Here’s a list of six techniques that can help reduce your dog or puppy’s barking. While all can be successful, you shouldn’t expect miraculous results overnight and what might work for your pup may not work for another. The longer your dog has been practicing the barking behavior, the longer it will take for them to develop other means of communication or to become desensitized to the things that cause their barking now. Understanding why your dog barks is critical to choosing techniques that may work best for your particular situation.
Always remember to keep these tips in mind while training:
- Yelling at your dog to be quiet won’t reduce their barking. The goal is to identify why your dog is barking and then give them an alternative way to communicate or remove the stimulus that’s causing them to bark.
- Keep your training sessions positive and upbeat. Barking is a completely normal part of your dog’s communication tools.
- Be consistent so you don’t confuse your dog. Having everyone in your home on the same page can lead to faster results.
Prevention is key
Whether you’ve just adopted a new adult dog or it’s your first week with a new puppy, keeping your dog busy and exercised will help reduce barking and prevent them from practicing it. Notice what your dog or puppy barks at and use the tips below to reduce the frequency of barking. Barking is normal dog behavior and puppies won’t grow out of it, but you can take positive steps to reduce it and teach your dog alternative ways to communicate. Barking can be a really important tool to learn what scares your dog or makes them uncomfortable. Remember, your job as a pet parent is to advocate for your dog, which means not putting them in situations that make them overly stressed. If your dog is barking incessantly, they’re trying to tell you they have an unmet need or need to be removed from a scary or overwhelming situation.
Remove the motivation to bark
Your dog gets some kind of reward when they bark. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. Figure out what they get out of barking and work to remove it.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR DOG BARKS AT PASSERSBY
If they bark at people or animals passing by the living room window, manage the behavior by closing the curtains or putting your dog in another room.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THEY BARK TO GO OUTSIDE
If your dog barks when they need to go outside, train them to jingle a bell at the door instead. You can start by bringing them to the bell and giving them a treat when they touch it. Gradually, have them ring the bell before they go out to go to the bathroom.
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Ignore the barking
If you believe your dog is barking simply to get your attention, try to ignore them. Regular exercise and the use of puzzle toys can keep your dog occupied during a work call or when you’re watching TV. Preventing your dog from barking in the first place — by tiring them out or giving them something to do — is easier than trying to get them to stop barking.
WHEN YOUR DOG BARKS WHEN CONFINED
- If you use a crate or a gated room when you leave the home or have visitors over, be mindful not to let them out of the room or crate when they’re barking. Again, the use of puzzle toys and ample exercise before they are confined can really curb their barking. If they are barking, wait until they’ve stopped — even for a second — to open the crate door or gate or to reward them with a treat or fresh puzzle toy.
- As they catch on that being quiet gets them a treat, lengthen the amount of time they must remain quiet before being rewarded.
- Keep it fun by varying the amount of time. Sometimes reward them after five seconds, then 12 seconds, then three seconds, then 20 seconds and so on.
Desensitize your dog to the stimulus
If your dog barks at specific triggers, gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing them to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes them bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that they don’t bark when they see it. Feed them lots of good treats for maintaining eye contact with you and not barking. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If your dog starts barking, you ‘ve gotten too close to the stimulus.
Don ‘t be stingy with treats. For example, if you need to pass by another dog on your dog walk, keep some high-value treats in your hand and feed them constantly as you walk quickly by the other dog and then stop once there is enough distance between your dog and the other dog.
WHEN YOUR DOG BARKS AT OTHER DOGS
- Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight or far enough away so your dog won’t bark at the other dog.
- As your friend and their dog come into view, start feeding your dog treats.
- Stop feeding treats as soon as your friend and their dog disappear from view.
- Repeat the process multiple times.
- Remember not to try to progress too quickly as it may take days or weeks before your dog can pay attention to you and the treats without barking at the other dog.
- If you are struggling with your dog ‘s barking around strangers or other dogs, seek out the help of a positive-reinforcement based dog trainer.
Ask your dog for an incompatible behavior
When your dog starts barking, ask them to do something that’s incompatible with barking. Teaching your dog to react to barking stimuli with something that inhibits them from barking, such as lying down on their bed.
WHEN YOUR DOG BARKS AT VISITORS AT THE DOOR
- Toss a treat on their bed and ask them to “go to your bed.”
- When they’re reliably going to their bed to earn a treat, up the ante by opening the door while they’re on their bed. If they get up, close the door immediately.
- Repeat until they stay in bed while the door opens.
- Then increase the difficulty by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is in bed. Reward them for staying in place. You may need to keep a leash on your dog so you can help guide them to their bed when visitors come in.
Keep your dog tired
Make sure your dog is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is a dog who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration. Depending on their, age and health, your dog may require several long walks as well as a good game of chasing the ball and playing with some interactive toys.
Contact a certified professional dog trainer
If you believe your dog is barking reactively to strangers, family members or other dogs, or if the above tips prove unsuccessful, consider reaching out to a certified professional dog trainer for help.