Barking is a form of vocal communication that can serve several functions for dogs. In order to stop your dog from barking, you must first understand what is motivating your dog to bark in the first place. Some dogs learn that barking is a way to get what they want; if it works, they will continue to bark. There are two primary methods of teaching your dog not to bark. You can teach your dog to be quiet on cue, and you can teach him to perform an alternate behavior at times when he would normally bark. It is important to remember that your dog cannot be expected to stop barking altogether. Rather, the goal is to reduce the amount and frequency of your dog’s barking.
Territorial and Alarm Barking
Dogs who bark territorially do so in response to people or other animals approaching their homes or yards. Alarm barking is similar to territorial barking in that the dog will bark at things that he sees or hears. However, alarm barking happens in any location, not just the dog’s home territory. Territorial and alarm barking are often motivated by fear. The dog is trying to control and defend his territory, alert you to the presence of visitors, and/or scare off intruders. To treat these forms of barking, you should limit your dog’s ability to see or hear people and things passing by and teach him to associate the approach of strangers with good things such as treats and toys. Also, supervise your dog when he is outside in the yard so that he does not bark excessively.
Some dogs bark to get attention or rewards such as food, toys, or petting. These dogs learn that barking works to get them what they want. To treat attention-seeking barking, it is essential that you NEVER reward your dog’s barking with attention. This means that you cannot give your dog eye contact, touch, scold, or talk to him when he barks. Instead, stare at the ceiling, turn away, or leave the room. As soon as your dog stops barking, ask him to sit and then give him what he wants. Remember to frequently praise and treat your dog when he is quiet.
Dogs who bark in greeting do so when they see people or other dogs. Their bodies are loose and their tails are wagging. Greeting dogs may also whine and show other signs of friendliness. In order to lessen the intensity of greeting barking, keep greetings low key. Teach your dog to sit and stay when he meets people or before greeting other dogs. You can also teach your dog to pick up a toy when someone comes to the door and to keep it in his mouth so he cannot bark. When you are on a walk and see another dog, distract your dog with special treats before the dog gets too close; praise and reward your dog for paying attention to you rather than the other dog.
Dogs often bark when they hear other dogs barking. To prevent this, keep your dog indoors when other dogs are barking. You can also play music or use a white noise machine to drown out the sound of the barking. Use treats and toys to distract your dog from the noise.
Dogs may bark out of frustration when they are confined or tied up and can’t gain access to someone or something. The best treatment for frustrated or excited barking is basic obedience training to teach the dog impulse control.
Dogs who bark compulsively do so in a repetitive, excessive manner. They may also move repetitively, for example running up and down along the fence, circling, or spinning. Compulsive barkers bark in situations that would not normally elicit barking, and they bark in a fixed and rigid way. They will bark for extended periods of time at nothing or at things that would not bother other dogs. It is important that dogs who bark compulsively get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. If you suspect your dog is exhibiting compulsive behaviors, contact a veterinary behaviorist.
Regardless of the cause of your dog’s barking, you can teach him to be quiet on cue. When your dog barks, calmly say “quiet.” Feed him a steady stream of small, tasty treats to keep him silent. You will know the training is working when your dog responds to the word “quiet” by ceasing to bark. At that point, you can start to extend the time between treats by a couple of seconds during each training session.
What NOT to Do
- Antibark collars deliver an unpleasant sound or smell when the dog barks. In most cases, they are ineffective. Never use punishment such as an antibark collar for barking that is motivated by fear, anxiety, or compulsion as this can make the behavior worse.
- Do not encourage your dog to bark at some sounds, like people coming to the door, and punish him for barking at other sounds. You must be consistent when training your dog.
- Do not use a muzzle to stop your dog from barking, and do not use anything to tie his muzzle shut.