When I first got my Staffordshire Bull Terrier I lived in an apartment in a busy part of downtown. I had a lot of neighbors, noises, and other dogs in the area that could create problems if my Staffy was prone to barking. Doing some research was crucial for me to ensure I was both a good neighbor and owner when it came to barking.
Do Staffies bark a lot? As a whole Staffies that are well socialized, exercised, and trained do not bark a lot. The majority of barking that occurs with a Staffy will be due to a lack of one of those three factors. Some Staffies are more prone to barking a lot, but this varies from dog to dog.
I was prepared to tackle any barking problems that may arise with my Staffy puppy. One of the first things I did in the weeks leading up to her coming home was learn about the various reasons why dogs bark, and ways to prevent barking from becoming excessive, disruptive to neighbors, and myself.
In this post I will cover all the reasons why Staffies bark, and how to prevent excessive barking from developing. As a bully breed owner there is an extra responsibility to work with our dogs to present them as amazing dog community members. Through these techniques my Staffy has been praised for her behavior and quiet, gentle demeanor. Let’s dig in!
Why Does My Staffy Bark?
In order to stop and prevent Staffies from barking a lot you need to first understand why they bark. There are several different types of barking that dogs will do and they all have different meanings. Each type of barking has its own unique technique to curb excessive barking, which we will cover in the section below. Identify first the why, then we can get to the how.
Excitement barking is when you Staffy is in a state of happy excitement. Think of when you come home to your dog and they are just so happy to see you. This type of barking is your dog’s way of expressing how pleased they are to see you.
Along with tail wagging, perhaps some spinning, and wanting to jump up on you, excitement barking can be very common with Staffies. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are extremely family oriented. After time apart they sometimes can’t contain their excitement to see you.
Attention barking is a very distinct type of barking. Oftentimes this kind of barking comes in single, repetitive barks until a Staffy is able to get your full attention. Unlike excitement barking, attention barking is often more subdued with body language. There is more of a relaxed, non energetic body language.
Attention barking will often occur close to meal times, or when your Staffy needs a hand with something. A ball rolling under the couch is a perfect example. Attention barking is your dog’s way of saying “Hey! You! I need something. My heccin ball is trapped and I’m getting hungry!”
Boredom & Frustration Barking
Boredom or frustration barking is very similar to attention barking but more based around a need for activity than objects. This type of barking often occurs close to walk times, when you dog has an excess amount of energy, or when they want to play a game. Needing to go play fetch for example.
Boredom and frustration barking can take a similar look to attention barking. Single strings of barks with a more intent and stiff posture. It can also lead to a play bow where your Staffy will stretch out their front feet with their butt in the air. This is their way of saying “Let’s go do fun things! I’m so heccin bored”
Fear, Stress & Anxiety Barking
Fear, stress, and anxiety barking is far different than the previously mentioned barks. These barks take on a far more aggressive, deep, and growl like tone. Body language that accompanies these barks is usually a tucked tail, hackles up, and a lower head positioning.
These types of barks are warnings and expressions of dislike towards a variety of sights, sounds and situations. These barks are a way to communicate that they do not like a person approaching, the sound coming from the yard, or feeling constrained or cornered in a situation they don’t like.
There is a separate kind of anxiety barking as well that is usually seen in Staffies with separation anxiety. These are excessive, high pitched, and panicked sounding barks. Anxiety barks of this kind are ways for your dog to express the emotion of fear, stress and anxiety of being alone
Territorial barking is often a loud, deep, and persistent bark accompanied by a more upright, ears perked, and tail straight body language. Think of your dog trying to appear larger and more imposing to warn off potential intruders.
This type of barking often occurs when your Staffy notices someone in the yard, at the door, or hears other dogs nearby the home. Territorial barking can be a positive if you desire your Staffy to give you a heads up about things happening outside, but can quickly become excessive and unhealthy when left unchecked.
Surprising barking is more accurately a surprise bark. A singular bark that occurs when your dog is surprised or suddenly spooked by something or someone. Body language can take on a variety of positions from fear, to alert, to confusion. The dog was surprised after all and the bark was an involuntary response to this stimulus.
