Working out how to stop your dog from barking can be a difficult and time consuming task.
Dogs love to bark. It’s a perfectly natural thing for your dog to do, just as it’s normal for us to speak.
It’s when our dogs bark excessively that it becomes a problem for all concerned – including our neighbors.
Considering this, our goal really isn’t to stop dog barking altogether, but rather to control the excessive barking.
Keep in mind that there are situations when we want our dogs to bark (just like there are also times when we like our chatty Aunt to speak!)
The first step in modifying the behavior of an excessive barker is to determine the reason why the dog is barking in the first place. Once you’ve identified this cause or trigger, you can then plan the correct training solution.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Stop Your Dog From Barking Now!
- To express their needs (being bossy).
- Some dogs are bred to bark (some terriers and hounds).
- They are staking out their territory.
- To alert other members of their pack (that’s you and your family) of impending danger.
- When playing, just through sheer excitement – this is a very common type of puppy barking.
- Barking at other animals. Depending on where you are in the world, it could be squirrels birds, other dogs that are out on a walk, stray/outdoor cats, or possums.
- If they are isolated.
- Some dogs bark excessively when separated from their pack (you and your family).
- If they are trapped behind some type of barrier like a fence or window.
- Just for fun!
- To express dominance (puppies normally test you out at some stage with a display of dominance barking).
- They bark because their owners have inadvertently rewarded excessive barking in the past (this is crucial to understand)
- Through boredom or a lack of physical and mental stimulation.
- May feel stressed or uncomfortable for some reason. Things like feeling threatened or if they don’t have an appropriate place to sleep can cause excessive barking problems.
- Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized often become nuisance barkers.
- May be looking for a response or some attention from their pack.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even though it may appear to you that your dog is barking at nothing, this is not necessarily the case. This is due to the fact that your dog has a much more acute sense of hearing, smell and sight than humans. Your dog’s excessive barking is most probably being triggered by something.
Stop Dog Barking!
Ok, now we’ve sorted out the reason for your dog’s excessive barking, we just need to work out how to control the problem.
The most important piece of advice to remember when trying to modify any dog behavior problem, is that you must clearly communicate to your dog what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
One of the biggest mistakes us dog owners make is to inadvertently reward our dogs excessive barking. We actually encourage and reinforce the barking problem when we commit these three dog training sins:
“Never Reward Your Dog’s Barking!”
- Yell and scream at the dog – this just gives them the attention they were crying out for. Plus your dog will most probably just think you are joining in with them, adding to the excitement.
- Let them inside. If your dog is barking his head off outside, then you let him in, this just rewards and therefore reinforces the barking. This also applies to dogs who bark to be released from a crate or bark to make you get up and prepare their dinner!
- If your dog is barking and you react by giving him a comforting cuddle or a treat of some sort, you are definitely encouraging your dog to bark again. By doing this you are communicating to your dog that you are happy with him. You should be making it clear that his excessive barking is inappropriate and won’t be tolerated.
Right, let’s get stuck into some proven dog training techniques to help stop your dog from barking. This is a list of the most common reasons why your dog may be barking and some proven solutions you can try to alleviate the problem.
Dog Goes Crazy Every Time The Phone/Doorbell Rings
This is a very common and annoying time for dogs to bark excessively. Try these training techniques:
- Never yell at your dog.
- Get your dog conditioned (desensitized) to the sound of the phone/doorbell ringing, don’t make it such a big deal. Call your home number from your cell phone or get a friend to keep calling you. If the doorbell is your problem, go outside and ring it or have a friend/partner do it. When the phone/doorbell rings just sit there, don’t say or do a thing. Repeat this process over a few days, your dog will probably continue to bark for a while but will give up before long.
- If you give your dog basic obedience training, behavioral problems such as excessive barking are easily controlled. Your dog will look up to you as their firm but fair leader and will be eager to please you in any situation. Teaching the “Quiet!” or “Stop!” obedience training command will soon correct this problem.
