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Behaviour & training

How to stop dog barking in 5 easy steps

Date created: 17 11 2017

You’d recognise that voice anywhere, it’s one of your favourite sounds. But ever had that feeling you’re getting too much of a good thing? If all that barking is starting to drive you bananas, check out our tips for turning down the volume…

Barking: what’s the story?
In a word; communication. Just like people, some pooches have more to say for themselves than others. And while one dog might think it urgent to warn you about every car that happens to pass your front window, others would barely raise an eyebrow.

Talkativity often runs in the family. Take your typical terrier, for instance. Not so long ago, they were expected to shoot down animal holes and shout if they saw something interesting. If they got stuck underground and couldn’t turn around, their life depended on being able to make some serious noise to summon the rescue posse.

So for many breeds, a loud voice has served them well over the generations. Useful if you’re a working dog; but if you live in a flat below a neighbour who works the night shift, not so much.

via GIPHY

So why is my dog barking at me?
Chances are, your buddy’s either asking a question, telling you what they’re feeling or looking for some reassurance. Common triggers for barking include the following…

  • Someone’s on my patch! Some dogs are more precious about their territory than others. If they see or hear anyone else on their territory, sounding the alarm is a natural response.
  • Grabbing your attention. Surely it’s dinner time? Anyone fancy a game? How about another run around the block? A dog’s needs are usually pretty simple: to be fed, watered, taken out - and lots of playtime in between. Barking can just be their way of telling you they need something.
  • Compulsive barking. This is sometimes accompanied by repetitive movements such as pacing up and down. It can be a sign of frustration or anxiety - e.g. through being left alone for long periods.

The ‘cure’ for the bark depends a lot on what’s causing it. Here are five ways to deal with it in a range of situations…

1. No yelling!
That squirrel’s been sighted in the back garden again. As far as your buddy is concerned, this is something you absolutely need to know about right now.

So he sounds the alarm. If you start shouting, then as far as he’s concerned you’re both getting excited at the same thing. You’re basically egging him on.

Instead, ignore him. Play it cool and walk casually out of the room. You’re the pack leader - and the fact that you’re not bothered by something can often be enough to convince them that they shouldn’t get excited by it either.

2. Set up a barrier
This one’s for those dogs who are good as gold - except when they catch sight of anything interesting outside your window.

A simple sight barrier can be an instant fix. It doesn’t have to mean closing the curtains. Think instead about frosted static cling window film; it lets the light in, but blocks their view.

3. Teach the “quiet” command
This can be useful for a dog who starts barking every time the doorbell rings. If your dog can recognise a specific command to stop barking, they’re much more likely to respond to it.

The first step actually involves encouraging your dog to bark (so they know the difference between ‘loud’ and ‘quiet’). With a treat at the ready, give your buddy the command to “speak”. While they’re barking, give them a treat. Repeat this process until your dog responds to the “speak” command on cue by barking.  

Now, give a new command; “quiet”. If they keep barking, wait until they stop. When they do stop, give them a treat with lots of praise. Eventually, your dog will grasp that they are being rewarded for stopping barking. So when the doorbell rings, they are likely to start barking again, but you now have a specific command (“quiet”) to address that unwanted behaviour.

4. Help your buddy get over their anxiety
You didn’t think your dog was much of a barker. But then you learn from your neighbour that your he barks from the moment you leave the house for the office each morning!

There are some practical steps you can take to get your dog used to being on their own all day - from gradually increasing the length of time you are out of the home, through to providing toys and other sources of stimulus while you’re away. Our guide, How to deal with doggy separation anxiety. can help you with a behaviour modification plan.

5. Walkies!
Where boredom or frustration is causing a dog to bark, look out for ways to release some of that pent-up energy. Taking into account their breed, age and any health issues, are they getting all the exercise they need? Is there scope for ramping up the length of your daily walk?

Dogs love a new challenge (especially if it’s a fun one). Particularly for active breeds, agility training could be just the hobby your dog is looking for. Even the addition of a few new puzzle toys can make a big difference.

Your dog will still make their voice heard (we wouldn’t have it any other way!). But following some of these tips should be able to help you keep the volume down when needed.

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