Dog BehaviorDog Care

How to stop a dog from barking

How to stop a dog from barking

Before answering the how to stop a dog from barking, you should know more about the barking that is a dog’s way of communicating. It is the way a dog uses her voice to express a wide range of feelings—boredom, warnings, hunger, wanting to play or eat, fear, etc.

Trying to understand why your dog barks—and learning her different barking tones and what they mean—will go a long way toward having her barking under your control. If there is a lot of barking, you’ll be able to make changes as needed in the dog’s environment.

there are many reasons why a dog may bark— many of them are legitimate and can serve as ways to deepen your understanding of her communication. There are also dogs who bark in ways and at times that you may find unsuitable for your lifestyle or temperament.

A dog on a 2,000- acre ranch in Montana will have different stimuli that inspire barking and follow different “etiquette guidelines” about sounding off than a pooch in a two- bedroom apartment in a Chicago high-rise. The picture changes even further when you have a multiple-dog household—because dogs inspire vocalization in each other.

Each dog/human family has to find a happy medium that ultimately puts the person in charge of when and how their dog barks, while at the same time respecting a dog’s entitlement to speak up. Every dog is quite different about barking, and each one has a range of barking tones that may be more or less appealing to your ears.

Reasons for Barking

The first step to answer the question how to stop a dog from barking is knowing the dog barking reasons which include:

  • Just enjoys doing it (some breeds in particular)
  •  Hears something (and feels frightened or fierce)
  • Warning someone is near the house/something is unusual
  • Boredom, loneliness
  • Sees another animal
  • Wants a biscuit
  • Reminding you it’s dinnertime
  • Toy is out of reach
  • Excitement about going out for a walk
  • Excitement that you’ve come home
  • Wants you (or another dog) to play (especially herding breeds)
  • Needs to go out

You can choose to view it as a positive thing when a dog has the desire and ability to communicate with her people (barking being a dog’s version of talking). Of course, there can also be “too much of a good thing”—and when that applies you’ll need some remedies.

Your Attitude About Barking

The 2nd step to answer the question how to stop a dog from barking is selecting your attitude toward the dog barking. Many trainers and books seem to treat barking as some terrible, irritating behavior that dogs visit on us and that we have to “bully” them out of. These experts advocate fairly harsh disciplinary reactions to a dog’s barking, whenever it occurs.

But if you stop to consider “all-barking-is-bad” as a basic principle of training, you’ll see how it can be so judgmental that it puts a toxic spin on your interaction with your dog. You may also miss the point that a dog is often trying to make a connection by barking—which isn’t all bad.

Of course there will be times when a strong negative reaction to barking is called for. But it also seems fair to suggest that if the mere sound of barking is too horrible for you—if you can’t tolerate any quantity of dog-generated noise— then it’s not really fair to the pooch. After all, if total silence was your ideal quality in a pet you would have picked a goldfish, right?

There’s another way to look at barking: don’t view the dog as an adversary who must be quieted at any cost. Instead, look at her as a companion trying to converse with you. Naturally, some of the times she picks to make this attempt will be inconvenient—but in order to handle it well for household harmony, I think a positive perspective makes a big difference.

Books and trainers that criticize a barking dog by saying that he’s “only doing it to get your attention” may be right in their assessment of the facts, but wrong about being so negative about it.

Looked at differently, isn’t “trying to get your attention” a positive thing? Isn’t being tuned into each other part of the pleasure of sharing your life with an animal? Isn’t that cross-species attempt to connect part of what draws people and dogs together?. So really the focus needs to be why and how does your particular dog bark, and what do you want to do about it?

Tips to stop dog barking

The 3rd step to answer the question how to stop a dog from barking is knowing that there are some things you can do to lessen the likelihood of barking becoming a habit, because the first thing on the agenda is to eliminate as many triggers for barking as possible.

1- Don’t Reward Any Barking.

When your dog barks to get what he wants, ignore him. Don’t pay any attention, verbalize or give a treat when he vocalizes. Don’t respond no matter how cute he is.

2- Discourage a Puppy from Protective Barking.