- Another method which is related to the point above is to request an alternate behavior each time the phone rings. So instead of your dog barking and being a pest every time you are on the phone you could have him/her “go to your spot” in the corner.
- You may have some success by changing the style and volume of your ring tone.
Dog Barks When You Are Not Home
I’m not going to pretend this type of barking will be easy for you to control, because in reality it is often a difficult and lengthy process.
Always remember that dogs are social creatures, when they are separated from their pack (you) they can become stressed, vulnerable and frustrated. This type of excessive barking is often caused by separation anxiety.
- First, use your common sense and get these dog ownership basics right. Keep your dog well exercised (physical and mental) and provide fresh water, chewing toys and a nice comfortable place to sleep. You can also try to block your dog’s view of the street and other distractions/triggers. Basically, make sure your dog is happy.
- If you know your dog has been barking while you have been away, you must ignore him for a while when you return home. This is difficult for lots of owners, but otherwise your dog believes that his barking is the reason you came back home to him. Just go about your business for a little while when you arrive home, ignoring your dog. When your dog has settled down, you then initiate contact with him. Please note this method applies only to dogs who were barking at the moment you arrived home.
You Must Convey A Clear & Consistent Message To Your Dog At All Times
- This next technique takes time and patience, but can be a very effective way to stop your dog from barking. It’s based on that important rule applicable to all dog training situations. Praise or reward when your dog does something you want to encourage and create a negative association when he does something you don’t like.
Leave the house as you normally would, but just hide somewhere nearby. When your dog starts to bark, spray him with water or throw a tin can full of coins or rocks in his direction (this is the negative association). Try to keep out of your dog’s sight while doing this if possible. Go and hide again, if he is quiet for a while, go in and reward his good behavior with some praise and maybe a treat. This process may need to be repeated over and over until you have broken the excessive barking habit.
- The above techniques have proven to be successful with my own dogs, but if they don’t work for you, maybe you could try a Citronella no bark collar. Again this method uses the power of negative association. Every time your dog barks, a fine mist of citronella is sprayed into the air. Most dogs hate the smell, and soon realize if they don’t bark, the smell isn’t there to bother them. *If you have more than one dog this method is not really a suitable solution.
Dog Barks for Attention or to Demand Something
This is one excessive barking problem that can be corrected very quickly.
- If you establish yourself as your dog’s leader in the owner-dog relationship you share, this type of barking problem won’t occur. In the process of training you’ll also form a strong bond together based on trust and mutual respect.
- You can also teach your dog the “Stop” or “Quiet” command to help prevent this annoying type of problem barking. When your dog is barking simply say “QUIET!” at the same time as you wave a tasty treat in front of your dog’s nose. After you dog is quiet for a few seconds you can then give him/her the treat. Eventually you will only need to say “QUIET!” without the need for a treat.
- Another proven method to help stop your dog from barking for attention is to simply ignore your dog. Your dog will no doubt become frustrated and bark a whole lot initially, but once he realizes that it is not getting him anywhere, he will stop. Warning – this training method can be hard on the ears for a while! Remember that a dog’s behavior that is not rewarded and reinforced will become less prevalent.
Dog Barks at Passers By
Workers such as the Postman or a delivery driver are constantly being barked at and harassed throughout their day.
Your dog perceives these types of people as intruders or a threat to their territory. When your dog barks in this situation he is rewarded every time, as the intruder goes away. Your dog is then very pleased that he has averted this “threat”, which leads him to do it again and again. His behavior is reinforced and therefore can be a very difficult problem to extinguish.
- If possible, you could try to block your dog’s vision or access to the area where these people pass by.
- Dog obedience training is the best solution to this type of excessive barking. Once you have your dog properly obedience trained, you will be able to communicate to him that this is unacceptable behavior.
- If your dog consistently barks at a particular person, you may need to use this person to help modify your dog’s behavior. Just say your dog gets really agitated each time the postman arrives. Have a chat to your postman and give him some of your dog’s very favorite treats. Each time he delivers mail to your house, he can also deliver a tasty treat to your dog. In your dogs mind the postman goes from being a threat, to a welcome guest.