westie barking

How To Stop Dogs From Barking - Training Techniques That Work

Is your dog a barker? You’re not alone, barking is one of the most common ways canines communicate. When it comes to how to stop dogs barking, training is essential.

However, many owners aren’t sure about the process. To help you out, here’s our ultimate guide to keep your dog from barking constantly.


Why Do Dogs Bark?

It’s important to remember barking is natural for all dogs. In fact, it is one of the main ways they have to communicate their feelings. The second way is through body language. In that sense, dogs bark to communicate with you and other pups.

On the other hand, your dog’s breed might also influence how much they bark. If you don’t want to be wondering how to stop your dog from barking, adopt the right breed. Humans have favoured barking in specific breeds, like those bred to guard livestock. In contrast, hunting breeds such as German Shorthaired Pointers are selectively bred to be silent while working.

The best way to stop a dog from barking is by understanding you’ll probably never have a completely silent dog. That is unrealistic and unfair to your pet. However, you can work on managing excessive barking and impulse control.


Common Barking Triggers

In general, to train a puppy not to bark excessively you need to understand why they do it. when a dog barks for several hours every day, this points to an underlying issue. While the constant noise is annoying, it can be a sign something is wrong, and they want to tell you! Here are some of the reasons why dogs bark:

  • Pain or discomfort. Is common for arthritic dogs to bark a lot. If you have a senior dog that’s suddenly restless and barking, consider taking them to the vet. They might be in pain or experience joint discomfort.
  • Calling out neighbour dogs. If your pup is friends with the neighbours, they might be calling out to them.
  • Territorial and guarding tendencies. in this case, the bark serves to alert strangers they are entering your dog’s turf. This type of bark starts whenever your dog sees a ‘threat’ approaching.
  • Seeking attention. If you tend to your dog only when they are barking, they might have the impression they need to bark to get your attention, get treats or pets.
  • Emotional communication. This type of barking can come from being bored, fearful, startled, excited, or anxious. Dogs that only bark when left alone tend to suffer from separation anxiety.
  • Compulsion. This should be diagnosed by a vet and a dog behaviour specialist.
  • Breed-specific traits. In general, small dogs and guarding breeds are more prone to constant barking than others.

PRO TIP: Before starting a training program that targets how to stop your dog barking, it’s important to consult your veterinarian to rule out medical causes.


Training A Dog Not To Bark

When figuring out how to control dog barking, you have two possibilities: either you want to prevent barking issues from appearing, or your pup is already barking constantly. In both cases, it’s important to stick to positive reinforcement instead of punishment.

Related: What Is Considered Excessive Dog Barking?

Dogs don’t respond well to violence, scolding or harsh words, and it can backfire and make your dog even louder. Here’s what you should do in each scenario:


Case 1. How To Train A Dog Not To Bark

In this case, you want to know how to train a puppy not to bark. great! This means you want to be a responsible owner and keep your dog happy. Of course, this advice also works for adult dogs.

  • Get them used to the door. This should be an essential part of socialisation and will prevent your dog from barking every time someone rings the bell. As soon as you start training, take your dog to the door and ring the bell. Immediately after, give them a treat. You should be fast to keep them from barking. Repeat this several times throughout the day. This will teach them the door ringing is a good sign, and it won’t ever occur to them to bark.
  • Socialise early. Getting your puppy used to other dogs and people can lower the chances of territorial barking. Begin by presenting your dog to other pets outside the home, and eventually start inviting guests.
  • Avoid boredom. A bored dog will do anything to keep itself busy. Make sure to offer plenty of structured playtimes and walks so your dog isn’t full of energy. Your pup should generally be tired after getting home, and they can’t bark while sleeping!
  • Train them to be happy alone. This means avoiding separation anxiety. It can be a long process, but your dog will be happier for it. You need to make it normal for your dog to stay home alone for a certain period of time and make that time enjoyable so they don’t bark. Offer a comforting, safe place for them to stay, and give plenty of goodies when you get home.

Case 2. How To Stop A Dog From Barking

So, what if your dog is already a chronic barker? You can still re-train them to stay calmer, but the process will be longer since they’re used to being loud. The principles stay the same: focus on positive reinforcement of desirable behaviours, and don’t lose patience.

1. Rule out health concerns

If the barking appeared suddenly and you see other changes, get your pup to the vet. Barking accompanied by other distress signs like panting, whining, licking and pacing can indicate serious health issues. This is particularly important if you have a senior dog: changes in hearing, vision and perception might cause fear and excessive barking.

