Barking does not always require a big interrupter, however. You can use everyday objects. If your dog barks near to you, slam the cupboard door or a drawer, so the noise distracts or startles him. Make nothing of this, and carry on as normal. This can work especially well when a dog barks simply to be let out of a crate. You don’t want to scare the dog, just quickly alter his state of mind and change the focus. He should not see you launch the object or make the noise. He has to think that the unwanted barking creates the occurrence. Practice this while you are watching TV, working in the kitchen or whatever you’re doing – the dog should not relate it to you but to the nuisance barking. An important part of this is that if you do drop or throw an object it should not hit the dog, but land at his feet. You should also leave it there for a while so he does not relate it to you. Remember though that you have to be able to understand and translate the different barks. One of his barks may be – I need to go to the bathroom. So learn to understand the tone of the bark or noise he makes.
But, since dogs bark for various reasons, the first thing to do is to figure out why your dog barks, at what you might consider to be the most inappropriate times. Once you know the reason behind the uncontrollable barking, you can start to treat the problem.
Dogs bark because it works, whether to scare off a perceived intruder, self-soothe, get attention or release frustration. Tackling your dog’s barking first requires that you identify the drive behind your dog’s vocalization. These are the most typical types of canine communication:
If you are not sure what your dog is barking at or if he seems to be barking at everything, keep a bark diary. You may start to see a pattern, for example he barks at 3pm when kids are getting out of school. It might be useful to ask your neighbours to do this also, so you know when he is barking when you are not home. Your neighbours also then know you are attempting to resolve the problem.
Separation anxiety (SA) is manifested in a number of behaviors, including nonstop hysterical barking and sometimes howling. This is a complex and challenging behavior both to modify and to manage, as true SA is a real panic attack in response to being left alone; the dog truly cannot control his behavior. SA usually requires the intervention of a good positive behavior consultant, and sometimes pharmaceuticals.
If you struggle to figure out why your dog is barking and the above advice has not helped, don’t panic. The reasons why dogs bark are not always as straightforward as we would like, and qualified pet behaviourists will be able to help you. Ask your vet or visit the Animal Behaviour and Training Council website to find a qualified local behaviourist who can help you and your pet.
You may also be surprising the dog when you’re in your yard because you don’t go out there often. If the dog is startled by you, you may want to try spending some more time in the yard. That way, nothing will seem out of the ordinary for the dog when you’re there.
Once he stops barking, call him to you, praise him, and fulfill his request, as long as it’s reasonable. However, if he is barking for food, do not reward him with food, treats, chews etc. This will simply reinforce begging and instead of barking, he will switch to pawing at you or some other attention getting behavior.
The sound of barking dogs in the neighborhood can quickly go from nuisance to nightmare, especially when you are trying to sleep or concentrate. If you are comfortable with it, try politely approaching your neighbor to discuss the matter, or write a direct but civil letter. You may try gently suggesting a local dog trainer or behaviorist. Many people prefer to contact the neighborhood association or another group to act as a moderator. As a last resort, you may need to call the police. However, keep in mind how this could be detrimental to your future relationship with your neighbors. On the other hand, you may not even care about that after a certain amount of sleep deprivation.
In case this strategy doesn’t work, the only option you have is to invest in sound-proofing your home, or consider moving away, so it’s best to hope you have a neighbor who is willing to train their dog.
Understandably, if your dog is barking because he is anxious, this will really add to his problems. Citronella collars require you to buy replacement cartridges frequently, so can be much more expensive than consulting a veterinary behaviorist.
Dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong. Humans do not make ideal walking partners since a dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours. Having to walk calmly by a person’s side when the only thing a dog really wants to do is run and investigate his environment requires a degree of impulse control that can be very difficult for some dogs to utilize.
With technological advances, it is now possible to tech out your house to make you and your dog’s life easier when it comes to excessive barking. While many choose to use anti-bark dog collars, there are also less stressful options that may work just as well. So if you’re having a hard time learning how to get a dog to stop barking, maybe some of these gadgets will help:
Dogs are pack animals and social barking is just part of that fact. Dogs bark in response to other dogs barking, whether around the neighborhood or even on the TV. You will never stop it, but you can control it somewhat. Start by changing your dog’s environment, minimizing sound from the source of the barking. If he can still hear it, try using a radio or TV to drown it out.
It’s a lose-lose situation no matter which side of the fence you’re on. Whether it’s your dog that’s barking or your neighbor’s pooch that won’t stop flapping his jowls, nobody’s happy … including the dog.
If your dog only barks to let you know he has to go potty, you need to change the behavior. Train him to ring a bell hung on the back door, or install a dog door which allows him to go when he pleases. However you go about it, changing behavior is much tougher than preventing it in the first place. With a puppy, start off on the right foot and don’t encourage or reward barking behaviors.
Caveat: Be careful when teaching your dog to bark on cue. Once he learns a bark can make you click! the clicker, he may try demand-barking – and you may get more “speak” than you want. For this reason, I don’t teach my dog to bark on cue unless they already tend to bark too much, in which case it’s useful for teaching “quiet!”
In the yard, use privacy fencing to cut off views to neighboring yards or the street. Commercial grade privacy screening installs over your existing fence and may be allowed in your rental unit. If you own your home and seek a long-term, attractive option, consider planting privacy hedges to both beautify and bark-proof the yard.
You can work with a trainer to practice desensitization techniques with your dog. It will help your pet become accustomed to barking triggers and ultimately be a worthwhile instrument in your toolkit when learning how to get a dog to stop barking. Remember, training takes consistency and patience, but the long-term rewards are worth it.
If your dog barks at things he sees out the window or front door, block the view. Close the blinds or curtains on the windows. If he can see out windows near the front door, Aga suggests covering them with darkening film you can buy from an auto parts store or even temporarily taping up some bubble wrap to block the view. If possible, confine the dog in a part of the house that doesn’t have windows or doors.
Some dog owners ‘debark’ their dogs but that is a very controversial method which does not address the underlying cause of the barking. It is a surgical procedure where the voice box is removed, leaving dogs with a raspy, instead of full, bark. There are complications and the operation can be life-threatening.
Block what bothers her. If your dog has barking problems whenever she sees or hears something outside, a simple solution might be to block her access to seeing or hearing that trigger. If she stands at the window and barks, try putting up curtains or blinds so she can’t see passing people or animals. If the sounds she hears outside tend to set her off, try leaving a radio on during the day to distract her and muffle the sounds outside your home.
Do not punish your dog for barking at certain sounds, like car doors slamming and kids playing in the street, then encourage him to bark at other sounds, like people at the door. You must be consistent!
Seek assistance from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) if all else fails. A CPDT will know how to help your dog in the best way possible. Find a CPDT in your area by searching online, or ask your vet for a recommendation.
Before we dive into the “how” of stopping dog barking, we need to look at the “why” of why they’re barking in the first place. There are lots of reasons dogs might bark from play to defense, but in the case of excessive barking at home it’s most often separation anxiety. If you listen carefully, you can start telling the difference between the various sounds:
When we adopted Rusty, he had a terrible case of intestinal worms and joining a new family must have been pretty stressful for him. It took some time, but he recovered from the worms and after he grew used to his new home, he stopped his poop eating escapades.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, it is a good idea to set up a safe and quiet placed for them when you aren’t home. Choose a room in your home that is away from the front door and with limited distractions from the outside world. This can be a back bedroom, laundry room or spare space.
The positive interrupt is a well-programmed, highly reinforced behavior that allows you to redirect your dog’s attention back to you when she’s doing something inappropriate like barking. Ideally, you want your dog’s response to the “Over here!” cue to be so automatic – classically conditioned – that he doesn’t stop to think whether what he’s doing is more rewarding or interesting than turning his attention toward you and running to you for a treat. He doesn’t think – he just does it, the way your foot automatically hits the brake of your car when you see taillights flash in front of you on the highway.
The first step towards controlling excessive barking is to understand the specific reasons behind it. Even after you know the why, don’t expect to wave a magic wand and stop your dog from barking. Training your dog to bark less (you will never stop it altogether) is a time-consuming process. Also keep in mind that some breeds are more apt to bark than others and these could prove more difficult to train.
Chewing causes the release of happy hormones in dogs, so giving your dog something to chew as you leave the house is a good routine to get into. If your dog tends to bury things or is reluctant to chew, just give a small amount of breakfast, so your dog is hungry enough to want to chew. Use something large such as a pigs ear or Kong® stuffed with treats so it lasts for a while. You can also put dry food into an old plastic drink bottle, and let your pet work to get the food out. For some great ideas for homemade chew toys check out this article on The Bark Post.
Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, is Whole Dog Journal’s Training Editor. Miller lives in Hagerstown, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. She is also the author of, The Power of Positive Dog Training and Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog.
Have a treat ready every time your friend comes to the door. Even if you’ve passed the point of giving treats during regular training, you may need to use treats for applied training sessions involving an actual perceived intruder.
Tell your dog to stop barking using a look, a sound, or a physical correction. But don’t stop there. Your dog may pause and then go right back to what he was doing. His body relaxed, but his brain was still on alert. Be patient. Wait until your dog completely submits before you go back to what you were doing.
Customizing a training solution for your dog’s specific type of bark will make it much easier to stop, and in some cases, prevent the barking from happening. The following tips are a mix of management solutions, which are easier to implement, as well as training suggestions, which require more time and dedication on your part.