Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
Before welcoming a dog into your family, knowing how you two will fit together is essential.
Some dogs can be extra yappy, and others barely let out a peep.
Regardless, some circumstances would make even the quietest dogs quite loud.
Poodles bark moderately. Typically, when poodles bark, they try to communicate something to you. If the barking bothers you, poodles can be trained easily to become less “yappy.”
Compared to other dogs known for their constant barking, you can find poodles on the “moderate” side of the barking spectrum.
However, if your poodle does bark a lot, it typically means they are trying to tell you something.
Below, using my experience as a veterinary doctor, I’ll go over some of the basics of dog communication and provide some tips for getting your pup to give you some peace.
Why Do Poodles Bark?
Your dog isn’t barking to get on your nerves, as annoying as it may be.
It can feel like your neighbor’s pup is threatening you or like the dog across the courtyard is barking to keep you up at night, but in this way, dogs are the same as children.
All communication has meaning.
Poodles and other dogs bark to communicate, whether trying to you or other animals. Dogs may be barking to warn you someone is near, ask you for something, or let you know they’re excited. Together with barking, body language can indicate what your dog is trying to tell you.
Unfortunately, our dogs can’t speak sign language or give us human words.
However, they do talk to us, just in their own way.
Dogs will use barking paired with silent body language features to let us know what’s going on. Your dog may bark to let you know:
- They are hungry.
- They are thirsty.
- They are scared.
- They are hurt.
- They are excited.
- They need something from you.
Barking is just the easiest way to get their point across.
If we teach our dogs to respond to their barking in one way or another, it can prevent them from doing it or encourage them to keep trying.
Some might want the barking to stop, while others are okay with their dog warning them of impending danger or uninvited guests.
Barking Behavior by Age
Dog barking changes as the dog ages. For most breeds, you’ll find that puppies bark a little more than young dogs, and young dogs bark more than adult dogs.
This is because of a combination of “nature” and “nurture”: not only is it natural for barking to go down, but training by humans also nurtures dogs into barking less.
This is true of poodles, as well.
Poodles bark a moderate amount during their puppy years.
Their barking will slowly decline as they become less afraid of separation from you (referred to as separation anxiety) or become more trained.
All puppies are prone to barking at passing cars, strangers coming into the house, and other dogs on their walks.
Training them can make this behavior less apparent.
As for separation anxiety, the most you can do is ensure you are training your dog and wait it out.
Think about it from your dog’s perspective: they just left their mom and all of their siblings, so when you leave the house, they may be worried they won’t see you again either.
If things seem to be getting serious, your vet can typically let you know if medication or CBD is an option for your pup.
Poodles bark a moderate to less than moderate amount during their adult years.
Typically, their adult barking will be triggered by things like:
- People walking by the house or cars driving by
- Not knowing where you are
- Thunderstorms or fireworks
- Injury or illness
- Hunger or thirst
Poodles may learn what the word “walk” means or become excited when you get home and start barking.
If these behaviors are stressful for you, there are training methods that will prevent them from barking during these trigger events.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, though.
Barking Behavior by Sex
You may be wondering if the sex of your dog makes any difference when it comes to barking.
While there are definite behavior differences in male and female poodles, such as their affection and independence, barking is typically the same.
- Males. Male poodles bark the same amount as female poodles. Their “triggers” are more exclusive to their personality than their sex. Typically, male dogs are triggered more easily if they are unneutered.
- Females. Female dogs bark the same amount as male dogs. The only difference is that if your dog isn’t spayed, you may notice more barking or protective nature if they have babies or are on their menstrual cycle.
What Can Cause Excessive Barking in Poodles?
If your dog isn’t typically triggered by much but has begun barking a lot, there are a few things you need to be mindful of.
Excessive barking in poodles and other dogs may be caused by a change in environment, an illness or injury, or an unmet need. If you see that your dog is fed, watered, stimulated, and there are no changes in the environment, your dog may be trying to tell you they’re ill.
The key to figuring out why the excessive barking has happened is to be observant and open to consulting your vet.
Suppose you don’t find an environmental change or other cause right away.
In that case, there’s no harm in talking to a professional and seeing if something is going on with your poodle.
Notice When Your Poodle Began Barking
If your dog has always been particularly talkative, some training will likely do them good.
However, if this is a new behavior, be observant of recent changes.
Did the neighbor get a new pet? Are we in a brand new neighborhood? Have I moved the dog bowl to a place that’s harder to reach?
Sometimes, the answer is painstakingly obvious.
Other times, we may need to observe the antecedent or trigger (the thing that happens before they bark) and the consequence (how we treat them after they bark).
You’d be surprised at how often a dog starts to get more talkative than usual at the same time every day.
Note if your dog starts to bark at a particular time every day or every week.
You may notice it’s the same time the mailman comes by or when a neighbor gets home from work.
Barking Can Indicate Health Problems
Barking may indicate health problems, but not how you might think.
The barking is often just a communicative symptom of what’s going on with your dog.
This is to say the barking isn’t the problem, just a side-effect.
If your dog has been barking more often and nothing in its environment has changed, you should check in with the vet.
They may have an ear infection, a stomach bug, or something else that’s causing them to bark more.
How to Reduce Excessive Barking in Poodles
As I have mentioned many times in this article, all communication and behavior in dogs have meaning.
Even if you think your poodle’s barking has “come out of nowhere,” I challenge you to watch for their barking triggers.
You can rely on the ABC chart, often used in behavior therapy.
An ABC chart aims to observe:
- A: The antecedent of the behavior, or what happens beforehand
- B: The behavior and what it looks like
- C: The consequence of the action
While many websites will tell you to look for the trigger, the consequence is just as important.
