dog to understand the “quiet” command. For instance, allow your dog to bark twice or thrice, then say “quiet” in a calm, firm voice. Wait until they stop barking, then give them a treat or praise. This will teach them to associate being quiet with positive reinforcement.
Stop Playing When Barking Starts
If your dog starts barking excessively during play, immediately pause the activity. This helps the dog associate excessive barking with the cessation of fun. For instance, if you are playing fetch and your dog starts barking, stop throwing the ball until they calm down.
Encourage Tugging Games
Tugging games can often reduce barking as the dog’s mouth is occupied with the toy. Just ensure that these games don’t encourage aggressive behavior. For example, a tug-of-war with a strong rope toy can be fun and engaging for the dog without leading to excessive barking.
Playing fetch can focus your dog’s energy on retrieving rather than barking. If your dog starts to bark, stop throwing the toy until they are quiet again. This reinforces the idea that barking disrupts the fun game of fetch.
Ignoring your dog when they’re barking for attention can be an effective strategy. This sends the message that barking won’t earn them any interaction or attention from you. If your dog starts barking for no reason, don’t look at them or talk to them; just completely ignore them until they stop barking.
Provide Mental Stimulation
Keep your dog mentally stimulated with puzzle toys or obedience training. This can distract them from unnecessary barking. For example, treat-dispensing toys that make your dog work for their reward can be a good way to keep their mind occupied.
Use a Calm Environment for Training
Train your dog in a calm and quiet environment with fewer distractions. This allows your dog to focus on your commands. For instance, start training indoors before moving to more stimulating or distracting outdoor environments.
Consistency is key in dog training. Ensure you reward good behavior immediately and always respond to barking similarly, so your dog can make the correct associations. For example, if you use the ‘quiet’ command, always ensure you have a treat ready to reward the dog when they stop barking.
Consult a Professional
If the barking continues to be a problem, consult a professional dog trainer or a behaviorist. They can provide personalized training strategies based on your dog’s needs and behavior. For instance, if your dog is barking due to separation anxiety, a professional might suggest specific techniques to address this issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do dogs bark at each other while playing?
Dogs bark at each other while playing as a form of communication. They express excitement, invite the other dog to play, or signal that they’re still playing and not being aggressive.
Why my dog barks at me while playing?
If your dog barks at you while playing, they might try to engage you further or express their excitement. Sometimes, it can also be an attempt to get your attention or a display of frustration if they can’t achieve their play goals.
Why do dogs bark at strangers while playing?
Dogs might bark at strangers while playing due to several factors. They could be signaling the stranger to stay away, expressing excitement or fear, or trying to protect their play space or toys.
Can a dog get aggressive during playing?
Yes, a dog can become aggressive during play. Play can sometimes escalate to aggression if boundaries are not set and respected. Overstimulation or fear can also trigger aggression in dogs.
Can I leave my children unsupervised while playing with dogs?
It’s not advisable to leave children unsupervised while playing with dogs. Even the friendliest dog can become overwhelmed or frightened, leading to unpredictable behavior. Children might also unintentionally hurt or provoke the dog by not understanding its boundaries.