Frequent barking can be a nuisance for pet parents, but if your outspoken pooch has quit "speaking," it can be cause for concern. Dogs start and stop barking for all sorts of reasons — the same way humans may go from being talkative to quiet from time to time.
That said, there are cases when this sudden issue can point to health problems. Let's explore reasons why your dog may have stopped barking as well as ways to encourage them to continue to keep the barking at bay.
The Root of the Behavior
The root of barking is a curious subject that scientists still don't understand entirely. Surprisingly, wolves don't usually bark. Barking is a behavior usually limited to wolf pups, though there are some occasions where adult wolves bark, like when frightened or when communicating with wolf pups.
On the other hand, domesticated doggies bark for all sorts of reasons, from hunger to excitement or fear. Some scientists believe that dog barking is either a direct or indirect product of centuries of selective breeding for friendly traits.
But what does it mean when your non-stop barker stops barking suddenly? Well, it could be a few different things.
If your dog is usually very "talkative" but has been barking less than normal, or not at all, it could signal throat pain. Throat pain and strained vocal cords are the most common health-related reasons that dogs suddenly stop barking. Typically, this is a result of barking too much in the days prior. Much like humans, dogs can go hoarse from "talking" too much.
Past experiences can also factor into why a dog stops barking. Rescues may not bark very often because of past trauma. Dogs who come from abusive situations may stop barking as a protective measure to prevent consequences that once stemmed from barking.
Age-related changes in hearing can also cause dogs to stop barking as much as they once did. Hearing loss can decrease the external stimuli that typically results in barking, causing the dog to bark less often. Dogs can't very well respond to unexpected visitors if they don't hear them come in!
Encouraging the Behavior
If your dog is a frequent barker and stops suddenly, you may want to encourage that behavior for your own sanity. Below are a few ways you can encourage your dog to continue not to bark.
Many dog trainers recommend desensitizing your dog to the stimuli that cause them to bark. The first step to desensitizing a dog is figuring out their triggers. Once you've established what triggers Fido's barking, you'll be able to expose them to their triggers in controlled situations to hopefully decrease barking. Keep in mind that desensitization training requires a lot of repetition and consistency to be effective. This process will take weeks, if not months, so patience is key.
Increasing your dog's exercise may also help control barking, especially in dogs who bark out of boredom. Make sure you're taking your dog for regular walks and engaging them both mentally and physically. Try dog food puzzles during your puppy's downtime and frisbee or chase in addition to their regular walks. If you're unable to meet your dog's daily walking requirements, consider hiring a dog walker.
If your dog barks for attention or food, make sure you're not rewarding that behavior. Don't give in to temptation and offer your dog the thing they're seeking just to get them to stop barking. Doing so will only reinforce their behavior.
Refrain from scolding, hitting, or otherwise punishing your dog for barking. Punishing your dog for negative behaviors can result in distrust, fear, and even aggression.
Other Solutions and Considerations
A health condition could also cause sudden cessation of barking. Canine myasthenia gravis (MG) is a rare but serious condition that can cause dogs to go silent. Canine myasthenia gravis attacks the nerves that send impulses to the muscles, causing the dog's muscles to be unable to contract. This disease affects all the muscles in a dog's body, including the throat, causing dogs to have difficulty barking and swallowing. Other symptoms of this condition include lethargy, inability to stand, falling, and vomiting.
Tumors of the throat or vocal cords can have a similar result, causing paralysis of the vocal cords and an inability to bark. Likewise, a bacterial or viral infection like laryngitis can cause vocal changes or make the dog unable to bark.
Pet parents are often thankful when their dog isn't as outspoken as normal, but an abrupt change in behavior can raise concerns. If your dog suddenly stops barking and is acting unusual, it's a good idea to have them checked out by a veterinarian to be on the safe side.
Before your dog stops barking suddenly due to a health condition, it's a good idea to secure pet health insurance. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs!