Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking

By Linda Cole

My beagle/terrier mix loves to bark, especially when she's outside. If it moves, Alex barks and once she starts, there's apparently no “off” button. Some breeds bark more than others, and beagles are among them. You can yell at a barking dog until you're blue in the face and they may stop briefly – but usually start in again. This problem behavior isn't entirely their fault, however. We have to accept our role in their unacceptable barking if we don't teach them what we want them to learn. It's not that difficult to do, but you have to commit to teaching them, and it can take some time to get your dog to stop barking.

One thing dogs do well is vocalize. They alert us to intruders or danger by using their voice. Happy yaps say your dog is having fun playing. Some dogs bark to let us know when they see something interesting, and barking lets other animals know they have been seen. Dogs bark when they're lonely, bored, feel threatened or stressed, for attention, or when they don’t get enough mental or physical exercise.

A barking dog is annoying, especially to neighbors. Most people understand if a dog has a reason to bark, but yapping constantly is likely to get you a visit from the local police if your neighbors complain. In some cases, you may be asked to leave an apartment or rental home if you can't contain your dog's barking.

Yelling may stop some dogs, but it won't work for all dogs. Trying to outshout them is more likely to cause their barking to intensify, because they think you're joining in on the fun. They react by becoming more excited. And hollering at your dog from inside the house is just as annoying to the neighbors as the barking dog.

Teaching your dog to stop barking is just like any other training. The most important thing to remember is to remain calm, patient and consistent. You have to be ready to go to your dog every time she barks. You can't do it from the couch or from a window. Dogs will bark from time to time, but you can teach your dog when it's time to stop. This is one training exercise where it's best not to reward with treats or praise, and don't bring them inside or give them hugs. You need to change unacceptable behavior, and it's best done using your body language. Rewards teach them to associate barking with getting something enjoyable.

Training your dog to stop barking

Changing your dog's behavior can take some time to accomplish. Dogs are going to bark at people, other dogs, cats or wild animals. You want your dog to stop after the reason for barking is gone. I go outside and stand beside Alex to let her know I've heard her alarm and came to see what's going on. At this point, I say “enough” in a normal voice to let her know I see nothing around to be concerned with, the danger has passed and she needs to stop barking.

To teach your dog to stop barking, break her focus by blocking her view with your body, stay calm and don't yell. Use your body language to convey to her what you want her to do. It says you're taking over that area and it's time to calm down. You can reward her with a CANIDAE treat or attention after she calms down and moves away from the area. This is a good time to take a few minutes to work on basic commands like “watch me” and “sit.” It puts your dog’s focus on a training session, and they'll associate treats with commands and not for barking. Use this same method to block access to the door when someone comes to visit.

Dogs that bark out of boredom need something to help them occupy their time. Find an activity you and your dog can enjoy doing together, like agility training, field trials, dock diving, K9 Nose Work, Musical Canine Freestyle, hiking or more frequent walks. Interactive games and toys can help keep your dog busy when they are home alone. Don't leave your dog outside or with access to windows, if possible, when you're gone.

Barking is a natural thing for dogs to do. They communicate with their voice just like we do, but sometimes they have a hard time stopping. If you're dealing with separation anxiety, you may need to contact an animal behaviorist to help with your dog. You can calm a barking dog by using language they understand. Body language, respect and consistent training all work much better than yelling or getting angry.

Photo by Natasha C. Dunn

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Yeah, I have an immediate neighbour with two large, scary, VERY bored dogs. They have been known to bark (especially Billie Jean, the female) for 8 to 12 hours almost non-stop, and I am NOT exaggerating. I can't wait till she moves (townhouse is up for sale, thank cod), hope the new owners have pets that are better taken care of.

  2. Oh dear! I can relate to your post, Fuzzy Tales... I'm so sorry. :/ I, too, am hoping my neighbors move (FAR, FAR AWAY, please!!).

    Thank you for the article; if only my neighbor were reading it. Heh.

  3. Mom says we are very fortunate because we aren't barkers. Lightning will get going a bit if the neighbor dog runs the fence with him, but we wish we could say the same for several of our neighbor dogs. Mom needs to forward your article to them:)

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  4. That does sound like a good way to stop the barking. I do have one dog that barks a lot. But she is old so I just sort of ignore her. It is hard to get a dog that barks a lot to stop. Great post.

  5. Linda thank you for this super helpful post.

    I have a Shetland Sheepdog (as you know that is another breed that is well-known for their barking ability! lol)

    I already do say "enough" but have never tried the "blocking his view" technique. I am going to definitely give that a try!

  6. I have a golden retriever that has never barked out of being bored, or anything of that sort. My question is, My dog barks only when separated from us even if she can see us what should I do?

  7. Hi Nathan,

    That is a sign of possible separation anxiety, barking for attention or she could have a medical condition. If you're sure she's healthy and she's not showing signs of separation anxiety, then you are probably dealing with barking for attention.

    I would suggest teaching her that she gets your attention only when she's not barking. Don't respond to her barks by yelling at her. That's giving her negative attention, but to her, it's better than no attention. Teach her to sit. If she already knows the sit command, have her sit when she starts barking. Sitting helps a dog calm down. Only give her attention when she's sitting and not barking.

    You can also teach her to bark on command and then teach her to stop barking on command. It's not really that hard to do. The best way to teach a dog to bark on command is to frustrate (tease her) her by putting a barrier between you and your dog. Take a treat or her favorite toy, like a ball and hold it up so she can see it. Tell her to "speak" or "talk", wave the treat or toy in front of her and wait for her to bark. Let her bark 3 or 4 times and then give her the treat or toy and say, "nice", or "good speak." Use which ever word you want, but just use one word for the command and one word for the praise. The barrier could be tying her to a tree and then standing just out of her reach or having someone hold her on a leash so she can't get to you.

    Another way to teach her to speak is to put her on a leash and have someone knock on the door (or ring the doorbell). Get your dog's attention and have the person at the door listen for you to say to your dog "speak" or "talk" and then immediately knock on the door. When she speaks, give her a treat and say, "nice" or "good speak." It can take a little time, but with practice every day, you can teach her to speak on command in a fairly short time.

    After she's learned to bark on command, then you can teach her to stop barking. Tell her to speak. Let her bark 4 or 5 times and then tell her to "hush", "quiet", or "enough." Pick just one word to use. I use enough. When you tell her to stop barking, give her a treat as soon as she stops. Practice speaking on command and stopping on command everyday. She'll catch on to what you want.

    Giving her the extra attention in teaching her the two commands may also help if it's attention barking because exercising the mind is just as important as exercising the body.

    Give that a try and see if it helps. If not, you might have a problem with separation anxiety or a medical problem.

    Let me know if you have other questions.



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