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Why do Labrador Retrievers bark?
Like speaking or hand signals is a form of communication for humans, barking is a form of communication for dogs. A few reasons your Lab might bark are that they:
- Miss you and want attention
- Need something - food, water, potty
- Are anxious, scared, or they see something unusual
- Want to play/are excited
Labradors need lots of attention
Labrador retrievers are like toddlers when it comes to constantly wanting attention. They will get highly attached to you fast. And they will always want to be close to you and have your attention. If they go too long without it, they will act out and bark or even howl. Labs are also more susceptible to separation anxiety, meaning they get more anxious when they’re away from you. They cope with this through barking until you return.
Despite Labrador Retrievers typically being a calmer breed, they still love to play and be big balls of energy. If your Lab is bored or isn’t getting enough mental and physical stimulation on their own, they will let you know about it.
Labs will bark when they need something!
Since barking is the main form of communication for dogs, they also use it to let you know if they need something. If you hear your Lab barking, then they might need:
- To be let outside
Trying out all of the things above until they stop barking is the best way to get them what they want and to get them to stop barking.
Labradors can make great watchdogs
Labs use barking as a defense mechanism when they feel like they’re in danger. If they sense a threat, they will try to intimidate the threat by barking at it. This, coupled with timid and nervous body language, can clue you in if they’re scared. Some of the things that Labs might find unusual and thus threatening include:
- People they haven't interacted with before
- New dogs that they haven't been around
- Unfamiliar places/environments
They will also bark at anything that they feel is threatening their owners so that they can make pretty good watchdogs.
The last reason your Labrador Retriever might bark is if they’re excited about something. Whether you are coming back home or getting a new toy, Labs have no problem being vocal about their emotions.
Do Labrador Retriever Puppies bark a lot?
Labrador retriever puppies have many different behaviors compared to full grown Labs, such as eating and sleeping more. Their barking habits are no exception. Puppies tend to bark more than full grown dogs no matter what the breed is, and Labs aren’t any different. A dog's puppy days are a time of exploration and curiosity. These days can also be filled with puppy anxiety, and they can express that through barking.
Another reason Labrador Retriever puppies bark more is due to separation anxiety. Similar to full grown Labs, puppies get anxious when their owner isn’t around them. But while full grown Labs might get anxious when their owner isn’t in the same building as them, Lab puppies get anxious when their owner isn’t in the same room. This causes them to bark a lot more, but you shouldn’t give them attention in response to their barking.
Giving them attention when they are barking will only make them associate barking with getting a reward, causing them to bark more. But fortunately, there are tricks and techniques to keep your Labrador Retriever’s barking under control, no matter how big or small.
How to Manage a Labrador Retriever’s Barking
Training a Labrador Retriever to limit its barking starts from their puppy days. It’s recommended that you start training them when they are between three and six months old, as that’s the age when they will start exploring their environment and responding to it with barking. To avoid a situation where adult labradors bark a lot, we must ensure puppy Labradors don't either!
The first tip to get your Lab puppy not to bark so much is to start building the relationship between you and the puppy as soon as possible. Some ways you can do this include:
- Playing together
- Going on walks
- Eating meals in the same room
- Cuddling as much as possible
The stronger the relationship between you and your Lab, the less prone they will be to bark out of separation anxiety.
Rescue and older Labs may bark for different reasons
Of course, not everyone gets a dog when they’re still in their puppy days. You might adopt an older or even fully grown Labrador Retriever, so the reasons they constantly bark might be slightly different. One of these reasons might be that they’re barking for attention. While you definitely shouldn’t ignore your Lab and make sure you give them plenty of attention, it’s important to train them not to bark every time they feel neglected.
The best thing you can do is teach them the “quiet” command. Once they know this command, all you have to do is say or gesture for them to be “quiet," and they’ll stop their barking. The instructions for how to teach your Labrador Retriever the quiet command are very similar to teaching them the “speak” or “sit” command; positive reinforcement and a lot of treats.
Controlling barking at night time
Another bad habit your new Labrador Retriever might have is barking at night. They mainly do this because of their guard dog nature, but it’s pointless when it’s just a squirrel or a leaf that got too close to the window. Labrador retrievers don’t bark at night often, but when it does happen, it can be hard to find out why.
If the Lab is younger, then it might just be because they’re still learning about the world around them. They should quit this habit in a few months. If the Lab is significantly older, then it might be a good idea to take your Lab to the vet, as there could be an underlying health condition.
As far as training your Lab to not bark at night, you can also use the “quiet” command to get them to stop. But tiring them out during the day with plenty of exercise and playtime will encourage them to sleep more at night. If they spend more time sleeping, they spend less time barking.
No matter how well your Labrador Retriever is trained, you can’t stop them from barking altogether. Training them to bark when they sense an intruder or other dangers is a good idea, considering they already have the sixth sense of being a guard dog. We should want Labradors who bark a lot - when we need them to!
It wouldn't be accurate to say Labradors bark a lot when compared to other dog breeds. But when they do, you know that they need something and need it bad enough to vocalize about it. Labrador retrievers are also one of the easiest dog breeds to train. As long as they get to spend time with their owner and they get a lot of treats, they’re happy to be trained. But no matter what breed of dog you get, you’ll have to deal with some barking.
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson