How to Stop Your Dog from Barking

How to Stop Your Dog from Barking

by Scritch

Along with body language, barking is one of the main forms of communication for dogs. Though it is a natural behavior, there are some situations where barking can be annoying or inappropriate. So how do you get your dog to stop barking? 

To get your dog to be quiet, you’ll have to first assess the reason your dog is barking. In many situations, rather than training your dog to respond to a “stop barking” command, you’ll have more success by dealing with the root cause to preventing barking in the first place. 

Boredom and isolation

Dogs that are left home alone, in the yard, or in a crate for long periods of time without any stimulation or contact will become bored or lonely. Dogs are not solitary animals and need the company of their family as well as regular exercise. 

How to prevent bored barking:

  • Before leaving him alone, make sure your dog is tired from plenty of play or exercise.
  • During longer absences, consider having a neighbor or dog walker drop in on your dog, or take him to doggy daycare.

Separation anxiety

Unlike bored barking, a dog with separation anxiety barks out of distress. Even if you have only been gone a few minutes, your dog irrationally perceives being left alone as an upsetting experience. 

Dealing with separation anxiety barking: 

Barking is just one symptom of separation anxiety. If you manage to quiet your dog, he may express his anxiety in other ways, such as becoming destructive or improperly eliminating (going to the bathroom) in the home. Rather than dealing with one symptom of separation anxiety, it’s best to deal with the root cause and work on desensitizing your dog to being left alone.

Pain/health issues

An injury or certain health issues may elicit barking from your dog. This type of barking usually appears suddenly and is noticeable because it’s not a normal behavior for your dog. Be sure to seek veterinary care if your dog is exhibiting unusual barking.

Wanting something

Whether it’s a package of tasty treats, that coveted tennis ball in your hand, or a squirrel in the backyard that is visible through the window, some dogs bark because they want something from you. Giving the treat, throwing the ball, or opening the door for your dog are all ways to reward the barking behavior. Doing so communicates to your dog that if he wants the treat/ball/door opened, he should bark. 

How to stop “demanding” barking:

  • Don’t try to quiet your dog; just ignore the barking and do not give your dog what he wants. Put the treat/ball away or walk away from the door.
  • When your dog stops barking, offer verbal praise.
  • Practice regularly with your dog by picking up the treats or ball and praising your dog for being quiet or putting them away if he barks.

Fear, alarm or territorial barking

Your dog may react to sudden loud sounds or the presence of other animals and strange humans with barking due to fear or a territorial instinct. Prevent barking in these situations by either removing the stimulus (closing the blinds) or desensitizing your dog to it. Desensitizing works by initially exposing your dog to low levels of the stimulus and gradually increasing it.

Desensitization training:

Dogs that react to a stimulus (a sound, another dog, a person) will have a certain threshold at which they react. For example, your dog might not bark at a dog that is 200 feet away but will start barking when the other dog comes within 25 feet. 

The following instructions are just a brief overview on how to desensitize a dog. For further assistance, we recommend working with a reputable dog trainer. 

  1. Equip yourself with plenty of tasty treats and start by working just outside your dog’s threshold, so he is calm and not barking. For dogs that react to auditory stimuli, you can play recordings of the sound in question at a quiet volume.
  2. Reward your dog for being calm, then increase the stimulus very slightly (turn up the volume or take a few steps closer to the other dog).
  3. Reward your dog for staying calm. If he becomes tense or barks, turn the volume down or take a few steps away from the stimulus.
  4. Continue practicing over several weeks to work your way closer to the stimulus as your dog remains calm.

Play/excitement

Barking may be your dog’s preferred way of expressing excitement about going for a ride in the car or the arrival of a visitor at the door. These are instances where you can work on training a “stop barking” command. 

Training a dog not to bark:

Option 1: While your dog is barking, say “quiet” and wait. The instant he stops, even if it’s just to take a breath or due to a brief distraction, praise and offer a treat. If your dog is clicker trained, click the moment he becomes quiet. Be diligent and practice this every time your dog stops barking.

Option 2: Recruit a friend to help. Equip yourself with a spray bottle filled with water and a handful of treats. Have your friend knock on the door. If your dog barks, squirt him with water. For most dogs, this is startling and distracting enough to cause them to stop barking, at least momentarily. The moment he becomes quiet, offer praise and a treat. Repeat this 5-10 times and practice regularly.

Dealing with a dog’s barking behavior can be quite a challenge, depending on the reason for barking. If you’re experiencing difficulty getting results, it’s time to call for reinforcements. A certified dog trainer can help you achieve long-term success. As with any type of dog training, consistency and patience are key to nailing down a new behavior.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Dogs aren’t born with an understanding of the English language. Telling your dog “quiet” or “I told you not to bark” means nothing to them unless they have been specifically trained to understand what you said.
  • Don’t yell at your dog when he barks. Your dog will interpret this as you joining in on the barking.
  • The longer your dog has been in the habit of barking, the longer it will take to train him out of it, but don’t lose hope—it is possible!

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