How to Train a Dog Not to Bark
An excessively vocal dog can cause a lot of trouble in your life, from frightening guests, to bothering neighbors, to keeping you up when you’re trying to get some sleep. Some dogs learn this behavior from being rewarded for it and others simply have it in their nature, but regardless of the reason why, it can be quite tricky to train it out of their behavior.
Fortunately, there are a number of different techniques that you can employ to reduce your dog’s barking if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. If you’ve got a very vocal pup that’s causing you undue stress, just read this comprehensive guide to stopping that pesky barking once and for all.
It covers everything from why dogs bark to what breeds tend to be the most vocal to all the most effective methods of discouraging excessively vocal behavior.
What Makes Your Dog Bark?
The first step to reducing your dogs barking is understanding what’s making them do it in the first place. There are actually a variety of reasons why your dog might feel inclined to become vocal at inappropriate times, and the most common among them are listed below.
Dogs are territorial by nature, and once they’ve determined a certain area to be their territory, they are generally inclined to become quite protective of it. Oftentimes their way of expressing those protective instincts is by barking loudly when they sense that someone is encroaching on their territory.
A territorial barker will become alert and potentially show signs of aggression when they are looking to protect what they perceive as theirs.
Sometimes barking is just your dog’s way of saying hello. Whether it’s to you and your family, a familiar guest, or another animal, they may speak up as a sign of acknowledgement. Usually, this type of barking comes along with a wagging tail and energetic behavior.
Showing Surprise or Fear
When your dog’s ears are pulled back and their tail is tucked between their legs, it’s a sign that they’re scared. Another sign of fear is noisy barking. When your pup is taken by surprise or they sense some sort of danger, they may be inclined to become quite vocal, which can be a good thing, unless their surprise or fear is unfounded and the barking has become excessive.
When They Are Bored or Left Alone Too Long
Dogs need companionship and exercise, and when those needs are not met, they may tell you by barking. Too much energy, not enough stimulation, and a lack of attention may be the root cause of your dog’s excessively vocal behavior.
Some dogs can also develop separation anxiety, resulting in a lot of barking and several other negative behaviors when they are left alone.
When They Need Something
Barking is your dog’s main means of communication, and so when they speak up, it may mean they have an unmet need. Maybe they have to go to the bathroom, maybe they want to play, or maybe they’re hoping for something to eat.
This can be quite useful for a dog owner, but some dogs can start barking far too much once they’ve been rewarded for it too many times over.
The Best Techniques for Training Your Dog to Stop Barking
Now that you know what might be causing your dog’s barking, you’ve probably got a better idea of how you might be able to get them to stop. To help you do that, check out this list of the most effective bark-stopping techniques.
This technique sounds simple, yet incredibly difficult at the same time. Pretending your dog isn’t making an awful racket requires a bit of Zen-like patience, but it may be the key to getting them to stop their excessive barking.
This is because acknowledging your dog in any way when they’re barking is perceived as a form of reward. Removing that reward from them is likely to result in them no longer seeking it by making noise.
It’s important to note that ignoring the barking doesn’t just mean not petting them or speaking to them when they bark. It means avoiding contact or acknowledgment entirely. Even looking at them may be enough to encourage the behavior, so leave them be while they’re making noise, but be ready with a treat to reward them once they’re finally quiet again.
To further encourage them to stay quiet, slowly increase the amount of time they must stay quiet before receiving a treat.
Give Them Plenty of Exercise
Dogs require a ton of mental stimulation, and they have all kinds of energy that they need to get out on a daily basis. This is especially true of certain breeds that are extra energetic. If you want to keep them from barking up a storm, your best bet may be to wear them out as much as you can, as often as you can.
Take them on daily walks, play with them, and allow them to play with other dogs, provided they know how to play nice.
Don’t Reward Them for Barking
There are various things you might be doing that are actually encouraging your dog’s barking, and you may not even know it. Rewards are not necessarily treats for pets. They can be something as small as acknowledging the barking or making eye contact when they’re trying to bark for your attention.
Whatever the “reward” may be, finding out what’s encouraging the barking and removing it from the equation should result in them becoming a lot quieter.
Get Them Accustomed to the Stimulus
If there is a specific thing that tends to inspire your dog to become excessively noisy, you can work to discourage the behavior by helping them become more accustomed to it. For instance, if they tend to bark at strangers, you can acclimate them to meeting people or animals they don’t know by slowly introducing them to a new friend while rewarding calm behavior.
Start by keeping their new friend at a distance at which your dog doesn't bark at them and then have them move incrementally closer, making sure to give your dog treats as long as they remain calm. Then, have their new friend back up or step out of your dog’s view and stop giving them treats.
Repeat this process until your dog can greet the stranger up close and personal without barking. This technique takes time and should not be rushed, but it can be highly effective if executed properly.
Distract Them with a Toy
This technique can be beneficial for dogs that bark for attention or dogs with separation anxiety. The concept is relatively simple: your dog won’t have time to bark if they’re busy doing something else.
Giving them a durable rubber chew toy, particularly one that dispenses treats, can provide them with something to do and help to calm their nerves, which means they won’t find the need to do any barking.
Consider a Bark Collar
Sometimes no manner of training seems to do the trick, which leaves many dog owners feeling frustrated and hopeless.
If this is the case with you and your dog, you may want to consider using a bark collar. These products are specifically designed to discourage barking behavior, and they are proven effective for dogs of all shapes and sizes.
Traditional bark collars elicit an electrical shock to deter your dog from barking, but that can be painful, and many dog owners consider it too cruel to use on their pup. Fortunately, there are alternatives to this method. For a good example, take a look at the Pet Pawsabilities™ No Shock Bark Collar.
This bark collar uses only sound and vibration to discourage your dog’s barking, making it the far more humane option when compared to shock collars. You just put it on your dog, and it emits a beeping sound whenever they bark. If the barking doesn’t cease, it will begin to vibrate as well. This method is totally harmless, and dogs stop barking after the very first beep 95% of the time.
Dog Breeds That Are Known to Bark Excessively
When it comes to barking, not all dogs are created equal. Certain breeds tend to be very vocal, some because they’ve been specifically bred for it and others because it’s simply in their nature. Below are some of the dogs that are known barkers.
- Fox Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
If you’re looking to bring a new pup home to your family, and excessive barking is a deal-breaker, you may want to avoid any of these breeds. However, if you’re willing to do the necessary training to keep your pup calm and quiet, then get the breed that you love the most and simply refer to this guide.
Dog Breeds That Don’t Tend to Bark
Several dog breeds tend to keep quiet, too. This is excellent news if you like a calm and peaceful household, but it’s not necessarily a good thing if you depend on your pup to stand guard and alert you of danger. Below are some of the least noisy dog breeds.
- Golden Retriever
- Saint Bernard
- Great Dane
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Certain breeds may not bark a lot, but they do tend to make other kinds of noises. Huskies and Shiba Inus, for instance, like to howl rather than bark. This form of vocalization can be a bit of a headache, too, but it’s nothing that the techniques on this list can help you to curb.