AKC GoodDog Helpline (GDH) is our telephone and video dog training consultation service, offering live, personalized help with to answer questions about training your puppy or dog! We’re celebrating GoodDog Helpline’s tenth year in 2023, so we’ve rounded up the most common questions that our dog trainers hear from owners just like you. A common question is, “How do I stop my dog from barking?”
Dogs communicate with body language and sounds, and for many, their favorite way to vocally communicate is to bark. A bark or two is completely natural canine behavior, but excessive dog barking can be a serious problem. You won’t get any peace and quiet, your neighbors or landlord won’t appreciate it, and it could indicate your dog’s needs aren’t being met. But how do you stop your dog from barking?
Whether you want to keep your dog quiet during an online meeting, curb unwanted territorial barking, or prevent chaos when guests arrive, there are techniques that can help reduce the amount of barking. These 10 tips will help you handle nuisance barking and teach your dog new, more appropriate ways to express their feelings.
1. Identify Why Your Dog Is Barking
Although sometimes it seems like your dog is barking at nothing, dogs bark for many different reasons. You will be far more effective at curbing your dog’s barks if you can learn what your dog is saying. For example, if your dog barks at people, it could be out of excitement to see them, anxiety about an intruder, or frustration they can’t get close enough to say hello. These are all totally different emotions and motivations for barking.
Sadly, because barking is so varied, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to stopping it. A bored dog needs something to do, and an anxious dog needs to build confidence, for instance. If you identify why your dog is barking in a given situation, it will allow you to target your approach and deal with the barking more effectively.
2. Ignore Barking for Attention
Dogs learn how to get what they want from their humans, and barking usually gets an immediate response. Therefore, many dogs bark for attention when they’re lonely or bored. Although it’s tempting to do something to stop the noise, such as throwing a ball or providing pats, your dog is actually training you. Next thing you know, you’ll be unable to talk on the phone or watch TV without your dog interrupting.
In addition, it’s important not to yell at your dog to be quiet. Even negative attention is still attention, and dogs don’t speak human. To them, it will only sound like you’re barking too, and from your dog’s perspective, barking is contagious. Instead, ignore attention-seeking barks. Simply turn your back or walk away. If your dog discovers barking is ineffective, they will stop wasting their energy and try something else.
3. Teach Your Dog Alternative Behaviors to Gain Your Attention
Although ignoring attention-seeking barks is effective, it can frustrate your dog and fails to give them a more appropriate way to communicate. Encourage silence by teaching your dog an alternative method of earning your attention. That might be lying at your feet or sitting quietly and making eye contact with you. The choice is up to you. Simply cue the behavior you want when your dog is asking for attention, then when they comply, reward them with cuddles, praise, and the company they seek.
4. Teach Your Dog to Be Quiet on Cue
Just as you can teach your dog to speak on cue, you can train them to stop barking as well. Simply teach them that silence earns rewards. Whenever your dog is barking, wait for them to take a break, even if it’s just for a second. As soon as they stop barking, give them a delicious dog training treat. Wait for a bit more silence each time before presenting the treat. Once you can predict when your dog is about to stop barking, give a cue like “quiet” or “stop” right beforehand, then treat them when they comply. After enough repetitions, your dog will learn it pays to stop barking at your request.
If your dog never seems to take a break, you can lure silence by placing a smelly morsel of food on their nostrils. They will have to stop barking to take a good sniff. As soon as they do, pop that morsel in their mouth. You can also use clicker training to mark the moment of silence, so your dog knows exactly what you’re rewarding. Of course, the “quiet” cue only works when you’re there to give it, but it’s a word every dog should learn.
5. Teach Your Dog Impulse Control
Many dogs bark out of frustration because they lack patience and restraint. If that sounds like your pet, then it will help to teach your dog self-control. Obedience training is a great start as it gives your dog a sense of control over their environment by teaching them that they can get what they want by giving you what you want. Choose a dog training class or consider private training to put you on the right track. You can also try playing training games like “leave it” or “wait at the door” to show your dog that patience pays off, so they don’t resort to barking.
6. Don’t Leave Your Dog Unattended in the Yard
Barking can be a problem for dogs left on their own. Out in the yard, that can mean barking at every squirrel and falling leaf. Other dogs will bark at their canine neighbors, perhaps looking for company or to defend what they see as their territory. To discourage your dog from barking at other dogs and passersby, don’t leave your dog outside on their own. Solitary potty breaks are fine, but don’t think alone time in the backyard is a substitute for mental stimulation and physical exercise.
7. Block Your Dog’s View Out the Window
Some dogs bark to defend their territory from what they think are intruders. Whether it’s barking at the mail carrier or at a dog and their owner walking by, your dog is trying to warn these people to stay away. Unfortunately, that’s a self-rewarding behavior: your dog barks at the mail carrier and what do you know, they walk away. Of course, they were going to leave anyway, but from your dog’s point of view, their barks did the job. That makes this a very hard habit to break. The most effective solution is to block your dog’s view of people and animals going past your home. That might mean a solid front gate or curtains on the windows, but if your dog can’t see the “intruders” they won’t feel the need to bark.
8. Don’t Allow Your Dog to Greet Guests at the Door
If your dog gets overstimulated by the arrival of guests, such as barking at the doorbell or barking as people enter, don’t let your dog greet people at the door. This may be too much for them to handle emotionally, either from excitement or anxiety. Instead, keep your dog away from your entryway using baby gates or an exercise pen as a barrier. They can greet the guests later once they’ve calmed down and accepted their presence.
9. Train Your Dog to Go to Their Place
Another way to prevent barking at visitors is to teach your dog to go to their place when people come over. This not only keeps your dog away from the front door, but it puts them in a location they positively associate with calm, quiet behavior. You can designate your dog’s place wherever you like. It can be their crate, a dog bed, or a mat. Consider something you can move around the house. That way, depending on the situation, your dog can be away from stimulation or moved nearby, so they don’t feel too far from the action.
10. Ask a Professional Before Using Bark-Deterrent Collars
There are a variety of tools available to help control nuisance barking, from spray collars to ultrasonic devices to e-collars. Note that all these tools work on the principle of positive punishment – when your dog barks they receive a negative consequence. The goal is to reduce the frequency of the barking as your dog learns the association.
It’s tempting to see these as easy solutions to problem barking. You don’t do anything except strap on the collar. However, punishment has harmful effects on the physical and mental health of your dog. And it’s no more effective than positive reinforcement techniques such as those listed above. Plus, bark-deterrents can be particularly problematic in a multi-dog household if one dog receives a punishment for another dog’s bark. Given the potential damage these devices can cause, please first seek the help of either a Certified Professional Dog Trainer or Animal Behaviorist before using such tools.
AKC GoodDog! Helpline is celebrating ten years of supporting dog owners. If you need support, experts at AKC GoodDog! Helpline are available by phone or video to answer any training questions that come up, from housetraining your puppy to unwanted behaviors in senior dogs. Join the nearly one million dog owners who trust AKC GoodDog! Helpline today.