Hands up if you’re googling ‘best ear plugs’ and wishing your Spaniel had a mute button because they just will not stop barking.
Do they seem to bark at everything and anything?
Have you stopped inviting people over because you’re embarrassed by the noise?
Do you dread that doorbell ringing?
Have you started only walking them at certain times of day for fear of judgement of other dog owners?
Maybe your zoom calls have been a nightmare with your Spaniel barking in the background?
Or perhaps you’ve been left red faced after your neighbour has complained about the noise?
I want to express that barking is a normal part of canine communication. Just like we have conversations with each other, so do our dogs, this might be ‘come chase me and play’ conversation or ‘leave me alone I am worried’.Sometimes a simple noise can set your dog off barking.
But when barking is excessive there may be an underlying reason.
Excessive barking is not only distressing for you and your ears, it can be distressing for your Spaniel too.
I’ve had plenty of inquiries from people who’s Spaniels can’t calm down and bark whether they are on a walk or inside the house. It’s also a topic that I’m regularly asked about in my Spaniel Inner-circle monthly membership programme.
I’ve worked with clients who’s dogs barked and ran toward people before they worked with me and they were at a loss of what to do. But now they have a dog that ignores passersby and feels confident enough not to start barking at anyone they see. They can finally enjoy their walks again.
Excessive barking is even something I have experienced with my dogs, yes mine too, they are dogs after all not robots. I know it’s shocking but professionals dogs bark as well, and mine have been culprits when it comes to barking like loons in the garden.
But with understanding, patience and training a quick to bark Spaniel can learn new ways to communicate with you meaning you can enjoy your walks again, go out in the garden without worrying about upsetting the neighbours and more importantly spend quality time bonding with your Spaniel instead of being nervous wondering what’s going to come out of their mouth.
So let’s look at the different reasons dogs bark..
One big factor can be boredom and attention seeking. Bored Spaniels will bark continuously to show their frustration, this can be caused by being left alone for periods of time with nothing to do or even if they are feeling unstimulated by their normal routine.
You can help this by giving them enrichment such as their favourite treat in a Kong toy, or hiding treats around the house and garden and getting them to engage their Spaniel nose and brain to find them. Your Spaniel will be less bored and your house will be quieter!
Some Spaniels will bark for attention, this can often start in the evening when you want to sit down and catch up on your favourite TV show with a nice glass of wine. As soon as you put your feet up they begin their barking, sound familiar? If you think of it from your Spaniels point of view until this point they have had all of your attention until you sit down, so they will start barking to get you to play with their toys.
With attention barking it’s best to give them attention before they start asking for it and always give them something else to do in the lounge whilst you want to relax, such as a chew.
I recently had a consultation on Zoom with Hugo who would not stop barking in the evenings every time they sat down for dinner since he was a puppy it was non stop barking, we worked through some of my top Spaniel secrets and she emailed me the next day with this feedback:
“You are the spaniel whisperer! He was absolutely broken by about 8.30pm and we had a calm dinner on the sofa with no woofing and minimal interruptions. Heaven!
“Thanks so much for the session, we both found it really useful and insightful!”
If you are out for long periods of time now that you’re back in the office at work consider using a dog walker or a doggy day care so that your Spaniel can get stimulation throughout the day even when you’re away. Remember it’s important with these that your Spaniel isn’t chasing the ball all day, that they have structure and are using their brain with scheduled reset time.
Frustration can be a contributor too, one of my clients, Hector, developed a habit of barking. He would bark at many things including people. The reason he was frustrated was because he wanted to say hello but the lead was restricting his ability to bounce over, so he would bark. It’s the same feeling as being so close to a really nice chocolate cake and then someone pulling you away!
Because Hector is super cute, and has those puppy dog eyes people can’t walk past without melting, he has learned that barking gets people to say hello so he barks more! I worked with Hector and his owners to help him relearn some manners, and we trained together to get him to be calm and still get to say hello! Once he re learnt that he can still get what he wanted without the barking that’s when everyone could finally enjoy walks again.
Another trigger for excessive barking can be when your Spaniel is being territorial, this is a common one for the garden. Your dog might be barking because they are assuming that everyone is an intruder.
Your first action might be to scold them with a ‘no’ but by doing this you could actually be reinforcing the behaviour because you’re giving it attention. Instead we need to try to prevent the barking so that they don’t get to rehearse it.
One of the things I sometimes do with my boys with garden barking is keeping them on a lead when we are outside to prevent rehearsal. This is because as soon as they run down the garden barking and get an adrenaline hit they will do it more often! An adrenaline hit is like drinking a can of red bull, it’s an energy boost for your dog and they feel like they like it, but actually it’s causing them and you more stress.
