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Excessive dog barking can be stressful, especially if you work from home and need silence to stay focused, or if you have neighbors who complain about it.
Under these conditions, teaching your puppy to remain quiet for long periods is necessary if you’re planning to keep the dog in your family.
Yes, it’s possible to control dog barking with patience and, in specific situations, a little professional help.
The fact is that it’s in every dog’s nature to bark.
It’s only their natural way of communicating with the world around them. For centuries, dogs have been warning their families about possible dangers and strangers trespassing, through barking, and owners have been praising and rewarding them for being good guardians.
Now that most dogs no longer have to fulfill the mission of protecting the family house, the noise can easily become an unpleasant problem. A bark every now and then is natural, but extreme dog barking can force even the most patient of pet owners to get rid of their ear-splitting puppy.
How to stop your dog from barking excessively? Learn to understand what she wants to communicate and fix the problem. Then train your dog to remain quiet on command. It takes time and a lot of practice, but the good news is that most barking dogs respond to training and you can easily regain control over the situation.
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Why Do Dogs Bark?
Dogs bark to express fear, pain, threat or boredom, but barking can also be a sign of joy or excitement. Generally, it’s easy to tell the difference once you learn how to listen to your dog.
According to specialists, the most common reasons dogs bark are:
- Fear. You know your dog is afraid if she keeps her ears back and her tail low between her back legs. Barks caused by fear can happen when she hears loud noises, such as thunder or fireworks and sometimes when she feels the presence of strangers or other animals nearby.
- Attention. Dogs use this type of bark to tell you they’re hungry, thirsty, cold, or hot. They also do it when they need to go outside to eliminate.
- Boredom and loneliness. A lonely dog gets bored and is unhappy, so if you leave your puppy all by herself for too long, she will start barking. In fact, excessive barking is often the result of loneliness.
- Territoriality. It’s natural for dogs to threaten anyone who comes too close to their home. This type of barking includes an aggressive look, which becomes more obvious as the person or animal gets closer to your house.
- Play. In this case, she generally wags her tail and wants to greet you or another member of the family.
- Separation Anxiety. This specific situation includes more signs, such as destructive behavior, depression, and irregular elimination.
How to Stop a Dog from Barking
In most cases, the ongoing barking is just a symptom, so the best way to solve the issue is identifying the problem that’s causing your dog’s bad behavior and eliminating it.
To understand your dog’s reasons, you need to determine:
- The moments when your dog barks;
- The places where she barks;
- The people, animals, or objects that cause this specific response;
- The type of barking you hear.
0. General Rules
Different causes call for separate solutions against dog barking. However, in all situations, you have to respect the same principles to be sure you obtain good results.
- Any type of response will make your dog bark again. Whether you react positively or negatively to your puppy’s noise, she gets what she wants: your attention. Many dog owners try to ignore the dog for a minute or two, but they end up responding anyway. This is wrong because what the dog understands is the fact that she needs to work harder and bark excessively to get what she wants. So, try not to respond to her barking at all. Wait until she’s quiet for 2-3 seconds and then praise her for the good behavior.
- Never yell or shout when your dog’s barking. She’ll see it as a positive response because it sounds as if you’re barking back. Your dog won’t stop barking, as long as she’s happy because you’re joining her.
- Use positive reinforcement only. Rewarding your puppy when she’s good has better results than any physical punishment. There’s no need for violence when training dogs.
- Remain consistent. You can’t allow your puppy to bark sometimes and then stop her when you need silence. This can cause confusion and your dog won’t understand what she’s doing wrong. Always react in the same way and advise all family members to act in a similar way whenever she’s barking, so your dog understands the message and learns to control her instincts.
- Pick a command and teach her what it means. Dogs don’t understand your language, so just because you tell her “No”, “Quiet”, or “Enough”, doesn’t mean she gets the message. You must choose one word only and teach her its meaning through obedience training.
- Be patient. Barking dogs need time to learn to control their habit. Organize training sessions with care and pay attention to all details. Don’t hurry and, most important, don’t get angry, because you’ll make things worse instead of solving the problem.
- Ask an expert. Changing behavior requires time and energy. If your dog doesn’t respond well to your training sessions, then you should get professional help. Every dog has a unique personality and sometimes applying general rules won’t work. Special dogs need special training tricks, so ask a behaviorist, a trainer or a veterinarian for some personalized advice.