Play & Social Barking
Play barking and social barking are very similar to excitement barking. This type of barking can occur when your Staffy is at play with people or other dogs. It is their way of communicating happiness, gaining your attention to engage in play with them, and letting other dogs know they are around and looking to party.
Play and social barking looks very similar to excitement barking. Body language is typically excited, tail wagging, play bows, and spinning.
Pain barking is a Staffy’s response to discomfort, injury and illness. It is both a way to communicate to you that they are in need of help, and an expression of their discomfort. Pain barking is usually pretty distinguishable as your dog will be showing signs of discomfort and distress.
Limping, favoring a part of their body, or just generally looking to be in pain or ill are sure signs that the barking coming from your Staffy is pain related.
As some dogs age things like canine dementia can become a problem. This terrible cognitive degeneration can present symptoms such as excessive barking and confusion for no apparent reason.
Disorientation, disinterest in social activities, disruptions in sleeping patterns can all be signs of canine dementia. If you Staffy is beginning to show any of these signs consults with your vet to get a proper diagnosis and discuss how to properly manage their care.
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Why Does My Staffy Scream And Squeal?
Staffies are known to make all kinds of interesting noises. The Staffy scream and squeal is a high pitched sound that happens in several situations. Excitement, stress, anxiety, and frustration can all cause a Staffy to scream or squeal. These are similar to barks in their intent to communicate.
Some Staffies will express themselves with screams and squeals more than barking. This doesn’t always mean what they want is different than a Staffy that barks. Body language will help determine the kind of scream or squeal your dog is performing. Tail wagging, tail tucked, anxiety demeanor or playful bows can all point to their specific mood.
How Do I Stop My Staffy From Barking? Train A Staffy Not To Bark
Training a Staffy not to bark will depend on the type of barking that is taking place. There are several approaches to getting your Staffy to stop barking. Redirection, distraction, ignoring/positive reinforcing, exercise, socialization, consistency, and managing your environment are all techniques that can help.
In this section I will cover some of these techniques and when each is appropriate for your Staffy’s specific type of excessive barking. In some situations intervention from a Canine Behavior expert may be needed if barking is persistent. Seek professional advice when barking persists, there may be an underlying behavior and anxiety disorder at play.
Redirection is one of the first methods I used with my Staffy puppy when she would give off small little “woof” barks when she heard someone in the hallway. After a couple weeks using this technique she completely stopped vocalizing when she heard noises.
The basics of the redirection technique is to bring your Staffy away from the source that is causing the barking. Whether they are territory barking, or fear barking, redirecting your Staffy’s focus back to you with treats, toys, or other high value rewards is key.
In my case when my Staffy would start her barks I would get her attention with a high, upbeat voice and a desired thing. Once she had broken her attention from the noise in the hall and came to me she would be rewarded with treats or a toy.
The same technique can be applied when out for walks if your Staffy begins to play bark, territory bark, or fear bark at other dogs or people. Redirect their attention to you, make sure they focus on you and not the source that triggers the barking, and reward. Repeat this always and often and soon these types of barks will stop.
Distraction is similar to redirection, but used in slightly different situations. Excitement barking is one example where distraction can be used. My Staffy gets very excited when I have guests, so from a very young age I taught her to grab a toy when she is happy to see people.
This distraction with the toy not only distracts her from the impulse of barking, but it keeps her mouth occupied with the toy, making barking impossible. I don’t want to discourage her from being happy to see people, but I also don’t want barking and overexcited behaviors. A toy distraction is a great compromise.
Distraction techniques can also be used for things like territory barking. A Staffy can get hyper focused on something when in a state of territory barking, so distraction becomes necessary to snap them out of that frame of mind.
A loud clap, or shaking a jar of pennies or rocks is a great way to break their attention and distract them. The sound will briefly startle your dog and break them out of the territory barking. This is your opportunity to call them over to you, gain their focus, and reward them for stopping the unwanted barking.
Ignore Bad Behavior, Reinforce Good Ones
Attention and boredom barking can develop into a big problem when they are reinforced with what your Staffy wants. That being attention from barking. When a Staffy begins to bark at you to get your attention because they want something, or want to do something, rewarding them with attention will only reinforce the behavior.
The best thing you can do with these types of barking scenarios is to ignore the behavior until they stop. Once they have stopped barking you can give them some attention, reward them, and then get them dinner, go for a walk, play ball, or whatever it is they are wanting.
My Staffy for example knows that whining, barking, or crying to go for a walk, or get a treat will get her nowhere. Instead she has learned to come to me and stare quietly. It is pretty cute, and not very subtle, but her way of communicating that she wants attention without all the noise.
This is something I reward, and that reinforcement of good behavior has resulted in this behavior time and time again. Ignore the unwanted behavior like barking, reward the good behavior like quiet and patient waiting.
Prevention is better than reaction when it comes to barking behaviors. Exercise is probably the most important thing in a Staffy’s day to day routine. Regular exercise of at least 1 hour a day while preventing a number of unwanted behaviors from occurring and developing. Barking is one of those unwanted behaviors.
Staffies are very energetic. When they begin to feel pent up, bored, and needing some sort of outlet for this energy, barking can be one of the results. By exercising your Staffy a couple times a day you can prevent this boredom and pent up energy.
Attention barking, boredom barking, and even some anxiety barking can be alleviated proactively through a regular exercise routine. Consistent exercise at certain times of the day will give your Staffy the proper outlet and routines to prevent any barking from ever starting.
I have said time and time again that socialization is so important for Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Preventing behaviors such as barking is just one of the many reasons why you need to socialize your Staffy.
Barking such as fear, territorial, and even excessive excitement and play barking can happen as a result of poor socialization. Staffies need to become comfortable, confident and balanced around other people, dogs, sounds, and environments. By doing so reactions based in fear, and overexcitement do not become a larger issue.
Start socializing your Staffy from an early age. Expose them to as many people, sounds, environments, and well balanced dogs as you can. The more exposure your Staffy gets to the things in the world the less likely they are to bark at them.
Consistency in any kind of training is essential. When it comes to barking this is especially true. You need to effectively communicate to your dog what is wanted and unwanted behaviors through consistency.
When your Staffy begins to bark at the door when you have a guest arriving, and you encourage them by saying “Who’s that?!” they will bark anytime someone comes to the door. You may not want this behavior when the girl guides or a plumber come to the house.
Encouraging your dog to bark in one situation will create barking in that situation regardless of who is at the door. The same can be said about attention barking as we covered early in the points above.
If someday you reward your Staffy for barking to go out for a walk, but scold them for doing the same behavior when it’s dinner time, guess what? They won’t know the difference and stick to the behavior that gets them a reward most times.
Stick to ignoring things like attention barking in all situations and the attention barking will subside. Occasionally rewarding your dog for this behavior is not consistent and will confuse your dog. In turn this behavior will persist so long as you are inconsistent in your application of the ignoring method.
Manage The Environment
Managing your environment for things like territorial barking, separation anxiety barking, and fear based barking can go a long way in stopping these behaviors.
If your Staffy barks at squirrels, people, or other dogs they can see from the windows, block their access to the windows. When your Staffy begins to bark because they hear the neighbors playing outside, play some music, move them to a quiet room, or find some way to distract them from the noise.
Separation anxiety can be managed in much the same way. Provide a comfortable, quiet, and relaxing place for your Staffy to be alone. Away from sights, sounds and smells that may cause stress and anxiety while you’re away from home.
Set your Staffy up for success. By managing the environment they are in you will have a much easier time managing their barking.
Barking with Staffies is not a one size fits all situation. My Staffy barked very little even as a puppy, so intervention was not needed for long. A proactive approach through exercise and socialization I believed helped the most of any of the techniques mentioned above. However, I did use many of the techniques in the early stages to develop and reinforce expected behaviors.
Staffies are incredibly smart, and they can use this cleverness in both good and bad ways. Stay consistent in your training. A Staffy will find the loopholes to garner your attention through bad behaviors like attention barking.
Understand your Staffy and their body language. Each type of bark will have a corresponding look that can help you better address the barking behavior. This is by no means professional advice. If you believe your Staffy has excessive barking problems, anxious behaviors, or potentially aggressive territorial tendencies, consult with a professional trainer or behaviorist.
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