Mystery of the Barky Dog

Barking dog tips

Published in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Bulletin

by Leila Grandemange

Good communication seems to be the key to all lasting relationships, even with our dogs. Yet dogs and humans do not perceive the world in the same way, nor communicate in the same language. This realization must be our guide and motivation for trying to understand our dogs.

Warm sunshine, new birth, blooming flowers, a Cavalier chasing butterflies—Spring is my favorite time of year! This year however, the sweet melody of chirping birds was replaced by the sound of constant barking. A nearby dog sang his melancholy aria for hours while pulling on all my heart-strings! It was no mystery, poor dear; he was left outside all day with no companionship. However, the reasons for constant barking are not always clear. Why is he barking? What is he saying? Why won’t he stop?! Understanding how dogs communicate will be the key to solving the mystery.

 Barking (vocalization) is one way dogs communicate. Another way is through body language. Dogs are actually talking to us all the time, even though most owners don’t understand what their dog is trying to say. Like words, different barks varying in tone, pitch and intensity (speed) carry different meanings. Decoding the meaning is essential to solving the mystery. There are many useful and valid reasons for barking, but when it becomes constant, often we are left frustrated and perplexed. Think of a parent holding a crying newborn all night. Is she sick? Is she acting spoiled? Like any concerned parent we would search until the answer was found. Unfortunately, as doggie parents, we are not always as persistent. Too often owners mindlessly blame their dog, calling him “naughty” or buying shock collars in desperation. But dogs don’t bark for the sake of barking. Our job is to play detective, dig deeper, and find out why!

Clues to why dogs bark.

 Dogs may bark when they have unmet needs: hunger, thirst, a wound that needs attention, the need to go out to potty, to run and play, the need for companionship… A caring owner watches what his dog is trying to communicate and acts accordingly. There are also breed-specific needs. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, for example, is described as a “people-oriented” breed and bonds especially closely with its owners. Left alone for long periods, they become easily stressed, whine, and may bark. By knowing our dogs’ needs, the mystery is half-way solved.

Dogs may bark if they don’t have a fulfilling activity. Most breeds had a job to fulfill long ago, such as herding or hunting. Today, however, many dogs sit around bored all day, which can result in negative behaviors, including constant barking. Hiring a herd of sheep to occupy our dog may not be feasible, but there are countless activities which can help: daily walks, playing fetch, agility, obedience, doggie day care, dog parks; I used to take my Labrador for a weekly swim. Be creative. Almost any form of exercise can be fulfilling! Don’t be deceived by the “lap dog” description for Cavaliers. Considered a “Sporting Toy breed,” they also need a fair amount of exercise. This brings to mind dog shows where long periods of crating are often unavoidable. Amidst all the excitement let’s remember to make exercise part of our Cavaliers daily routine!

Dogs can be territorial, it’s their instinct. Dogs will bark at strangers entering their territory and may continue until either the stranger leaves or is accepted by the owner. This territorial greeting can be useful and warn of danger. I must pause and chuckle—my Cavaliers have a “Welcome” sign hanging off their necks! If they do bark it has a friendly tone inviting the stranger to enter, with the ulterior motive to snuggle in yet another lap! Some dogs also display a claim to their territory by showing concern for their pups or toys. As leader, we must know when to intervene and communicate what we expect.

Dogs may bark when excited. Feeding time, play time, the arrival of company— a perfect example comes to mind. I call it my “doggie doorbell.” At the sound of the bell a choir of excited barks and wagging tails begins and will not end until each Cavalier has been adequately greeted in royal fashion. Dog owners often spell words like “walk” or “treat” to prevent unnecessary barking, only to discover their dogs can spell. Others own a magical treat jar. Simply jiggling it can set off barks of joy. It’s quite entertaining! Fortunately, the barking stops when the excitement ends.

So how do we react when faced with a “barky dog”? Scolding out of frustration or anger will only bewilder or scare him. Be patient, persistent, and observe your dog. Is there a need you can meet? Does he truly understand your expectations? It’s up to us to manage any constant barking behavior by finding the cause and offering a solution. Good communication is the key! If the mystery is too complex, consult a trainer. Maybe someone else can help.

Life lesson from our dogs…

 Good communication seems to be the key to all lasting relationships, even with our dogs. Yet dogs and humans do not perceive the world in the same way, nor communicate in the same language. This realization must be our guide and motivation for trying to understand our dogs. Let’s remain hopeful and envision our dogs through the eyes of love! I don’t believe there are “bad” dogs, only dogs with unmet needs living in a world where they are misunderstood. Once we understand the clues, the Mystery of the Barky Dog can be solved and we can write our own happy ending!


Leila is the recipient of the AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Public Service Award. She writes to inspire love, care, and compassion for dogs. About the Author.

Visit Leila’s Amazon Author Central

All content © Leila Grandemange, Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Short Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leila Grandemange and with appropriate and specific direction/link back to the original content. Thank you for your understanding. See Guidelines for Republishing

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2 thoughts on “Mystery of the Barky Dog

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