Territorial barking usually begins between six and nine months of age (although some puppies start even earlier) and can begin as late as three years old. Do not try to encourage any young dog to bark, or you could be teaching something you’ll regret.

3- Keep the Dog Happy and Keep Him Company.

Don’t leave a young dog home alone for long periods of time, and make sure a dog of any age gets lots of exercise to tire him. Round out his life with people, toys, games and other dogs to amuse and stimulate him.

4- Praise Quiet.

When the dog does not bark at something, praise and reward him.

Different tones and types of dog barking

The 4th step to answer the question how to stop a dog from barking is knowing different types of barking which include:

(A)Territorial/Protective

This is a common type of barking, usually accompanied by the dog in an offensive stance—leaning forward, tail high, kind of “daring” the person, car or animal to come any closer. In fact, as that intruder gets closer, the barking usually increases in tone and frequency.

The sound of a doorbell (even on TV) or knocking on the door can set off this same protective stance. For most people, this kind of “barking to alert” is fine in moderation. However, if there is more barking than you or your neighbors would like, you can reduce the visual stimuli that’s inspiring the barking.

Reduce what your dog can see by changing a fence to solid wood, or denying her access to any glass or screen doors she was looking through.

(B)  Boredom/Loneliness

Dogs who have no companions and are left alone for long periods of time may bark part or all of that time, often a monotonous bark in a persistent, measured monotone. Some dogs can stand being alone with nothing to do, but it makes most of them miserable. A dog in this situation needs your help to improve her life. If she’s been left outside most of the time, it’s only fair to try to find a way to include her in your household; if she’s left alone at home all day, she needs someone to take her for a walk and/or spend time with her. You might consider doggie day care.

(C) Fear/Being Startled

A dog barking from fear can be a spooky dog who is shocked by any object she’s never seen before (Scooby Doo is a scaredy-cat like that, crouching with raised hackles when he turns a corner and sees a new garbage can, an umbrella or a cement statue). These dogs may just have fearful personalities or they may not have been properly socialized and introduced to new sights and sounds as puppies. Fearful dogs can also startle easily, so sightings of “monsters” they see from a house or car window can set off shrill alarm barking.

(D) Excitement/Play

This is happy barking that is an expression of joy, often when a dog greets you or another family member or wants to play with you or another dog. Play- barking is often an instinctual expression for dogs—particularly the herding breeds—so it can be hard to change in them. The same is true of the way they nip at other dogs’ back legs when playing, just as they would while working a flock or herd.

(E) Attention-getting/“Me Too”

There are two ways of looking at this kind of barking: that the dog is being rude and pushy, or the dog is initiating a conversation with you. Personally, I prefer the second point of view: when Billy Blue tap-dances around the kitchen and whines plaintively as the lunch hour approaches, Scooby-Doo barks to alert me (and to get himself in on the deal).

I appreciate the dialogue, as well as my ability to shut it off fairly quickly by sending them to their beds if it’s a false alarm and lunch won’t be served for another hour. When friends come to visit and we get into animated conversations with raised voices and laughter, Scooby has a whole range of throaty yips and barks that he uses to insert himself into the social festivities.

I used to get annoyed and reprimand him, until I responded by talking to him and including him verbally—at which point he stopped barking. So I discovered that what he wanted was verbal interaction, the same as I was having with people—it was “me too-ism.”

So I ask friends who visit to just say a few words to the dog: no need to pat or give him anything, just make eye contact and speak directly to him (which has actually expanded his repertoire of barking sounds). After they do, he settles down.

Ways to handle dog barking

The 5th step to answer the question how to stop a dog from barking is handling dog barking problem with different ways. The raising your voice only stimulates him to bark more and louder. We have all screamed “SHUUT UPPPP!” at our dog(s) who are barking hysterically at the door—we’re not proud of it, and it didn’t stop their noise. If you yell at a barking dog, he thinks you are joining in, so what you get is even more vigorous barking.

