How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Barking?
The reasons behind all that bark
Do you sometimes think your dog just likes the sound of his own voice? While some breeds are naturally prone to barking (the Cairn Terrier and the Chihuahua are two examples), there is often a reason why your dog is being so noisy.
Does your dog want something? Dogs can bark because it’s rewarding. You could be paying your dog for barking and not realize it. If your dog barks to go outside and you let him out, you’ve just paid him for barking. If he barks while you fix his dinner and you give him his food, you just paid him for barking. Be sure you are not accidentally paying your dog for behaviour you don’t want.
Is he frightened? Keep in mind that most aggression (which can manifest in barking, among other behaviours) is actually based in fear. A dog that is frightened of other dogs may lunge towards the other dog, the fur may rise up on his neck, and he may bark and growl. Dogs who are frightened of people, kids on skateboards and other things can show the same behaviour. The dog is barking to try and scare “the monster” away. Other dogs spook at noises or things that suddenly appear in their environments, like thunder or a person coming into your home.
Is he being territorial? Does your dog bark at people who pass by your house or car? If so, your dog is barking to protect and proclaim what he sees as his domain.
Dogs can also bark in greeting because they are frustrated when they hear other dogs bark, and more. Your first step is to try and figure out why your dog is barking. Once you do, then you can tackle the noise.
Here are some ways you can teach your dog to be more quiet:
1. Ignore the barking
This can be hard! It’s especially effective, however, if your dog is barking to get attention or because he wants something. Only pay attention to your dog when he’s quiet. Keep in mind, if you’ve been rewarding your dog for barking for some time, the barking will get worse before it gets better. Persevere! If you waffle back and forth, the barking will only continue and likely worsen.
2. Remove the motivation
If your dog is being territorial, block his view of the things that trigger his barking. If he’s barking at things he sees out a window, close the curtains or blinds, or confine your dog to another area of the house where he can’t see his triggers. You can also find peel-and-stick window film in home supply stores that can prevent your dog from seeing through the window.
3. Help your dog be less frightened
To do this, work at a distance from whatever it is that scares your dog; you need to get far enough away that your dog doesn’t bark. When he sees his trigger, give him some delicious treats before he can bark. As long as he does well at this distance, move slightly closer and repeat. Gradually work closer and closer to the triggers until your dog begins to feel more comfortable near them because he anticipates treats. This may take many sessions, depending on how fearful your dog is. If your dog reacts and begins barking, you went too far.
4. Teach “Hush.”
When your dog is barking, get some treats. When he’s quiet, mark the behaviour with a clicker or a verbal “yes,” and immediately give him the treat. Repeat. When he is reliably getting quiet faster, put in on cue, “Hush.”
5. Teach him to do something else
Some dogs find it hard to bark when lying down. Some won’t bark if they have a ball in their mouth. Find a behaviour you prefer and teach your dog to do that instead of making noise.
Teoti Anderson, CPDT, owns Pawsitive Results (getpawsitiveresults.com) and is the past president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She is the author of Your Outta Control Puppy, Super Simple Guide to Housetraining, Quick and Easy Crate Training, and Puppy Care and Training.