So if your dog literally races outside like Mo Farah as soon as the doors open it might be a good idea to try this to change the behaviour, so pop them on a lead and throw some treats on the ground to get their nose down so they don’t run around barking.
My top tips for a calmer garden are to scatter feed your dog, throwing their dinner outside and letting them search for it. This really engages their nose and their brains, I promise they will enjoy it too!
When you’re out in the garden give them a kong or a long lasting chew, chewing releases the feel good hormone so they will be more relaxed… think of it as the equivalent of having a nice glass of wine outside on a sunny day for us humans.
You can also interact with them, so when you’re out in the garden play some games with them and treat them a lot for the behaviour that you like. For example if they lay down nicely give them a treat, when you reward your Spaniel for the behaviour that you like the more they will repeat it.
Barking when being left alone has increased a lot since the pandemic rules have lifted, with more dogs feeling anxious when by themselves. If this is what’s happening for your pup, whether it’s a new or recurring problem try to work with them to build up the time they are left alone so that they feel more comfortable. If the barking only happens when they are alone it’s likely that it is separation anxiety related, this is a fear based behaviour which your dog isn’t choosing to do it’s because they are highly stressed and reacting to their experience of fear.
Don’t try to force your dog to be alone if they are really suffering and barking, separation anxiety can be really unnerving for dogs so if you think this is the reason I would always recommend working with a professional like myself who can guide you step by step through helping your Spaniel be more comfortable and confident alone.
I can hand on heart say that we’ve seen it all and it’s an absolutely no judgement zone when it comes to working with a professional dog trainer. We have most likely been there too, how do you think we know what to do so well?
Spaniels can also bark a lot when they are worried, a trigger could be a certain noise that they find scary. Remember what we can hear from 20 feet away a dog can hear from 80 feet away, so if something is loud to you it’s going to be super loud for your dog. And Spaniels seem to hear everything, ever wondered that they appear as soon as you start to open a crisp packet?
Things like building work, fireworks, cars or trains can be a trigger when fear barking is involved. It’s really important that you help your dog to feel safe if they are experiencing this, one way I work with clients is to help them to work on noise desensitisation, for this I would recommend using Youtube to find common noises, start at a low volume and treat your Spaniel or play with them whilst the noise is in the background, as they become more confident you can gradually increase the volume. With this your dog needs to hear the noise first and then they get the treat, as this helps to change their association to it.
Another really common reason for excessive barking is barking at the door, in fact your post man might be pleading with you to do something about it so they don’t jump out of their skin every time you have a parcel.
What you can start to do with this is to train another behaviour, so for example you can work to train your Spaniel that every time the door goes they go to their bed and get a treat. This takes time, patience and consistency and it might be worth putting a sign on your door whilst you practise asking for no knocking. Then you can be in control of knocking on the door whilst you practise the training.
There is a link in some cases between excess noise sensitivity and pain, so if your Spaniel is barking a lot and this is a new behaviour it’s always worth a vet check to make sure there’s no medical reason for the barking.
Dogs are dogs and yes they bark, but just because you think your dog can’t learn new ways doesn’t mean it’s true. The reason I started my business was to help dogs who are behaving exactly like this and like my own once did. When I got my boy Kobie as a young puppy he had numerous health conditions and lots of issues.
Kobie was dog reactive, people reactive and had separation anxiety and boy did he bark. I could not take him out of the house without barking, he couldn’t walk on a lead and had absolutely no recall.
Now Kobie loves playing with dogs, he loves people, he can be left, he can leave the house calmly, he can walk nicely on the lead (mostly!) he can recall.
He still has some issues, we manage, learn and grow together.
My dogs are not perfect, but what dogs are? And what is perfect anyway?
Perfect is whatever is perfect to you.
Sometimes we enjoy long walks. Sometimes we play brain games in the house. Sometimes we hire a secure field, sometimes we go away for an adventure, sometimes we stay at home.
The most important thing to me is that he is happy.
In my Spaniel Inner-circle we cover all of the different reasons for excessive barking and the training techniques that you can do to help your Spaniel become a calmer member of the family. As well as tons of other helpful, up to date Spaniel training advice.
I have recently uploaded a video all about garden barking which has been really useful to the hundred plus members in there. People have also had the chance to ask me their specific Spaniel questions whether that’s barking or something different and I’m able to give them my advice.
If you’re wondering how to get Spaniel specific advice and knowledge to help with your training take a look at the first of its kind monthly Spaniel membership, which gives you access to my Spaniel secrets, two live interactive sessions a month and a community full of Spaniel lovers where you can directly ask me your training queries.
Don’t let your Spaniel drive you to distraction anymore, I promise with the right advice, consistency and training you can have the calm Spaniel you always wanted.
What are you waiting for, if your Spaniel or Spaniel mix is prone to barking and you’ve been nodding along to this blog then join my Spaniel Inner-circle.
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