(A)Teach Your Dog to Bark

If you have a noisy dog who just naturally loves to bark, one way to channel this energy is to teach him to bark on command. By teaching barking, you take charge of a situation that has been out of your control and redirect the dog’s attention to you. The bonus is that once you have taught a bark command, you can use it as a safety measure if you want the dog to bark to deter possible intruders.

What you want to do is encourage your dog to bark so that you can give him a signal and teach him to bark on command—then you’ll practice stopping him. Set up a situation that usually makes the dog bark—a ringing doorbell, a car pulling up in front of your house—and as soon as he barks, use a hand signal with two fingers going up and down against the thumb (as if to mimic talking) and praise him with “Bark! Good boy, bark!” Set up the bark-inducing situation again and use the “bark” hand signal as soon as he starts to vocalize. Praise and reward him.

Training a dog to stop barking usually is quite simple. Acknowledge the dog’s voice by saying “Okay” or even “Thank you” as you go to the dog. That is enough time for him to have gotten a few good barks out. Now place your hand on top of his nose and tell him “Enough” or “Quiet” (in a deep, firm tone of voice).

The moment the dog stops barking, give him immediate and festive praise and possibly a treat. Now, every time he barks, allow him a handful of barks, tell him “Quiet” or “Enough” in a firm but pleasant voice and give him a reward the moment he stops.

(B) Handling a dog who is left alone.

1- Tire Out the Dog Beforehand: Before anything else, try increasing how much time or how vigorously your dog plays or exercises—a tired dog is generally a quiet one.

2- Leave without Drama: When you leave and come back, put no emotion into either. Just walk out. Then just walk back in. No big greeting. If he is crated, release him from the crate as though it’s no big deal.

3- Use a Crate to Desensitize the Dog: Prepare the dog to be left by putting him in his crate with a piece of your worn clothing for comfort. Turn on the television to something pleasant and chatty (many books say turn on a radio, but a TV has a nice realistic mixture of voices, songs and sounds).

4- Leave the Dog for Five Minutes at First: Try another left-alone session later. Keep increasing the amount of time you’re gone until it’s at least an hour. After a while you can practice the left-alone routine without the crate. If she has no destructive drive, then she can be loose in the house while waiting for you to return. The best thing you can do for a dog is to teach her how to tolerate being alone, little by little.

5- If the Dog Does Not Bark When You Leave: Give her a treat as soon as you return. If the dog barks when you leave but stops when you say “Quiet—that’s enough,” give her two treats!

6- Neighbors Complain the Dog Barks When You’re Out: If your dog doesn’t bark right when you leave and you don’t hear it, then you can’t correct the problem—you can’t reward the quiet. To find out what’s really going on, you can start a tape recorder when you go out—or any kind of video camera that could be left on remote and show you how your dog behaves when you are gone.

(C) Handling a dog who is barking at nosies

When your dog barks, praise him and then call him to you. Now tell him “Quiet” in a firm soft voice—then ask for a “sit” or a “down.” It’s important for success if you give him something else to do instead of barking, such as lying down or sitting.

If he barks again, tell him “Quiet” in the same firm, soft voice. The moment that he stops barking—if only for an instant—praise him and give him a treat as quickly as you can so it is clear you’re rewarding the quiet—not the barking.

Barking at the Doorbell

The doorbell is just another sound the dog is reacting to, so the rules above apply here, too. There is added excitement for the dog in this situation, because a new person is usually on the other side of that doorbell sound.

The sound of the doorbell can be startling to a dog so you need to react quickly—because the dog will! Be prepared to call the dog, praise him for barking, then say “Quiet.” Praise him/treat him once he stops barking, then have him sit. If he starts barking again, say “Quiet”—always in a calm firm voice— then “Down.”

Always praise the very minute he’s quiet. Give him a treat for quieting when you are first teaching, then affectionate praise later, once he’s learned what you wanted.

Barking while running back and forth along a fence

This problem usually occurs if you have a dog that is outside much of the time or has a dog door that allows him to exit whenever he wants.

These dogs have an even greater territorial defense mechanism than dogs that are inside most of the time or do most of their walking on a leash or off your property. This can become a nightmarish neighbor problem—the kind that has otherwise sane people fuming.

