Excessive Vocalization in Dogs

Disruptive Crying, Whining and Barking in Dogs

Excessive vocalization refers to uncontrollable, excessive barking, whining or crying, often occurring at inappropriate times of the night or day. Such vocalization can be due to pain, illness, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), or may be related to a decline in hearing in senior pets.

CDS is often associated with night waking, during which excessive vocalization occurs. Dogs that are bred for work and high energy activities may be prone to excess barking.

Excessive barking may also be related to behavioral conditions, which may be controlled by behavior modification training. There are also some breeds that are better known for excessive and inappropriate barking. Many breeds of terrier, such as the Yorkshire, Cairn, Fox, West Highland White, and Silky terriers, are prone to barking without cause and may benefit from behavioral modification training. Other breeds include toy and miniature poodles, chihuahuas, and Pekingese.

Symptoms and Types

  • Night vocalizations in senior age dogs
  • Excessive barking in working-breed dogs
  • Excessive barking in high energy, nervous dogs
  • Vocalization caused by pain or illness
  • Vocalization disruptive to owners or others (e.g., neighbors)


  • Medical: disease, pain, CDS
  • Anxiety or conflict
  • Alarm barking – in response to novel stimuli
  • Territorial - warning or guarding response to sounds from outdoors
  • Social or attention-seeking behavior that is reinforced by verbal commands or return of owner to room
  • Distress vocalization (e.g. howling or whining) – often due to separation from mother, family, social group or owner
  • Growling may be associated with antagonistic displays
  • Stereotypical behaviors or compulsive disorders
  • Breed – genetic characteristics


If your dog's increased vocalization is out of the ordinary, you will want to have health problems ruled out before considering behavior modification. Your veterinarian can perform a full medical work-up, including a chemical blood profile, complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis and electrolyte panel, along with a complete physical exam. Possible incidents that might have led to this condition will also be considered, and a thorough history of your dog's behavioral health leading up to the symptoms will be taken into account.

It is critical to rule out a non-behavioral, physical cause of the vocalization first. Imaging can be helpful for ruling out medical/neurological disorders. BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) testing can be done if auditory decline is suspected.

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