How Do You Stop a Dog from Barking?

Is it possible to reduce your dog’s barking?

It's a common problem for people, and it's a big reason that many dogs get surrendered to shelters every year. Barking. Maybe your dog barks wildly when you aren't home, and the neighbors get upset. Perhaps your dog barks incessantly at noises or won't stop barking when someone new comes into your home. It could be that your precious canine buddy loves to sit by the window and bark at passersby or squirrels all day.

Whatever the barking problem, one thing's probably true: you're at your wits' end trying to make it stop. In fact, it seems like the more you yell at, plead with, and try to convince your dog to stop barking, the more she does it. Is it even possible to train a dog to bark less?

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Barking is a way of communicating for dogs, just like speaking is for you. There are many things that dogs may be trying to communicate to others when they bark. Some of these include:

These are some of the main reasons that dogs bark, and trying to figure out which of them is causing your dog's problem barking can be helpful in managing or stopping it.

How to Handle Problem Barking

First, if your dog has suddenly developed a new barking habit, especially if she is older or is exhibiting any concurrent signs of illness, visit your veterinarian. Ruling out a medical problem or treating one before you start behavioral training will make your life a lot easier.

If your dog gets a clean bill of health, there are some basic behavior modification techniques that you may consider to help your dog bark less. Positive reinforcement is important, as is showing your dog what you want her to do instead of barking. Below are some basic guidelines and ideas for training your dog not to bark.

If your dog's barking problem is caused by things that are hard to control and you are in a situation such as an apartment building, where you need to modify your dog's behavior fast, try distracting your dog immediately when she starts barking at something such as a sudden noise in the hallway. This also works well for dogs that bark at things they see outside.

When your dog starts barking, do something to distract her such as toss a ball past her or get her attention with a favorite toy.

Reward and praise your dog when she stops barking to chase the ball or play with the toy. This teaches your dog that it's not as fun to bark at the trigger as it is to pay attention to what's going on in the home.

Again, don't react to the barking by punishing your dog or getting excited; this will probably just reinforce the behavior.

Teach Your Dog the "Quiet" Command

A technique that can be quite helpful when you are dealing with a problem barker is the "Quiet" command. This is a direct way of telling your dog that you want her to stop barking. In order to teach this command, your dog must first know the "Speak" command. Once she knows that, you can teach her the "Quiet" command in the following way:

What If the Problem Occurs While I'm Gone?

Many of you may be saying, at this point, "But my dog barks while I'm gone. It's driving the neighbors crazy, and I don't know how to desensitize her to this." Well, you certainly aren't alone. Many dogs bark, whine, or cry while their owners are away. Some may have separation anxiety; others may just be barking at noises or "intruders," feeling that they must protect the house while their humans are gone.

If the problem is noises or territorialism, the desensitization techniques above can still help, even though the behavior mostly happens while you're gone. Playing a soothing classical CD can help, too, as well as closing blinds or limiting access to areas of the house where your dog tends to look out the window and bark at "intruders." If your dog is crate trained, keeping her in her crate while you're gone can help her feel more secure, like she doesn't have to be "on duty" until you return.

If the problem is separation anxiety, you will need to work on that specifically. If along with barking, your dog tears up carpeting or doorframes or vomits, urinates, or defecates in the house while you're gone, you may be dealing with this common canine condition. Learn more about how to spot separation anxiety and specific behavior modification techniques for it here: "Separation Anxiety in Dogs."

General Tips for Dogs That Bark

Always make sure that your dog is getting enough exercise if her health allows for it. A tired dog won't be as apt to bark at things as a fully energized one. Exercise can also reduce stress and anxiety and, therefore, any barking that is related to them.

A soothing classical CD can help dogs that bark at outside noises while you're gone. It can drown out some of the noise and also relax her. Such a CD can also help dogs with separation anxiety and so can a DVD like one of these or a channel for dogs, such as DogTV. Learn more here: "DogTV: A Great Way to Help Dogs That Are Home Alone All Day."

A Word About Debarking

Debarking is a procedure in which parts of a dog's vocal cords are surgically removed, rendering her bark much softer. There are risks involved with this procedure, including a very big possibility that it will fail to work; many dogs regain their full volume months after the surgery. Scar formation in the area can affect a dog's breathing and exercise tolerance long-term. This method also does not address the cause of the barking, whether it is anxiety, territorialism, or excitement. Debarking should not be used as a method to control problem barking in dogs.

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