Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
Australian Shepherds are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please.
And as natural herders, it’s easy to understand their high energy levels and willingness to engage in play.
But do Australian Shepherds bark a lot?
Australian Shepherds tend to bark more than most dog breeds. These highly energetic dogs typically bark at strangers, other animals and whenever excited. Aussie Shepherds are known to bark excessively when injured, bored, or anxious.
In this article, I will answer vital questions related to this topic, including why dogs bark, expected barking behavior by age and gender, and some of the factors that may cause excessive barking among Australian Shepherds.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Dogs generally bark for various reasons, including showing excitement, seeking attention, and protecting their territory. Dogs also bark when they are sick, injured, bored, or anxious.
Barking is second nature to dogs. Like we humans use our words to communicate, canines use their barks to draw your attention.
Suffice to say; your dog will always bark for a reason.
And due to the numerous reasons your dog could be barking, it is crucial to determine the trigger.
While determining the stimulus for your Aussi Shepherd’s barking behavior can be a daunting task, you’ll be glad to know that the barks differ depending on situations or scenarios.
Thus, by learning and understanding your Australian Shepherd’s barking behavior, you will be well placed to determine their mood based on the pitch, space between barks, or how many times your dog barks in a row.
Barking Behavior by Age
Your dog’s age has a significant impact on its behavioral patterns.
Accordingly, it is vital to consider life-stage or dog patterns during behavioral examinations.
Simply put, your dog may be barking more frequently or less frequently because of its age.
Let us explore the differences in barking behavior among Australian Shepherds when they are puppies and juxtapose these behaviors with their older counterparts.
Generally, Australian Shepherds begin making sounds after about two to three weeks.
During this period, your puppy should have opened their eyes and ears.
After about seven to eight weeks, you will most likely hear your puppy whining and grunting.
The Australian Shepherds typically bark more than most dog breeds, so you should expect your puppy to be vocal even as a puppy.
However, your dog’s barking behavior will be mediated by different factors, including whether or not it is part of a litter or the presence of other dogs.
Let me explain.
Australian Shepherd puppies tend to whine and grunt as part of their socialization and playing routine with littermates.
This means that your puppy may be less vocal if they do not have other puppies to play around with from an early age.
While it may take an Australian Shepherd 16 weeks to start barking, they can begin much sooner by listening and learning from other dogs.
Consequently, if you already have another dog in your home, I recommend training them to stop barking before bringing in an Australian Shepherd.
Therefore, your puppy’s barking habits are significantly affected by socialization factors.
To manage barking during these early stages, it is important to keep your puppy among calmer dogs or away from other vocal dogs.
Alternatively, it is essential to train your furry friend from an early age.
With a lack of training, your puppy will probably bark a lot, as it is in their nature.
And since Australian Shepherds tend to like the sound of their voice, they will become increasingly vocal if you don’t train them early enough.
Australian Shepherds are typically a very energetic dog breed and bark more (and louder) as they grow older.
In fact, barking can become a significant problem as your dogs grow older, especially if not correctly trained during their early stages of development.
It is, however, essential to appreciate the fact that not all Australian Shepherd adult dogs have the same temperament.
While most of these dogs are hyperactive and highly energetic compared to most dog breeds, some dogs exhibit a milder disposition.
Australian Shepherds were initially bred as herd dogs, and thus, enthusiasm and energy are simply part of their innate traits.
Like in the case of Australian Puppies, how you train your dog as it grows, socialization, and other factors will affect your dog’s barking behavior.
For instance, because these dogs are herd dogs, it is crucial to keep them busy by providing ample exercises to complement other training approaches.
If you do not challenge your dog with these activities, it is likely to display some of these negative behavioral traits, such as excessive barking and even aggression.
On the same breadth, if you adopt an adult dog that was not adequately socialized as a puppy or failed to socialize your dog during puppyhood adequately, they become prone to anxiety, aggression, and fear, which typically manifests in excessive barking.
Lastly, Australian Shepherds tend to create powerful bonds with their pet parents.
Therefore, they will demand more of your attention and time, especially as they grow older.
Providing them with enough attention is consequently crucial to minimize the degree and frequency of barking.
Barking Behavior by Gender
A 2015 study by researchers from the Computational Intelligence Group revealed fascinating results and, specifically, that it is possible to determine a dog’s age and gender based on their bark.
So by the same logic, are there differences in the barking behavior of Australian Shepherds based on gender?
Let’s find out.
Male and female Australian Shepherds differ significantly in terms of temperament and behavior.
For instance, males tend to be more hyperactive than females.
Because they are hyperactive and hate isolation, they will tend to bark more than females.
They are also more likely to question your authority, resulting in excessive and loud barking.
Unlike female dogs, male Australian Shepherds are highly territorial and bark aggressively to protect their territory.
