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Dogs that bark excessively cause big problems for their owners and in some cases drastic measures such as debarking (surgically removing a dog’s vocal chords), are taken. The idea of debarking is appalling to most people, but the surgery is performed more than veterinarians would like to admit, especially in the United States.

The modern dog tends to lead a relatively un-stimulating life in the domestic home with nothing more to do than eat two meals, sleep on the couch and go for the occasional walk. Dogs that were specifically bred to work can find domestic life boring, and in most cases barking relieves that boredom.

Even though dogs bark for many reasons including excitement, anxiety, for attention or to sound the alarm, the best prescription for any barking issue, whatever the cause, is usually increased exercise and mental stimulation which helps refocus a dog’s mind and tire her out, therefore reducing the need to bark.

Types of Barking

The first step towards addressing your dog's barking problem is to make certain that it is actually a problem. In some cases, our fuses as owners might be set a bit too short and we might wrongly assume that the persistent canine chatter we find so frustrating is actually a relatively standard rate of barking. For example, it's normal for dogs to bark a bit when the doorbell rings or when someone comes to the door, but if left unchecked, sometimes it can get out of control. If you're sure that the barking is indeed excessive, the next step is to identify why the dog is barking and recognize what type of barking you're dealing with. There are several different types of barking issues.

Barking for Attention

  • If your dog is barking at you for attention or because she wants something, ignore her until she stops.
  • This might be hard in the beginning, as she might bark longer and harder in an attempt to get your attention, but be patient.
  • Wait for 5 seconds of quiet and then reward that quiet with attention. Repeat this as necessary.
  • Your dog will learn that barking gets her nothing but quiet gets her the attention she desires.

The Excitable Bark
Dogs bark with excitement just as people like to vocalize in exciting situations. This barking normally occurs before going for a walk or being fed, which can be hard to work with because people usually have a fixed pattern of pre-departure and pre-feeding cues, which are highly ritualized. Dogs pick up on these cues and bark in excitement for what is about to come.

  • The first thing to do is to change your cues as much as you can and stop what you are doing when the barking starts.
  • If your dog barks when you go to get her leash, for example, put the leash back where it was and sit down.
  • If you manage to successfully attach the leash when she is quiet and the barking starts again as she goes outside, immediately came back in and wait for quiet before going out again.
  • This technique requires patience, but diligence will pay off as your dog learns that being quiet is the only way she gets to go on a walk or be fed.
  • All of these training techniques require no verbal communication with your dog whatsoever.
  • In situations like these, body language speaks volumes and as dogs are so good at watching our every movement, it is a language they quickly understand.

Anxiety Barking
Some dogs do not do well by themselves and suffer anxiety upon separation. Often, these dogs will bark out of anxiety, and need to be treated with specific behavior modification protocols.

  • Vocalizing this distress is a way of easing that anxiety as well as a way of trying to re-establish contact.
  • Separation anxiety can be a hard behavior to modify and time is needed for success.
  • If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you need to enlist the help of a qualified positive reinforcement trainer to help you with a modification plan.

How Can I Stop My Dog From Barking So Much?
The Best Prescription – Exercise and Enrichment! Each dog needs an outlet that is specifically designed to motivate them and serve their particular needs.

  • Find an activity or sport that your dog really enjoys doing, taking into account what your dog’s breed or mix of breeds is.
  • Enrich your dog’s life inside the home by hiding her toys or food around the house and encouraging her to seek them out using her canine senses to find them.
  • Instead of feeding your dog from a bowl for every meal, try feeding her through activity toys at meal times instead so that she has to work to find and eat her food.
  • Working for meals will stimulate your dog’s brain and help tire her out.

Can I Tell My Dog To Stop Barking?
Do not make the mistake of shouting at a barking dog as this can encourage the behavior even more - your dog might even think you are joining in with her! Instead you can teach a barking dog to stop barking by teaching her to bark.

