Barking is a natural means of dog communication. Why and how much a dog barks, however, can depend on a number of factors.
Genetics is one of them. Some dog breeds just bark more than others. Hunting dogs, for example, were bred to bark as a way to signal a target.
Common Reasons Dogs Bark
Another reason dogs bark is to communicate physical and emotional needs. If a dog is hot, cold, thirsty, hungry, sick, or otherwise uncomfortable, they might bark as a way to say, “Hey, how about a little help over here?” In addition, if a dog is bored, anxious, excited, or understimulated, they might bark in order to request attention, or they may develop a barking habit as a way to release energy and frustrations.
And of course, a dog may bark if they are scared, threatened, or trying to warn you of danger, like if an intruder were to come onto your property or if another dog were to threaten them.
Many times, barking is conditional, meaning that it is in response to a situation and stops when the situation changes. Other times, barking can be excessive and become a real problem.
Here are some tips on how to stop your dog from barking. If you need additional help, don’t hesitate to contact a trainer or animal behaviorist.
Tip #1: Cultivate a lifestyle that will minimize barking.
The best way to stop barking is to prevent it. Create a lifestyle and environment for your dog that will reduce their likelihood of becoming anxious, bored, scared, or otherwise needy.
- Make sure that your dog is getting enough exercise. Dogs who are understimulated or have excess energy are more likely to develop a barking habit.
- Offer your dog a safe and comfortable place to rest. Leaving your dog in a cramped crate or a cold backyard may induce anxiety and barking.
- Ensure that your dog has access to fresh water at all times, including when you are out of the house. You should also ensure that you are feeding your dog the correct amount of food; check with your veterinarian.
- Socialize your dog. A well-socialized dog who is comfortable around people, other animals, and new environments is less likely to feel anxious, threatened, overexcited, or respond to stimulus with a bark.
- If you need to be out of the house for long hours, leave stimulating toys, turn the radio on, and consider buying some dog-friendly DVDs. You may also want to hire a dog walker or sitter to offer your pup a break from the isolation, which can promote barking.
- If your dog barks only when you leave the house, teach them that it’s no big deal. You can do this by practicing coming and going for short periods of time and gradually increasing the time that you are gone. You should also avoid making a big deal about coming and going; don’t offer long, emotional goodbyes or hellos. If you do, your dog will assign a great deal of significance to your absence and presence, which can promote separation anxiety when your dog is left alone.
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Tip #2: Don’t yell at or punish your dog for barking.
A lot of barking is attention-seeking behavior, and if you yell at your dog (or acknowledge them at all, really) it shows them that hey, it worked! And hey, maybe I should do that more often! When your dog barks, try to ignore it. Avert your eyes, walk out of the room — whatever it takes. Then give your dog attention and praise when they stop barking on their own. You should also be careful about using the crate as a way to punish barking; the crate should be a safe and happy place for your dog, not one that they associate with punishment.
Tip #3: Teach the “quiet” command.
To teach your dog “quiet,” approach them when they are calm and not barking, say “quiet,” and then offer a treat. Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times a day. Then, when your dog is barking, wait for them to stop, say “quiet,” and then offer a treat. Repeat this whenever your dog barks. After a couple of weeks, you can begin using the “quiet” command to instruct your dog to stop barking. Be patient, though, and put in that early work. If you try to stop barking with the “quiet” command too soon, your dog is likely to get confused and think that you are actually rewarding them for making a ruckus.
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Tip #4: Teach the “speak” command.
Once your dog knows the “quiet” command, you can teach the “speak” command. That’s right; we’re suggesting that you teach your excessively barking dog to bark. Sound crazy? What it actually does is teach your dog when barking is appropriate (which is when the command is given by you). It also gives you another way to reinforce the “quiet” command.
To teach “speak,” wait until your dog is barking, say “speak,” and then give them a treat. Repeat this as often as necessary until your pal learns the command.
Tip #5: Talk to your veterinarian about alternative methods.
If your dog is barking due to severe anxiety, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety medications. You can also ask your veterinarian about herbal anti-anxiety food drops and citronella collars which release an unpleasant odor when your dog barks.
Do you have a dog who barks excessively? Tell us your story below, and consider signing up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, boarding and more.