1. When She Defends Her Territory
Your dog develops the habit of barking at passengers outside the house, bikers, or cars, mostly because something permanently reinforces her action. For example, when a biker passes by, your puppy starts barking. After a while, the biker disappears and she believes that this is the effect of her barking. She’s got what she wanted and she’ll continue doing it.
So, the first thing to do is restrict what the puppy sees and hears. You can either keep her away from the windows and the entrance door or cover the windows that have a street view. In both cases, this first step should limit your dog’s reactions.
Then you must teach your puppy to respond to your commands. Once the dog has warned you about the arrival of a stranger, you must command her to stay quiet, so she knows that you’re in control of the situation and that she needs to stop barking.
2. When She’s Scared
Fear is a common cause of barking and most dogs that are afraid of people or objects need special attention to learn how to control their instincts.
Most of the time, fear is just a characteristic of your pet’s temperament. Not all dogs are alike, and some of them get scared easier than others. However, fear can also come from a bad experience in the puppy’s past, or from the lack of socialization, so you should take things slowly and don’t push your dog’s limits too far.
Generally, dogs are scared of a limited number of things. It can be anything, from a person, an animal, an object in your house, an activity you do, or even a specific place or odor. In all cases, you need to identify what scares your dog and teach her to handle the situation.
Experts call it desensitizing your dog to the stimulus. In simple terms, you should help your puppy to get used to whatever scares her so badly that she barks continuously.
It’s not an easy job, but you can obtain good results following the following steps:
Step 1: Recreate the situation that scares your puppy at a time when you’re in charge. Choose a moment when your puppy is relaxed and hungry, so you can motivate her with some tasty treats. If your puppy feels safe on her leash, then don’t be afraid to use it.
For example, if she’s afraid of another dog, arrange for a friend to bring a dog nearby. Keep the second pet far enough to avoid her barking at your puppy.
Step 2: Far away from the thing that agitates your dog, start praising her and offer her some treats. Don’t feel discouraged if, during the first 3 or 4 training sessions, she’s busier barking than taking the food. If you repeat this exercise several times and she’s hungry enough, the barking will stop, as she’ll give in to temptation.
In the example, keep your dog busy with treats while your friend passes by with the other pet. Be sure to keep a far enough distance between the two animals, to allow your dog to feel safe.
Step 3: When the stimulus is gone, stop the treats.
Step 4: Repeat the operation several times.
Step 5: As you feel your dog getting more and more relaxed, you can start reducing the distance between the two pets. However, don’t rush things. Give your puppy some time to get used to the new things she’s learned before moving on to this step.
3. When She’s Bored
All dogs need physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy, so not meeting your puppy’s basic needs will lead to bad behavior. If your puppy is bored or lonely, then you should find a way to give her more attention to get her to stop barking.
If she spends too much time in the yard, by herself, maybe it’s time to bring her inside where she can feel like part of the family. Dogs are pack animals; they need to bond to be happy. Leaving her alone will make her develop separation anxiety, one of the main causes of excessive barking.
If you spend all day working away from home, hire someone to walk her and play with her for a couple of hours. Tired dogs don’t bark, so let her burn off her extra energy through exercising and you won’t have to deal with the problem anymore. If you can’t find a dog walker in your area, try a dog daycare.
When you’re out for a few hours, leave some special food-dispensing toys to keep her busy for the time you’re not around. Most puppies go to sleep after playing and having some treats from toys, so she’ll have no time left for barking or crying.
4. When She’s Seeking Your Attention
When your puppy barks to let you know she needs your attention, you must never respond immediately or she’ll continue barking every time she needs something.
Also known as demand barking, this action generally happens because it works. You’ve responded to your dog’s bark in the past and she’s learned how to take advantage of the situation. Remember that even a negative response is still a response. Maybe not the type of response your puppy expects, but it’s still something that stimulates her to carry on barking.
When your dog barks, leave the room and wait until she calms down. Then call her to you, praise her and reward the good behavior.
If your dog barks because she’s hungry or thirsty, wait a few minutes after she’s stopped barking before giving her food or water. To avoid this unpleasant situation in the first place, set fixed hours for her meals, so she doesn’t have to ask for food, and make sure she drinks enough water during the day.
When your dog barks because she needs to go outside, teach her to ask differently. One easy solution is to have a bell next to the door. If you ring the bell every time you take her outside to eliminate, she’ll learn to use the bell to let you know she needs to go potty.
If your dog barks just because she wants your attention, ignore her. It can be annoying, but any answer will make things worse. Generally, though, you can avoid this situation by spending some time with your dog every day, walking, playing, and exercising.