If you pick up your dog or give them attention each time they bark, they might be barking for the “consequence” rather than because they are triggered.
When you’ve noticed what sets your dog off or encourages them to keep barking, think of ways that you can take preventative action.
If you’ve noticed your dog freaks out every time the mailman comes by at 9 AM, you can make sure the blinds are closed and that your dog is eating their breakfast in the other room at 9 AM.
Cesar “The Dog Whisperer” Millan has some tips for preventing barking:
Additionally, some pet parents have found success in creating a replacement behavior for their dog rather than trying to reduce the barking.
For example, if your dog barks every time a guest enters the house, you can train them to grab a toy when the doorbell rings and bring it to the guest.
Having a toy in their mouth will prevent them from barking.
Avoid These Pitfalls in Your Quest for Some Peace and Quiet
While the above tips and tricks take a lot of work, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to put a good amount of energy into teaching your dog new things.
Taking the “easy” way out usually doesn’t really fix the behavior and can cause our dogs to become scared of us.
Our dogs only get one life with us, so avoid these pitfalls:
- Punishing your dog
- Make your dog think you are going to hit them
- Shouting and verbal aggression
- Barking training
- Barking collars
Though these may have been your go-to solutions, I’ll discuss a little bit below why each of these is problematic and potentially harmful for your dog.
Punishing Your Dog
More and more research indicates that dogs are working at a similar brain capacity as young toddlers.
As cries for more “gentle parenting” reach our homes, we need to think about treating our pets with the same patience and respect.
There’s a huge difference between punishment and consequences, and this distinction is important for kid-parenting as well as for pet-parenting.
Consequences teach a lesson, while punishments aim to make others feel bad for something they did.
Punishment teaches dogs they will be harmed if they do something wrong, even though most of what they do wrong is in our control as humans.
Before punishing your dog, think about how you could have prevented the accident from happening as the more intelligent and all-controlling life form.
Barking can be under our control if we thoroughly involve ourselves in the training process.
Making Your Dog Think You’re Going To Hit Them
You may think that not hitting your dog and just pretending is better than hitting them.
While I can agree that anything that keeps you from hitting a defenseless animal is preferred, I think it’s important to remember that making your dog think it’s about to be hit is also damaging.
This causes the dog to distrust its parents and can encourage an adrenaline fight-or-flight response in your pup.
Dogs in fight-or-flight mode are less likely to learn new tricks—including not barking.
Distrust will make it harder for you to train them to do anything.
Additionally, if your dog feels constantly threatened by you, it may promote aggressive barking as self-protection.
Shouting and Verbal Aggression
Dogs have no idea what we are saying, and if they did, I wouldn’t be writing this article.
Sure, they can learn a few different words and know that our voice inflection when we say the word walk differs from when we say can opener.
Regardless, when we get loud and shout, we are just “barking” as we beg them not to do.
This is confusing, but this also makes the dog afraid of their parents.
When you shout or become verbally aggressive with your dog, especially when they are barking, you are just showing that the behavior is acceptable.
When you watch dog trainers, you’ll notice that their voices are always equal-leveled and calm.
Shouting and becoming aggressive heightens the dog’s adrenal response and makes them bark even more.
Check out this video for more information on the long-term effects of yelling at your pup:
If this doesn’t convince you, try to think about it in terms of raising children.
Telling your children to “stop screaming” as you’re screaming at them indicates that screaming is okay to get what you want.
Yelling at your dog does less than you think it does.
There’s a fine line between a “barking training,” which will prevent your dogs from barking at friendly guests, and a barking training, which will teach your dog never to bark.
Barking is an important form of natural communication for dogs.
There are dozens of news stories and personal anecdotes of people being saved by their dogs barking.
Whether it meant that they found an intruder in the home, they noticed someone walking behind their parents, or warning people that something needed our human attention.
Training to limit or stop excessive barking is okay.
Still, we reach a troubling area when we ask dogs to stop barking altogether.
Barking collars are an attractive way to get your dog to stop barking because they require very little intervention from you.
However, this practice is cruel to pups and doesn’t teach them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate barking.
Even if you think there’s no “appropriate” barking, there is. Barking is the only way that dogs communicate.
Avoid barking collars at all costs.
How To Tell if the Barking Is Aggressive?
Every dog is different, and you’ll find various indicators of aggression in their behaviors, even amongst poodles.
Typically, body language paired with a bark will tell you if a dog is acting aggressively.
You should be able to tell that barking is aggressive based on other signs in the dog’s body language. Barred teeth, haunches sticking up, or if they begin to lunge at something can be aggressive behavior.
Aggressive behavior may indicate that your dog is uncomfortable, worried about its safety, or needs your human intervention to feel safer.
Dogs become protective of their owners, so “aggressive” behavior may be intended for your benefit.
However, we must note that “aggressive” behavior isn’t synonymous with “bad” or “mean.”
Dogs bark. When they’re barking, they’re trying to communicate something to you.
It’s crucial to find out the trigger and consequence of their barking and control what you can as a human.
Poodles aren’t known for being super yappy dogs, so something is going on if you find your poodle has been barking a lot.
It could be a new dog in the neighborhood, an illness, or a sign they need some more training.
Invest time into this training to prevent your dog from becoming afraid or unhappy with you.
- Flower-Mound: Less Than Exciting Behaviors Associated With Unneutered Male Dogs!
- Science Daily: Dogs’ Intelligence On Par With Two-year-old Human, Canine Researcher Says
- Post Independent: Integrative Pet Vet: Stress response in dogs can influence behavior and health
- Veterinarians: CBD for Dog Anxiety: Top 6 Products According to a Veterinarian
Click here to read my post on whether or not Poodles 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