PRO TIP: Take a video of the barking before taking your dog to the vet. This will help with the diagnosis.

2. Figure out why

Once you’re sure your dog is healthy, it’s time to address the barking. Pay attention for a few days and figure out why your dog barks. If it’s caused by neighbours passing through the front yard, or only starts when a dog walks nearby. Maybe cars are a trigger, cats, or the doorbell ringing. If your dog starts barking when you don’t pay attention, boredom or your own behaviour might be reinforcing the barking.

3. Handle the trigger

Now that you know their trigger, it’s time to address it. if it’s the view of your neighbours, try to block them using privacy screens. If they only bark at night when they’re outside, bringing them in might help. If your dog is alone for a long time, maybe a dog walker can help. Of course, it isn’t always possible to eliminate the trigger, so here’s where training comes in.

If boredom is the cause, make sure to offer at least one-hour walks every day, and extra attention when you can, to make sure your dog is tired.

4. Re-train your dog

Training is essential to redirect barking. The key lies in reinforcing the ‘good’ behaviour and distracting your dog whenever they bark excessively.

However, it’s important to try this only once your dog is properly exercised and slightly tired. This will make it easier for them to focus on you. Start by praising your dog whenever they are at their preferred ‘barking location’ but quiet. Don’t wait until they bark, just praise and offer a treat before they even think of barking.

Keep doing it throughout the day, asking your dog to focus on you before offering the treat. Soon enough, they’ll realise that to get a treat they need to pay attention to you. At this point, you can start saying a cue word like ‘quiet’. Eventually, they’ll associate the word with staying calm.

Redirecting behaviours can be a little more challenging. This means whenever your dog barks a lot, you get their attention and focus it on something else -like a toy-. Then, once they’ve shifted to that positive activity, you praise and offer a treat. This needs to be repeated every time your dog misbehaves.

5. Do not respond to the bark.

Stay consistent, patient, and resist the urge to shout at your dog. Yelling and losing patience will only encourage them to continue, because they think you’re joining in. Another possibility is that the yelling will scare your dog and cause anxiety around you. This will only worsen the problem.

When redirecting, use a calm, firm voice and offer a positive replacement activity.

6. Never use physical force

Negative punishment in the form of yelling or violence won’t help your issue. This will only worsen your dog’s anxiety and fear. In many cases, negative training can start aggression issues. This includes using so-called ‘anti-barking’ collars that use electroshock to counteract barking. These contraptions are inhumane and ineffective in the long term.

If you have a hard time redirecting your dog, it might be better to speak to a dog behaviour specialist. They’ll offer customised tips and routines to help with your case. A specialist could also recommend appropriate dog barking collars that redirect your dog using sound and sometimes strong smells like citronella to prevent barking.


Final Thoughts

Dealing with a barking dog can be difficult, but with a bit of training you’ll see improvements in no time. The key is remaining patient and using positive training techniques. Your dog will understand there’s no need to be so loud!

References
  1. Yin, S., & McCowan, B. (2004). Barking in domestic dogs: context specificity and individual identification. Animal behavior, 68(2), 343-355. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000334720400123X?casa_token=mrOgoxGg8HAAAAAA:In17GLJTUqYaB8gNLOvP7QDhO53ypLmZRc9uED6Cql8EakaS7xkaKV4T3k3Lk-48yR3DrQptNnE
  2. Yin, S. (2002). A new perspective on barking in dogs (Canis familaris.). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 116(2), 189. https://drsophiayin.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/dogbark.pdf
Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better. Eloisa is able to use her expertise to write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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Chris - March 14, 2021

Hi all,
We have a Pomeranian that barks at anything at anytime she feels like it, could be a noise somewhere, one of the other dogs comes in the room just whatever, so I really don’t even know where to begin. She is very irritating but when she is quiet she is a sweet 6yr old. Any pointers?

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    gentledogtrainers - March 14, 2021

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for getting in touch. Whilst researching tips to help understand why your dog is barking and ways to manage is great, nothing beats a professional coming into your home and meeting your pup and understanding first hand the dog and the potential triggers.

    Look up dog behaviourists in your area and look for reviews that specifically relate to how they helped dog owners with constantly barking dogs, then give them a call to see if it’s worthwhile them coming out to visit.

    Hope this helps 🙂

    Reply
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