5. When You’re Playing
Dogs can get very excited when they’re playing, so barking is sometimes a natural way of telling you they’re happy. However, if you want to keep things under control, make sure you don’t encourage this behavior.
When your puppy starts barking, change the game with something that requires less activity, or even stop the game until she calms down.
Over time, train your puppy to respond to your commands and teach her to stop barking when you ask.
6. When She’s Greeting Someone
To stop your dog from barking every time she hears the doorbell you must change her behavior completely. Specialists advise pet owners to distract their dogs when someone is about to come in the house. You can use her favorite toy, for example, to keep her busy while your guests are arriving.
If this easy trick doesn’t work, you should teach your puppy to stay away from the door when she hears the doorbell.
Choose a place far away enough from the entrance, that still gives her enough visibility of the door and start training her following these steps:
Step 1: Call your puppy to the designated spot. When she arrives, give her some treats and praise her. Repeat this step about 10 times, in short training sessions.
Step 2: Start a new training session. After calling your puppy twice, ask a family member or a friend to ring the doorbell when you’re praising and rewarding your puppy. If she starts barking or leaves you to go to the door, wait until she calms down and restart the exercise. When she stays next to you, praise her and reward her. Repeat the exercise a few times during more training sessions.
Step 3: When your puppy’s learned to stay silent, ask the person who’s helping you to enter the house. If your puppy barks or leaves you to greet the guest, then you should both ignore her. Once she’s calm, redo the exercise until she remains with you in silence. Praise and reward her every time she’s not barking during the training sessions.
This process requires patience, especially if your puppy is already used to excessive barking when someone knocks at your door. Give her time to understand what’s expected from her and reward her for her progress, no matter how small.
7. When She Suffers from Separation Anxiety
If you think your puppy might be suffering from separation anxiety, you must ask for professional help. A specialist can prescribe medication depending on how bad the situation is, so choose someone with specific expertise in dealing with this kind of cases, such as a certified applied animal behaviorist, certified dog trainer, or a veterinary behaviorist.
Some possible causes of separation anxiety are:
- Separation from a family member;
- Loss of another pet;
- Environmental change, such as moving to a new home;
- Too much time alone.
How to Teach Your Dog the “Quiet” Command
Many of the situations described above require the “quiet” command as part of the solution to stop your dog barking. Teaching her to remain silent when you ask is less complicated than you might think. All you need are some good treats, always at hand, and enough time to spend with your dog.
Choose ONE verbal cue, such as “Quiet”, “Stop”, “Enough”, or “Silence”, and teach all family members to use the same word when they command her to remain silent.
Then start training sessions whenever you and your dog are in a good mood for teaching and learning. You can use the following method, for fast results:
- When your dog starts barking for any reason, say the command only once. Then take a treat and put it close to your dog’s nose. Most puppies stop barking to smell it, so immediately after you have a second of silence praise her and give her the treat. If you’re not fast enough and she starts barking again, don’t give her the treat. Leave the room and wait for another opportunity.
- Repeat the first step, as often as you can, until your puppy starts understanding that “being silent” = “delicious treats”.
- Increase the period of silence. After you say the command, keep the treat close to your puppy’s nose for a few seconds (between 4 and 6) before releasing it. Give the treat only if your puppy manages to stay silent. Practice this exercise often and, as you go further on with the training, gradually add a few seconds to the waiting period.
- Alternate long spans with shorter ones. Sometimes give her the treat after a few seconds, and sometimes let her wait for as long as 35-40 seconds. If you diversify the exercise instead of always using the same pattern, your puppy will stay silent for longer periods, waiting for your reaction.
How to Prevent Dog Barking
Prevention is easier than any treatment or training session, so instead of learning how to stop a dog from barking, you could try to block this behavior before it happens.
Here are some useful tricks when it comes to keeping your dog happy and in good shape, so she doesn’t develop bad behavior, such as excessive barking:
1. Keep Your Dog Tired
As you’ve already learned, too much energy can agitate your dog and make her bark excessively. That’s why you should include daily activities in your routine. Walk your dog at least 30 minutes every day and adapt all physical activities to her breed, size, and age.
Besides regular walks, introduce fun activities and games that will stimulate her mind. Dogs are intelligent animals and need to develop their abilities to grow happy and healthy. If you don’t have enough time to do everything by yourself, involve family members or hire a dog sitter.
