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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Excessive barking and howling is not normal behaviour for a dog, and it is a real nuisance for neighbours- particularly at night time.

There are several reasons why a dog may start barking or howling, including :

  • Anxiety - for example if the dog is separated from its owner - a common cause. 
  • Attention seeking
  • Boredom
  • Fear - eg thunderstorms.
  • Hunger
  • Reacting to noises in the environment - eg other dogs barking in the neighbourhood, people passing by.
  • No apparent reason - in senile old dogs. May be due to impaired sight and hearing, or a brain disorder

Punishing dogs showing these signs will rarely help, and in fact it could make the problem worse by reinforcing any "anxiety" or "fear". Increasing physical contact between an owner and the animal combined with increased exercise often helps.

If the dog is attention seeking any form of contact with the owner (including punishment!) could be regarded by the dog as a "reward" and reinforce the behaviour, so some form of non-contact punisher (eg a loud sharp noise)  should be applied as soon as the dog starts barking. 

If the dog is reacting to environmental noises it may be possible to keep it in a quiet room in the house (eg at the back of the house). If the dog is responding to doorbells or knockers these could be disabled when the owners are out.  

Providing play "toys" such as the Buster Cube can help remove boredom and separation anxiety, and, as this product provides small volumes of dry food as a "reward" for playing, it also helps to keep hunger at bay. Toys also distract dogs from other stimuli such as environmental noises.


Drug therapy may be beneficial in some cases eg sedatives can be used to calm an anxious or frightened dog, but this does not cure the underlying behavioural problem.

Updated October 2013