  • When your dog is in the act of barking give her plenty of praise and use a verbal cue such as 'bark' along with a hand signal that she can associate with barking, to encourage her to bark more.
  • When she understands what the barking signal means begin to use the signal and vocal cue to encourage her to bark.
  • Whenever she stops barking on her own give her even more praise and a vocal cue such as 'quiet' along with a hand signal that she learns to associate with being quiet.
  • Continue to build up the quiet cue and signal any time she stops barking of her own accord. Give her plenty of praise.
  • When both cues and signals are strong you can use them to encourage barking on cue and stop barking on cue. Being able to stop barking on cue is a powerful training technique to discourage barking behavior.

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27 thoughts on “Barking

  1. Ashley Shea

    I think my puppy is barking out of anxiety, but not separation anxiety. When I let her out in the back yard, if she sees a dog a few houses over, she runs around in circles barking and the hair goes up on the back of her neck. She will do this at night, too, when it is very dark out. But, if I take her outside on a leash, she's quiet....sometimes a couple of woods, but nothing crazy.

    How can I help relieve her anxiety about other animals?

  2. Ciara Powell

    I have a male 3-year-old tan pomeranian. When I am walking out the door to go somewhere or just coming back home I always have a problems with my dog barking and it doesn't matter if I come in on my own or someone else comes in it's just constant barking and I want it to stop. I am living with my aunt and about to move into an apartment and I know his barking is going to be disturbing for the neighbors.

  3. Vince Fleming

    It sounds to me like he's barking for attention. Have you tried the above suggestion of ignoring him until he stops? If he wants your attention and barking gets it, then he'll repeat the behavior that works (barking).

  4. Alanna Garman

    I have a 4 year odl PomChi and live in an apartment, my neighbors door tends to stick and everytime she goes in or out my dog sounds the alarm and runs to the door to bark. On one hand I can't blame him because with the sticking door and the direct contact with the wall my door is on I can see he would think it's our door. However, I want to get him to stop when I tell him. He knows the word "enough" he'll even look at me and give a soft woof, then goes back to barking. Almost like he's saying I heard you but I'm choosing to ignore you. I don't want to yell as the above article says it's probably encouraging him (so yeah I need to stop that), and I'm afraid if I bust out the treats he'll think he's getting rewarded for the barking behavior and that's not the case either. If I try to keep treats with me at all times, he'd be begging for them as he'll smell them a mile away and he's a total treat hound. I've tried distraction and toys and even going between him and the door and using "enough". Telling him "it's a friend" sometimes works. But the rattling wall and door just put him right back to it. I thought about barking collars with the citronella spray but that seems like a negative reinforcement to me and I don't want to do that either. Sigh. Suggestions?

  5. Samantha Lancaster

    My dog barks at the TV.. Mop.. Hoover...door bell... Guests arriving... When I go out.
    . Children when they come home from school... Anything and everything I had a behaviourst come out nut she was not much help... My dog is a chihuahua x fox terrier can u help

  6. Janet

    Our 9 month old Retriever has recently become very unsettled since spending a few days in kennels. She is barking constantly when we leave the house and particularly at bedtime. It doesn't stop!!

  7. Jules4Nicky

    I thought dogs were specifically chosen for this trait to act as guard dogs. Is punishing them for what they were bred to do such a really good idea?

  8. Sari

    my dog barks at guests only when they go up and down our stairs. we have 6 steps from our entry way up to our living room area. the bark sounds territorial or fearful. have tried taking her out of the room until the guests are seated but she continues the behavior as soon as they are back on the stairs

  9. stephanie

    my dog a new rescue, I've only had her a few months and almost always take her and my other dog with me to run errands. she has been fine until now, the weather is warming up and people are out and about now she is barking at them and just going wild in the car. I don't want to leave her home, how can I train her to be calm in the car? she was fine all winter

  10. Kelsey Stanford

    My issue is that my German Shepherd is protective of me and the house, especially when my husband isn't home. Our next-door neighbors constantly have people over, and people who the dog does not know. Therefore, it's a constant stream of "Hey, you, you there, I see you!" and "Hey, there's someone near the house!!"