2. Control the Environment
You can avoid barks by keeping your dog away from things that disturb her and make her nervous. If you leave your puppy in a calm area of the house, then she won’t start barking once left alone.
Some easy ways to create a good environment for your dog are:
- Providing her with a clean crate, where she can feel safe. Add some of her favorite toys to keep her busy while you’re gone.
- Covering some of the crate’s walls, to limit your dog’s visibility outside. The fewer things that distract her, the lower the chances of her barking at something.
- Keeping her calm with classical music or special relaxing music for dogs. Some experts believe that this way you can reduce other irritating sounds that can cause your dog to bark.
3. Start Teaching Your Puppy What’s Expected from Her at an Early Age
Many bad habits start developing when your puppy is young and you let her do whatever she likes. So, if you teach your puppy some good manners right from the beginning, you’ll have fewer problems dealing with your adult dog.
Try to ignore your puppy’s whining. When you bring your new pet home, keep her crate in your bedroom, so she doesn’t sleep alone. This prevents separation anxiety and encourages the bond between you two. At the same time, it also reduces whining, which means she’s less likely to learn that barking can generate positive responses.
Teach her to interact with people and other animals at early ages. Socialization is very important for dogs, so show your puppy the world immediately after you’ve vaccinated her. If you’re able to control these first interactions, she’ll learn not to be afraid of strangers, or to bark at people and dogs when she’s outside.
Introduce her to objects that can cause fear. Many older dogs can’t handle noises made by many common objects around the house and this can cause excessive barking. So, when your puppy starts growing, gradually show her what each object around the house does. Let her sniff the vacuum cleaner, the hair drier, and any other objects that have the potential to scare her. Then, as she gets used to them, turn them on, to show her they’re harmless.
Start basic training around the age of two months. If she learns to listen to you and to follow your commands, you’ll avoid many of the bad habits developed by adult dogs, including barking.
What NOT to Do When Your Dog Is Barking
- Don’t encourage your dog to bark in any circumstance to avoid confusion. So, even if you find it useful when she announces the presence of a stranger, don’t reward her for doing it. Wait until she’s quiet to praise and give treats or other rewards.
- Don’t punish your dog. Physical punishments generally make things worse and can cause more behavioral problems, including aggression. Treating your dog badly will also make her afraid of you and you won’t be able to train her anymore.
- Don’t use a muzzle when you’re not watching her. It might seem like a good tool to keep a dog quiet, but inappropriate use can cause your dog pain. Remember that when wearing a muzzle, your dog can’t eat, drink or cool herself, so don’t overuse it.
- Don’t use anti-bark collars unless a certified professional trainer has told you to. And most probably, none of them will. These collars are forms of punishment, so you should think twice before using them. Remember that in order to stop your dog barking, you need to know what’s causing it and fix the problem. A collar doesn’t solve your issue because it can’t tell the reason why your dog is barking. As your dog can’t communicate with you, this punishment will only make her feel unsafe.
- Don’t choose the practice of debarking your dog. This surgical intervention involves removing tissue on either side of a dog’s larynx to keep her from barking. Many organizations want to outlaw this procedure because it’s painful and can cause serious complications, such as choking, breathing difficulties, and anxiety, as your dog won’t be able to communicate efficiently anymore.
When to Consult an Expert
Whenever you feel you don’t understand your dog’s behavior or when you suspect there’s something wrong with her, you should ask your veterinarian for help. A vet can check her physical condition, prescribe treatment when needed, and give you useful information about animal behaviorists or professional dog trainers qualified to work with your dog on her specific problems.
Some signs that your dog needs professional help are:
- Extreme separation anxiety: your dog starts barking immediately after you leave the house or, in some cases, when she sees that you’re getting ready to leave.
- Destructive behavior and barking: not only does she chew her toys, but also the furniture and your personal things.
- Excessive barking without any apparent reason: your dog barks in the absence of an obvious stimulus.
- Excessive fear: she is too scared to come close to you or your family.
- Growling: she is overprotective and tends to bark aggressively when you get too close to her things.
Dog barking can be annoying for you, your family and your neighbors, but there’s no need to quit on your puppy. Teach her to change her habit instead and enjoy all the good things that having a dog brings into your life.
How to stop your dog from barking? The first step is listening to what she’s trying to tell you and to solve the problem immediately. Then teach your puppy some basic training tricks. And remember that professional advice can make the difference sometimes.
We’re looking forward to learning some new and useful tricks from your stories, so please leave a comment. What do you usually do when your dog is barking and what works best in your case?