How to Stop Your Dog Barking
You love your dog, but the one thing you wish you could train them to do is stop barking. Though it is entirely natural for your dog to bark, it can be loud and annoying.
Dogs bark as a form of communication with variations in pitch, frequency, and duration being their way of trying to tell you something.
The better you understand what they’re trying to tell you, the easier it is for you to make small changes in your behaviour to limit your dog's barking.
You can't expect your dog to never bark. That's about as unrealistic as a newborn baby not crying. It's never going to happen.
However, if your dog barks excessively, you'll want to curb that behaviour and get it under control.
In most cases, it isn’t difficult to get a dog to stop barking, but it takes time, patience, and consistency from you.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Before we discuss how to stop a dog from barking, it is important to understand why a dog barks.
There are seven main reason dogs bark:
- They're being territorial or protective
- Something is alarming them or causing them fear
- They're bored or lonely
- They're greeting you or playing
- They want your attention
- They have separation anxiety
- They're compulsively barking (their type of barking is often combined with your dog performing repetitive movements like running in circles or along the fence)
The first step in training your dog not to bark is understanding why they’re barking in the first place. Are they bored? Scared? Or do they have a bigger issue like separation anxiety?
Listen to the sound of your dog's bark and try to figure out what it means.
For example, if the pitch of your dog's bark is high-pitched, they're probably happy and want your attention or to play. If your dog is barking 2 to 4 times in a low pitch with pauses between each bark, they may sense there is danger or is being territorial.
Once you have a better idea of why your dog is barking, you can find an appropriate method to limit it.
How To Stop a Dog Barking
There are many different techniques you can use to get a dog to stop barking. Try a few different methods until you find the right one that works for both you and your dog.
Remove The Temptation
One of the easiest ways to stop a dog from barking is to remove their motivation to bark. For example, if your dog is territorial and barks at people walking past your yard, find a way to make it so they can't see people walking near your house.
You can remove your dog's sightlines by building a tall fence without any gaps in it or by putting plastic sheets on your existing fence.
If you can't remove your dog's sightlines, bring them inside as soon as they start barking at someone. Their teaches your dog that their time outside is over as soon as they bark.
At some point, they'll begin to understand that their outside ends when they bark, so they will keep their desire to bark under control.
The hard part is staying consistent. You have to bring your dog inside immediately as soon as they start barking, every single time. Otherwise, they won't associate barking with the reason he has to come inside.
Desensitise Your Dog
Desensitisation is a very effective way to stop a dog barking. It takes time and effort as the trainer, but it is worth it. When done properly, desensitising your dog can change their barking behaviour forever.
The concept behind desensitisation is you work with your dog to get them accustomed to whatever they’re barking at and convince them that it is actually a good thing or that it is nothing to be scared of.
You start by showing them what it is that they bark at from a distance. The stimulus must be far enough away that your dog doesn't start barking when they see it. When they don't bark, give them a treat and lots of verbal praise.
Next, move the stimulus a little bit closer (just a few inches to start) and give your dog a treat and verbal praise if they doesn't bark.
Keep moving the stimulus closer and closer until your dog stops barking at it, even when it is very close to them.
When the stimulus is out of sight, stop giving your dog treats and verbal praise, so they understand the reason they are being rewarded is because they're not barking.
Don't expect your dog to stop barking at the stimulus the first day you start desensitisation training. You should work with your dog for about 30 minutes a day for two weeks straight before expecting to start seeing any significant changes in their barking behaviour.
Ignore Your Dog's Barking
Ignoring your dog when they’re barking won't work in every situation, but it is one of the most effective ways to train a dog to stop barking, if the reason behind it is a need for attention.
If your dog is barking to get your attention or to play, ignore your dog for as long as it takes them to stop barking.
Don't talk to them, touch them, look at them, or give them attention in any way. Turning your back or walking out of the room are ideal ways to ignore your dog when they’re barking to get your attention.
When your dog is finally quiet (even if they’re just stopping to take a breath before barking again), reward them with a treat and lots of verbal praise (the attention they were seeking).
Their teaches them that they get what they want when they’re quiet, and barking doesn't get them the attention they want. Worse, it will prolong their wait.
Timing when you give your dog a treat is important in their training technique. You have to give them the treat and/or praise when they’re quiet, so they associate being quiet with the attention they want. If you're in the process of giving them a treat, and they start barking again, don't give them that treat.
Start off small and reward your dog when they’re quiet for a second or two. Then work up to longer periods of time until they no longer bark for attention.
Keep Your Dog Occupied
If you think your dog is barking because they’re bored, keep their mind and body occupied to reduce their barking.
Give them lots of toys, take them for walks, and take them to a dog park to play with other dogs. All these activities will keep them occupied and use up all their energy, so they don't feel the need to bark anymore.
These activities lead to a happy and healthy dog, which is an added bonus in addition to curbing their barking behaviour!
Consider Professional Training
If your dog is barking for deeper reasons than boredom or for attention, or you can’t figure out the reason, you may want to consider enlisting professional help.
Separation anxiety and compulsive behaviour are deeper issues and may be the underlying reason for a lot of your dog's unwanted behaviour, not just barking.
It is more difficult to get to the root cause of separation anxiety and compulsive behaviour, and consulting an expert or your vet is always a good option.
They can give you more advanced training techniques to treat the root of your dog's issues rather than putting a band aid on the physical symptoms of their issues.
Things Not to Do to Stop a Dog from Barking
There is a lot of bad advice about how to stop a dog from barking. Here are the things you should never do to get your dog to stop barking.
Never Use Physical Punishment
Study after study has proven that using physical punishment on pets is not effective. It leads to increased stress and anxiety in your dog and damages the trusting relationship the two of you have built.
Not to mention it is animal abuse.
Never Yell at Your Dog
Similar to physically punishing your dog, yelling at your dog has been proven ineffective. Yelling at your dog will either cause stress or increase their energy level and will likely result in an increase in barking behaviour rather than a decrease.
Never Use a Shock Collar
A lot of people suggest using a shock collar to stop dog barking. Shock collars send a little bit of electricity into your dog's neck and throat whenever they bark and can cause serious life-long health issues for your dog.
Shock collars are considered abusive and should never be used.
Training a dog to stop barking can be easy, but it takes time, patience, and consistency. You need to interrupt your dog's barking behaviour and teach them that being quiet gets them the reward they were seeking.
One of the most important things you need to do to stop a dog from barking is figure out why they’re barking in the first place. Only after you understand why your dog is barking at everything can you identify the best training technique to stop this negative behaviour.