The problem will be worse if there is a fence separating your property from your neighbors, you have more than one dog yourself (pack mentality) and especially if those neighbors have a dog or are outside playing or gardening . . . or they have children who run and scream when playing . . . or they have machinery such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers running . . . or they entertain outside with music and groups of people.

In these cases, you can EXPECT your dog to run back and forth along that fence every time, barking his head off. The dog is doing what comes naturally and makes total “dog sense”: he is protecting his territory against possible interlopers.

You Have Several Choices to Deal with the Situation.

  1. When you won’t be home, bring the dog indoors and close off any dog door.
  2. If you know your neighbors’ schedule, then take the dog inside while they are out there, or take him inside at the first warning bark from him. This means that you must be home, must be listening and must act quickly, because as with any dog behavior, the more the dog practices it, the more ingrained it becomes. And as with any of us, once something has become a habit, it’s that much tougher to change.
  3. Introduce your dog to everyone in the neighbor’s family so that these people are no longer strangers to your dog. Generally a dog barks to alert you to a stranger: so turn them into friends. Tell them your dog’s name so that when he begins barking at them they can call out his name (you’ll want to see his expression when these apparently dangerous humans suddenly know his name!). This may quiet him right down. Give some treats to the neighbors so they can feed the dog through the fence.
  4. Neighbors will have every right to be miffed at the cacophony coming from your side of the fence. Do not delude yourself that your dog will soon stop because he’ll get bored or tired, or because he’ll realize there’s no reason for his high-alert alarm. He’s going to keep at it unless you stop him.

Anti-barking equipment

The 6th step to answer the question how to stop a dog from barking is using anti-barking equipment which include:

1- Passive Punishing Collars

There are a series of passive collars (requiring no involvement from you) that do something aversive when a dog barks. The reason these are effective is because it takes the person out of the equation. Instead of you being involved, the dog gets an immediate nonhuman reaction to his barking.

There is a collar that squirts citronella spray into a dog’s face when he barks. This was thought to be a more humane barking correction, except that since citronella spray collars are triggered by a microphone, other noises than barking can set it off and spray the dog when he is not barking.

Some trainers are opposed to anti-bark collars that give a mild shock; however, they are actually the most reliable way of correcting a “rehearsed barker” (a dog who automatically goes into bark mode and carries on for long stretches).

The shock collars are vibration-sensored; a high-quality product like the ones from Tritronics can even tell you the number of times the dog barked when you were gone. There is another collar that emits a high- pitched sound when the dog barks, a sound that irritates dogs’ sensitive ears.

2-Shock Punishment That You Give

When the dog starts barking, give the “quiet” command you’ve chosen to stop the barking (“enough” or “quiet”). Say the word calmly and low. If the pup doesn’t zip it immediately, keep the lemon water squirt bottle as hidden as you can and give him a quick squirt on the head—try to keep him from seeing that it’s you who’s creating the shock-squirt.

You can also do the squirt-bottle without the stinging lemon, which may be all that’s required to get your point across, anyway.

Debarking — A drastic measure

The 7th step to answer the question how to stop a dog from barking is debarking which is major surgery, under anesthesia, in which the vocal cords are altered.

The dog will still be able to bark, but the sound will be greatly diminished. The bark winds up sounding like a bark with laryngitis, or a very sore throat. There is no way to determine what the actual volume or tone of the altered vocal chords will be, since it will vary for each dog.

Having your dog debarked surgically is sort of the “Ultimate Solution”: it sounds pretty drastic, and it certainly is. You should consider this option only as a last resort with a dog that barks so incessantly that it gives you and/or your neighbors no peace, and no trainer has been able to improve the situation.

The only possible defense for debarking might be the rare situation in which a dog’s bark is so awful and incessant that it is his death sentence: he would have to be put to sleep without this intervention.

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Before answering the how to stop a dog from barking, you should know everything about the barking that is a dog’s way of communicating, reasons for dog barking, Tips to stop dog barking, Different types of barking, Ways to handle dog barking, Anti-barking equipment, and Debarking measure.
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