For this reason, keeping several males in your home can be problematic since they will likely bark incessantly and fight as they compete for territory.
Female Australian Shepherds tend to be calmer than their male counterparts.
Unlike the males, they prefer to stay in isolation and are less likely to follow you around or bark loudly for your attention.
Female Australian Shepherds also grow mellow as they mature and are highly unlikely to challenge your authority.
Therefore, the female Australian Shepherd is generally less loud than the males.
They are also less likely to fight over territory with other dogs and thus get along better with male puppies than their male counterparts.
However, like most dogs, the female Australian Shepherd will show aggression and bark loudly when it has a litter.
What Can Cause Excessive Barking in Australian Shepherds?
Excessive barking in Australian Shepherds is typically associated with loud noises, strangers, the presence of other animals, boredom, changes in their living situation, or the introduction of a new animal in the home. Excessive barking could also signify disease or pain from an injury.
As previously explained, excessive barking among Australian Shepherds cannot be solely attributed to one reason.
Let us discuss these reasons in detail and what you should do for each instance.
Australian Shepherds are sensitive to sound, especially loud noises.
Therefore, it may not be reasonable to adopt Australian Shepherds if you live in a noisy environment or neighborhood.
Exposure to loud noises can easily startle your dog, causing them to bark loudly as a form of response.
In such instances, you can desensitize your dog to loud noises by training them to tolerate them.
Alternatively, you should consider bringing your dog indoors to limit their exposure to loud noises.
If you can control what is making the loud noises, such as slamming your door or shouting, you can also minimize these noises to keep your dog calmer.
While Australian Shepherds grow very attached to their owners, they tend to bark excessively at strangers and passersby.
As in the case of loud noises, there are training approaches you can adopt to desensitize your Australian Shepherd to barking at strangers.
However, because having a dog offers an additional layer of security, sensitizing them to barking at strangers may not be the best idea.
I would recommend reducing your dog’s exposure to strangers.
For instance, do not allow them to wander to regions of your home where they will be exposed to people walking by.
Presence of Other Animals
While how your dog reacts to the presence of other animals, such as other cats and dogs, will depend on their temperament, most Australian Shepherds will bark excessively when you bring a new pet home.
Male Australian Shepherds are incredibly territorial and will generally struggle to get along with other dogs and household pets.
I would recommend socializing your Australian Shepherd with other pets at an early age to avoid excessive barking.
Secondly, you should consider the gender and temperament of your dog before bringing another dog home.
Excessive barking among Australian Shepherds is often a sign of boredom.
These dogs are highly energetic and, as previously explained, require regular and challenging exercise to help them expend excess energy.
It would help if you kept your Aussie Shepherd busy and active to reduce the chances of barking due to boredom.
Changes in the Living Situation
Have you recently moved, rearranged your furniture, or changed your living situation?
Australian Shepherds, like most dogs, are sensitive to changes in their living situation.
These changes can cause anxiety, which can manifest in excessive barking.
Other changes, such as a new roommate, a spouse, or even a child, can also cause stress for your pet, especially when they are attention-hungry.
You can minimize this anxiety by preparing your dog for these lifestyle changes in advance.
For example, begin changing your routine to let your dog acclimatize to the transition in advance.
For a roommate or spouse, give your dog ample time to get used to them before making the situation permanent.
It would be best if you also considered hiring a dog walker to make up for the loss of attention.
Disease or Injury
Excessive barking can sometimes be your dog’s call for help due to a disease or pain from an injury.
Accordingly, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian if your dog’s barking behavior changes abruptly.
I recommend regular visits to a vet to ensure that your dog is healthy and free of diseases.
When Did the Barking Begin?
Unless you have adopted a new puppy or older dog, you will generally have a good understanding of your dog’s temperament and behavior.
As long as you pay attention to your pet, it is relatively easy to notice changes in temperaments and behavior.
Understanding when your Australian Shepherd’s barking behavior began allows you to respond accordingly. Abrupt, frequent barks might signal an intrusion or a cry for attention. At the same time, persistent barking can allude to an underlying health problem or injury.
For instance, if your dog tends to bark excessively every now and then, you may be less alarmed when it starts barking excessively than when your dog generally has a mild temperament but suddenly starts barking excessively.
If you suspect a disease or injury, take your dog to the veterinarian.
Can Barking Indicate Health Problems?
Excessive barking can indicate various health problems, from pain due to injury to wasp or bee stings and diseases. In most instances, if your Australian Shepherd is barking because they are unwell, there will be other symptoms such as reluctance to eat or changes in their poop.
Australian Shepherds have been known to bark excessively when they are unwell.
It is one of the ways that your dog tries to communicate to you that they are sick or in pain.