    it doesn't help that the neighbors don't do anything to discourage their children from teasing the dog through the fence. I've tried speaking to them, but it's an unfortunate case of Kid > Dog. And introducing the dog to everyone isn't feasible as I've counted as many as 30 new people some weeks. (they aren't dealers or anything, but they've been doing renovations to the house as well as having barbeques with different friends)

    Any suggestions how I can ease my dog's anxiety over the neighbors get-togethers? Poor thing stresses to the point where there are some days we can't let him in the backyard because he gets so wound up. (even after hours of exersize)

  11. Kelsey Stanford

    punishing is a strong word for it. There's being protective of the family, and then there's getting so worked up over proximity that it negatively impacts their life. I appreciate the dog alerting me to people coming near the house, but the behavior doesn't need to continue after I acknowledge the alert.

  12. Caroline Horne

    I have two yorkshire terriers and the female has her tail wagging when she is with other dogs and then might give a little growl, she does this at home with Louie, I was wondering if it was something to worry about? As we will be having a puppy stay with us for long weekend and wouldint want anything to happen. Any advice please.

  13. Helen Rodger

    My dog barks only at people passing the gate and at foxes and cats. How can I help him to stop this?

  14. Hype Unot

    My two year old sterilised Shiba Inu recently started barking at other dogs. He likes to meet other dogs but would bark right into their faces (snouts?). He doesn't growl, just one or two (not continuous) bark.
    He recently gave a poor blind dog a rude shock. They were sniffing each other nose to nose. My dog then gave a loud bark and the other poor dog shrank in fear.
    Any thoughts on why he behaves this way and what I can do to change his behaviour?

  15. Jaci Z

    my dog barks out the window when the mail truck comes.. garbage truck and when I have tried walking on a trail near traffic she goes crazy. She was raised on 9 acres with no cars or trucks to deal with. How do I break her of this?

  16. Belinda Blackmore

    I can't find the episode with the Maltese Terriers who were barking when someone knocked on their apartment door (and when they came inside.) The dogs' mum ran a Doggy Day Care in NYC. I'd really like to show it to my Dad, whose Standard Poodle, Buzz barks excessively when someone walks past the door and continues once the person comes in. He responds really quickly to positive training methods, so I can guarantee that if Dad watches that episode, he can soon train Buzz to be more chill about the front door. That way Buzz can hang out downstairs in the home office with Dad all day instead of being locked upstairs with boring Mum every time visitors are expected.

  17. Liane Laskoske

    Mine barks at the ice dropping in the fridge ice-maker, trucks going past outside, my sneezing, our other dog farting, someone at the door, someone across the street, someone walking under the underpass half a block away, insects outside, fire engines, mailman at the door, mailman across the street, the neighbor, the neighbor's dog, the wind, the rain, ..... training hasn't worked, vibration bark collars didn't work (he liked the massage, and broke it from it going off so much), rewards haven't worked, walking hasn't worked (he barks if we walk our other dog ahead of him, and he barks at people, dogs, cars, and trucks). I'm really, really tired of it.

  18. Kate Eckley

    My rescued 7.5-lb 7-year-old spayed Yorkie-Chi-?? mix barks when I'm gone, whether it's for 15 minutes or, on rare occasion, 8 hours. The neighbors are complaining. I've tried everything: behavior modification training, Thundershirt, DAP collar, dog-calming music, Rescue Remedy, herbal calming remedies, more exercise, hiding treats, leaving bully sticks, and finally, last week, diazapam, both singly and in myriad combinations. Nothing works for more than a few hours or perhaps a couple of days, then she's back at it. I don't know if it's truly separation anxiety as neither she nor my other dog have any other behaviors associated with it. I'm considering a citronella collar—but I hate negative reinforcement and the collars are so big and she's so little. I've also talked to my vet about putting her on Prozac, but I'm home most of the time so it's not a problem, and I hate drugging her all the time for a less-than 1/4-time issue. Of course, I'll not consider shock collars or debarking (my other rescue was debarked before I got him and it's just awful). I'm at my wits' end and am becoming the pariah of the neighborhood. I'd appreciate hearing about any ideas I haven't thought of. Annie, my neighbors and I thank you.

