A dog’s bark is a very normal form of canine communication. The problem comes when a dog barks too much or at inappropriate times. Not only can it be extremely annoying for the dog’s owners, but it can also lead to conflict with the neighbours.
Fortunately, there are several relatively simple steps you can take to stop your dog from barking. Some breeds of dog are naturally more talkative than others. However, it is possible to reduce the amount all dogs bark and even prevent it altogether in certain situations.
Why is your dog barking?
Barking is natural dog behaviour and almost all dogs will bark in some scenarios. That includes:
- When there’s someone at the door
- When they want to get your attention
- When they’re bored
- When you have visitors
- When they’re anxious
- When they’re frustrated
- When they want to say hello
You can find out more about why dogs bark at the ASPCA.
Below, we have detailed a few simple ways to prevent barking in different situations. Although not all of the solutions will be appropriate in every scenario, at least one or a combination of the methods will help.
How to stop a dog from barking: 6 tried and tested techniques
The good news is that you can teach an old dog new tricks, but you shouldn’t expect results overnight. The longer your dog has been barking inappropriately, the longer it will take to change their behaviour.
Whatever approach you choose to take, there are a few golden rules you should follow:
- Do not shout at your dog to be quiet. To them, it just sounds like you’re joining in with the fun.
- Always keep your training sessions upbeat and positive. Be patient and try not to show your frustration.
- Make sure everyone in the family understands the training methods and acts in the same way. If you’re not consistent, you’ll confuse your poor dog.
Don’t reward your dog for barking
The first step is to remove any kind of reward your dog gets from barking. If they bark at inappropriate times, you should remove them from the situation so they cannot continue that behaviour. For example, if your dog barks at passers-by, manage that behaviour by closing the curtains or moving the dog into another room. If he barks at people when he’s in the yard, bring him into the house. Under no circumstances should your dog be left outside all day or night.
Ignore your barking dog
Giving your dog any sort of attention simply rewards them for their behaviour. Instead, as difficult as it may be, you should not touch them, talk to them or even look at them until they’re quiet, even if they give you their cutest puppy dog eyes. Then, once they stop barking, wait a couple of seconds and reward them with a treat.
This method requires patience, as you must wait for the barking to stop, even if it lasts for 20 minutes. If you get frustrated and shout at your dog before they’ve finished barking, they’ll learn that they will get attention if they bark for long enough. That’s a simple way to undo all of the progress you’ve made.
- Turn your back on your dog and ignore him while he barks
- When he stops barking, turn around, play with him and give him a treat
- Start by rewarding him for small amounts of time without barking and slowly increase the intervals. Reward him after 3 seconds the first time he stops barking, then 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, and so on.
Familiarize your dog with whatever causes the barking
If your dog reacts to a particular stimulus by barking, you need to make him more accustomed to that stimulus and teach him that it’s associated with good rather than bad things. For example, it’s very common for dogs to bark at other dogs, but you can change the way your dog reacts to that stimulus with the help of lots of yummy treats!
You’ll need a friend with a dog to help you with this one. Ask your friend to stand far enough away so that your dog won’t bark. Then, ask them to approach you slowly. As the dog approaches, give your dog treats and continue to do so until the other dog moves out of view. If your dog barks, stop giving it treats immediately and start the exercise again.
This process will need to be repeated multiple times and could take days or even weeks for it to stick. Eventually however, your dog will learn that the appearance of other dogs leads to good things, but only if it doesn’t bark!
Here’s our guide to vet-friendly snacks for dogs so you can treat your dog and keep him healthy at the same time.
Use the distraction technique
Not sure how to stop a dog from barking? The distraction technique can be a simple and very effective strategy. When your dog starts barking, tell him to do an action that’s incompatible with that behaviour. For example, if there’s someone at the door, tell your dog to “go to bed”, and give him a treat when he does. If he gets up when you open the door, tell him to go back to bed and reward him again.
There’s no fast or easy shortcut with the distraction technique. Consistent training, practice in new environments with new distractions and solid reinforcement for the correct behaviour is the only way to get results.
Give your dog plenty of exercise
A dog that’s getting sufficient mental and physical stimulation will be more content and is less likely to bark from boredom or mental frustration. There are lots of different types of physical and mental exercise you can do that will make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of your favorite companion. If you don’t have the time, ask or pay someone to take your dog out for you.
If your dog gets plenty of physical exercise, try upping the mental stimulation by introducing some puzzle toys, making it work for its food, teaching it new tricks, creating an obstacle course and generally making more time for play.
Teach your dog to be “quiet”
Before you can teach your dog to be quiet, you must teach it to bark on command. Although that may feel like the opposite of what you want to achieve, there is method in the madness. First, tell your dog to “speak”, and wait for him to bark a few times. When he does, place a treat in front of his nose. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, spoil him and give him the treat. Repeat this until he barks whenever you say “speak”.
Now you’ve made your dog louder, you can work on quieting him down. Tell your dog to “speak”, but this time, when he starts barking, tell him to be “quiet” as you put the treat in front of his nose. Again, praise him and give him the treat. Once he has learnt to be quiet in a calm environment, repeat the training in increasingly distracting and noisy environments until he stops barking whenever he’s asked.
Training takes time but the rewards are worth it
You probably want to know how to stop a dog from barking now, but the truth is that there’s no way to achieve immediate results. However, the right combination of the above techniques will teach your dog to be quiet over time.
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