Consulting a licensed veterinarian if you suspect that your Australian Shepherd is unwell is highly recommended.
How To Tell if the Barking Is Aggressive
Like humans, dogs use both verbal and non-verbal communication.
You can tell a lot about your dog’s barking by looking at its body language.
Some of the signs to look for to determine whether your dog is barking out of aggression include the following:
- Your dog’s bark will be guttural in nature
- Your Australian Shepherd will notably charge at the subject or lunge forward but without making contact
- Your dog will show their teeth
While the above list is not exhaustive (that would require an entire article), these are usually warning signs that you should watch out for as a pet parent to calm your dog down.
Ignoring these warning signs could result in dog bites.
How To Reduce Excessive Barking
To reduce excessive barking, you need to determine what is causing this behavior.
Many triggers cause excessive barking, such as loud noises, strangers, boredom, and others.
Therefore, eliminating these triggers or training your dog to be desensitized to these triggers is the first step to reducing excessive barking.
For most pet parents, it is easy to determine why your dog is barking based on the sound of the bark.
For instance, you can tell whether your dog wants to play, whether they are scared, or whether they are hungry, or they need attention.
Understanding what different barks mean is essential to reducing excessive barking in Australian Shepherds.
If the barking does not stop even after removing the triggers, you should seek professional behavioral help for your dog.
Avoid These Pitfalls in Your Quest for Some Peace and Quiet
Because Australian Shepherds are susceptible animals, it is essential to be aware of some actions to avoid if you want to reduce excessive barking.
Remember, these actions are counterproductive, and you should consciously try to avoid them.
Punishing Your Dog
It is imperative to avoid any measures driven towards punishing your dog.
It is cruel and counterproductive and will most likely do little to correct your pet’s behavior.
Besides ruining your relationship, punishing your Australian Shepherd can lead to aggression as a response to the abuse.
Making Your Dog Think You’re Going To Hit Them
Australian Shepherds are typically very loyal companions and quickly get attached to their pet owners.
Gesturing as if you are going to hit them is therefore not only unjust but can spark further aggression such as biting.
Hitting your dog is also linked to a loss of trust, heightening your pet’s stress and anxiety levels.
Shouting and Verbal Aggression
Shouting and yelling at your dog is an ineffective way of trying to stop them from barking.
Remember, your dog does not understand why you are screaming and shouting and may interpret this as you joining in the fun and bark even more.
Alternatively, it would help to talk to your dog in a calm, quiet voice when they start barking loudly.
Relentless shouting and yelling can also potentially make your dog afraid of you as the pet parent.
Barking is your dog’s natural way of communicating with you and other dogs.
This is how they let you know when they want to play, when there is an intruder, when they are hungry when they want to take a walk, etc.
All of these factors are crucial to your dog’s health and well-being.
Barking training seeks to eliminate this innate feature of your dog and, if successful, can make it virtually impossible for your dog to communicate with you.
As such, bark-related training should be geared towards reducing barking or preventing excessive barking and not eliminating barking entirely.
Anti-bark collars are a no-no for reducing excessive barking in dogs.
This approach is not backed by research. It is also a punishment device that often results in anxiety, fear, and stress for your dog.
This approach is also very cruel and uncalled for if you love your Australian Shepherd.
Australian Shepherds are one of the best dog breeds in the world.
However, it is in their nature to bark excessively, especially when confronted with specific triggers such as loud noises, strangers, and other pets.
If your Australian Shepherd barks a lot and you want to prevent or minimize this barking, you should seek the services of a professional trainer for behavioral training.
However, I recommend taking your dog for regular checkups at a licensed veterinarian to ensure that the barking does not result from an underlying illness or injury.
- American Kennel Club: Learning to Speak Dog – The Meaning of Your Dog’s Barks
- PetMD: Why do Dogs Bark?
- RSPCA Pet Insurance: Why is My Dog Barking?
- PDSA: Australian Shepherd Breed Information
- ScienceDaily: Barking Characterizes Dogs as Voice Characterizes People
- Independent: Dogs Give Away Valuable Information Including Gender and Age When They Bark, Say Scientists
- PetKeen: Male Australian Shepherds vs. Female Australian Shepherds: What’s the Difference?
- Aussie University: Should I Get a Male or Female Australian Shepherd Puppy?
- VetPetGuide: Aggressive Behavior in Australian Shepherds: Fact of Fiction?
- ASPCA: Dogs and Babies
- WebMD: Why Dogs Bark and Curbing Excessive Barking
- ASPCA: Aggression
- ASPCA: Barking
- PetHelpful: Dog Discipline: Does Hitting and Beating a Dog Work?
- RealClearScience: Why You Should Never Hit Your Dog
Click here to read my post on whether or not Aussies are aggressive
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society