How to Stop a Dog From Barking

Let’s be honest. A dog barking all the time will drive anyone crazy, and that includes neighbors. But there is something in that barking. No dog barks for the sake of barking. There is always a reason behind barking. The problem is when excessive barking goes out of control, some owners become frustrated. But the time to figure it out and find a solution should come before frustration sets in.

Today, we will look at some reasons behind barking, how you can reduce it, and everything in between.

Barking is a Form of Communication

Before we look at the tips and tricks to reduce barking, we have to understand it. For dogs, barking is a form of communication. There are many reasons for barking, yet the four most common ones are:

  1. Territorial barking to protect their territory, no matter if it is space or people
  2. Playful barking, used to invite other animals or people to play with them
  3. Alert barking, for example, when the doorbell rings
  4. Attention-seeking barking, often turning into excessive barking, when canines want to get our attention

We also must rule out barking due to hunger, pain, injury, or the need to go outside for a bathroom break. Dogs can express their needs by barking, and sometimes, they use it to say they are hungry, or they need to make a trip to the restroom.

Why Dogs Never Get Tired of Barking

Continued barking is an overwhelming obstacle for any pet parent. If you cannot figure out what is causing it, do not put your hopes on your dog stopping it. Dogs do not get tired of barking. For canines, barking is a form of communication. But more importantly, it can turn into a self-reinforcing behavior.

Barking is genetically wired in dogs to be naturally reinforcing. Let’s try and explain that. The simple act of barking feels good for your pooch.

While we reward most good behaviors to increase frequency, barking is self-reinforcing. Here is an example. When a dog sits, we reward them with treats to tell him that is good. And your dog sits because he knows good things are coming. That is a common example of positive reinforcement training.

Yet, self-reinforcing behaviors work differently. Barking is one such behavior. The act itself makes your dog want to bark again and again. Let me try to explain it more. Chasing is another self-reinforcing behavior. Your dog might chase a squirrel, even though he knows he might never catch him. But the act of chasing makes him feel good.

Some dog breeds are even more prone to barking. For example, all terrier breeds were bred to bark and chase vermin. Yorkshire terriers, currently one of the most beloved and cute puppies, are notorious barkers. Chihuahuas as well. But Yorkies were bred to chase vermin on farms and bark to flush them out.

Barking, chewing, and chasing, are all self-reinforcing behaviors. It is important to understand the reason behind it to prevent it.

How to Prevent Barking

Let’s look at a couple of things you can do as a dog owner to prevent barking. There are a couple of ways to address it.

Training for Quiet Time

Always reward quiet time, even when you haven’t told your dog to be quiet. One of the big mistakes owners make is they react only to bad behaviors. And they take normal, regular good behaviors for granted. Praise your dog for being quiet.

Teach your dog “speak” and “quiet” commands. Once you teach your dog to bark on a cue, you can teach him to stop barking. More on that later.

Redirect and reward is another option, but you should not practice it all the time. You cannot redirect all barks. The idea here is to distract your dog with a toy or a training session and reward calm behavior. But do not overdo it. Your dog might learn that barking leads to playing.

Provide Mental Stimulation

Puzzle toys work great and keep your dog’s mind active. They also lead to exhaustion and less energy to focus on barking.

Practice fun training, like learning new tricks that will tire your dog out, improve your bond, and prevent barking for no reason.

Interactive games like fetch also provide mental stimulation and make your dog feel happy and calm at home.

Physical Exercise

Daily walks will get those zoomies out and prevent your dog from barking due to boredom. Try to go hiking or running once per week. Daily walks are great, but your dog needs higher-intensity exercise once per week.

Managing the Environment

Block the triggers that can cause barking. For example, does your dog bark when people walk past the window? Simply shut the curtains and that will limit your dog’s vision.

Provide soothing sounds at home that will calm your dog and mask the distracting noises outside.

Practice desensitization, a way to reduce the trigger level of anything. The more you expose your dog to something, the lower the chances he will bark. Here is an example. Have ten friends ring the doorbell at 10-minute periods. Then they enter and give your dog treats. Your dog will bark only the first three to four times. Then, he will be excited for people coming in because he’s looking forward to receiving a treat.

Most importantly, create a safe space for your dog in the house. That can be a crate, his favorite bed, or anything else where your puppy can relax and stay away from triggers.

Mastering the Quiet Command

I said before that practicing “quiet” is the most important thing to reduce barking in dogs, right? Well, to teach the command, you should use the basic training sequence, which is request > lure > response > reward.

Request is always a verbal command, then you lure the dog, your dog responds to the lure/command, then you reward it with treats.

First, your dog needs to learn to “speak”. Here is the training sequence:

  1. Say the command “speak.”
  2. Lure your dog by using a trigger that will cause barking.
  3. Wait for your puppy to respond.
  4. Reward and praise

Now let’s look at how you can use the speak command to teach your furry friend to be quiet on cue. Here is the learning sequence:

  1. While your dog is barking, say the command “quiet.”
  2. Bring something to your dog’s nose. He will sniff it, and it is impossible to breathe, sniff, and bark at the same time.
  3. Your dog will start sniffing, this is the response, and stop barking.
  4. Praise with “good boy”, and reward with treats.

Gradually increase the time between steps 3 and 4. Let your dog sniff for a longer period before giving treats.

When to Call a Professional

When your dog has severe anxiety, it might be time to call in a specialized behaviorist or provide some medications. Consult with a veterinarian to assess the severity of anxiety. If your dog barks, is barking with growling, snapping, or other signs of aggression, it is time to get professional help.

Final Words

Some pet parents might reach for bark collars or citronella sprays. Those are quick fixes for barking, but they do not provide long-term solutions for proper behavior. They might work in some cases, but you want to address the underlying reason for barking, not cure the symptoms.

Before resorting to deterrents, focus on positive reinforcement, mental stimulation, physical activity, and looking into the reason for barking.

A happy dog is a quiet dog!

Aleksandar Mishkov is a dog enthusiast that has been living with dogs his entire life. He now shares his life with a six-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Milo. His website offers helpful tips on how to train and make sure they behave properly.

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