All dogs bark occasionally, but some like barking so much that it becomes a problem. Noisy dogs can annoy the neighbors, drive their owners to distraction, and even get fines and other legal penalties. Luckily, in most cases, it is fairly easy to train a dog to stop barking. You just need a little patience and consistency to get the job done, along with plenty of time to let your dog calm down and learn the new routine.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Before you begin training your dog not to bark, it’s a good idea to understand why your dog is doing it. Dogs bark for many reasons, including boredom, anxiety, fear, and stress. One of the most common causes of barking is territorial behavior. The dog sees someone or something approaching their property, so they feel the need to alert everyone to the situation. Some dogs also bark due to excitement and happiness. Spend some time thinking about the situations that usually cause your dog to bark to identify the root causes of the behavior.
Making Sure Your Dog’s Needs are Met
Excited, hyper dogs tend to bark more than tired ones, so start your training by making sure your dog is getting plenty of exercises. This includes both physical exercise, such as walks and runs, and mental exercises, such as training and games. Training obedience commands and tricks can be a great way to do this while bonding with your dog. High-energy breeds may do well with dog sports, such as agility, nose work, and herding.
Stay Calm and Positive
Barking is a very exciting behavior for dogs, so if there are multiple dogs together, they’ll feed off of each other’s energy levels. Even quiet dogs will often begin to bark like crazy if they are around noisy ones. Humans can contribute to this problem, as well. If you yell at your dog for barking, your dog will usually think that you’re just joining in on the fun. Instead, always stay calm and quiet. Focus on rewarding your dog for quietness rather than punishing your dog for barking.
Remove the Stimulus
One of the easiest ways to prevent barking is to simply avoid whatever makes your dog bark. This isn’t always possible, but it can be an easy solution if your dog barks for territorial reasons. Try blocking your dog’s view of the street outside your home using curtains or translucent window film if your dog barks at people passing by, or use a white noise machine to drown out noises if your dog gets excited about sounds.
Desensitize Your Dog
Getting your dog used to the things that make them bark can also stop the behavior. If there’s something in particular that sets your dog off, such as the sight of another dog, go to an area where you’re likely to see it. At first, stay far enough away from it that your dog is naturally quiet. For some dogs, this may mean that you’ll need to be so far away they can barely see it at all. Use treats and praise to reward the dog for looking at the exciting thing without barking. As your dog begins to relax, you can gradually start moving closer to it until your dog is able to be close by without barking.
Don’t Give In
Dogs also often bark to try to get attention or other rewards from people. The classic example of this is a puppy who cries at night when its new owners won’t let it in bed with them. For this type of barking, the best thing to do is simply wait it out. Don’t acknowledge your dog, even by looking at him or scolding him. Even punishments are a type of attention, so your dog will learn that barking gets you to pay attention to them. This strategy may require a lot of patience at first, but most dogs learn the lesson fairly quickly.
Teach Your Dog to “Speak”
Sometimes teaching your dog to bark on cue can make it easier to teach them not to bark, too. For dogs who bark a lot, this can be pretty easy. Just wait until your dog is about to bark, then say “speak!” When your dog barks, reward them with praise and treats. Repeat this frequently until your dog barks on cue. For some dogs, that may be enough to stop most others from barking. However, most dogs also need to learn a “quiet” command. For this, you do almost the opposite. Go somewhere quiet and peaceful, where your dog is unlikely to see something that will make them bark. Say, “Speak!” and let them bark a few times, then say, “Quiet,” and offer a treat – the reward for no longer barking.
Give Your Dog Something Else to Do
If your dog barks at particular times, such as when someone rings the doorbell, sometimes the best thing to do is to teach them to do something else when they hear that sound. Teaching your dog to sit or lie down quietly on a mat is a good choice. Retrieving a favorite toy or holding an item in their mouth will also prevent your dog from barking. Tailor your approach to your dog’s personality for the quickest results.
Provide a Safe Spot
Many dogs bark due to fear or separation anxiety. For them, simply having a safe space to hide can give them the confidence they need to be quiet. Try putting your dog in a comfortable, quiet room to see if that helps. Crate training can also be beneficial in these circumstances as most dogs learn to feel safe and secure in their crates. Be sure to keep things positive, though, as creating a negative association with the crate can make the problem worse.
Talk to a Professional
If your dog is still barking no matter what you try, you may need to bring in some outside help. A qualified professional trainer can help you work out strategies and training techniques that deal with the root of the problem and create a lasting solution. For dogs that bark due to anxiety, you may also want to consider talking to your veterinarian. Sometimes medication can help them feel less anxious, so you can make more training progress.