  19. patticardinal

    Maybe try having treats in your hand when you say "enough" and when he pauses treat him right away. And praise and distract him for a couple of minutes until the neighbor's door is quiet.
    Reward the "enough" behavior consistently and you should be able to change the long barking into a short alert bark.
    You will have to be quick and near enough at first to get the treat to him when he looks at you after the command "enough". After a few times he will wait longer, expecting the treat. Then you can start saying it from across the room and expect him to come to you for the treat and praise. Then phase out the treat but don't forget to praise him if he responds to "enough".

  20. patticardinal

    I have four small dogs. Most of the time they just bark in response to someone at the door or a deer in the yard. It has taken work.
    But one, a Pom-Maltese mix, seems to just like to bark. She is pretty much the same as the other dogs in the house, but outside she will sit at the front gate (the spot nearest our only neighbor) and bark incessantly. We can be in the yard doing things, actually playing with the dogs and she will go off and start barking by herself. She is too small for any bark collar I've seen. I once tried a sound device that sat near the gate, but after a couple of times being startled, she ignored it.
    I am considering the bark quieting surgery. Then she could bark as much as she wanted, I wouldn't be correcting her all the time, and my neighbor would be happier.

  21. Tammy Long

    I agree. My chihuahua only goes berserk when I'm around and someone comes to to door... I have a business where people drop off payments to me a few times a day.. She was even born at the house and should be use to this. If they come in and sit down, she calms down, but most are just dropping off their payments and leaving. My husband says she listens to him better when i'm not there... What can I do????

  22. Jadine

    Hello I have a boxer cross pug, she barks all the time I have tried everything! I have mad more than a few complaints from neighbors and I don't know what to do anymore. She barks every time I leave the room or my flat. She barks at every tiny noise even leaves blowing. She goes on 2-3 long walks a day. Can anybody suggest anything? Thank you in advance!

  23. Auin

    How can I stop my rescue collie from barking in his crate in the car ? He barks more or less constantly when the car is moving but not when stationary

  24. Sadies

    I have an 10 year old terrier cross that barks when he hears a sound outside. He is very well behaved, very intelligent and knows so many tricks, he has mastered the speak command and the quiet command but when it comes to there being a sound outside, he will not give in. He will stop barking but will then start to make a constant grumbling sound. We have tried ignoring it and waiting for quiet but he just starts himself off barking again. Most of my family have had enough and start yelling when he starts barking, knowing it's not what your meant to do, it does quieten him but only back to grumbles. We have tried shutting him in a room on his own when he does this but it makes no difference to him, he just keeps barking at the thing outside. We tried a pet corrector (the air spray) but he completely ignores it. It drives everyone crazy, anyone have an ideas, please?

  25. Tabbytha

    Couldn't you teach her the word "bark" and then after she learns it say "no bark" and reward her if she stops? I have noticed my cat can, on learning the words "no" and "foods" will show he wants food (by fussing) but if I say "foods" will just stare at me... if I say "no foods" after, if he is hungry he will respond with prompting sounds, but he DOES understand "no" and knows the difference between "foods" and "treats"... He shows interest for "foods" but goes nuts for "treats". So can dogs strings word meanings together too? He also understands "here" and "come". I tell him "Walter's here" and he will come to greet Walter (my boyfriend) at the door... he knew these words (except foods) when I got him from my friends... I would like to teach him "up" "down" and "go" at some point. I know it's not proper english, but being able to communicate is a godsend... when he chooses to listen. I KNOW he knows the word "no", but cats tend to ignore that word alot, when it is convenient for them. I highly suspect dogs and cats could learn at least simplified language, though the trick to learning anything for an animal is figuring out how to make it useful for them... if they don't see a benefit to learning something for them, they will not pay any attention. it's not that they are stupid, it's that they don't see any benefit. My other (now deceased) supposedly stupid cat (who I also got from friends who thought for years was very dumb) became a genius when she became sick and had to learn little tricks to make life easier for her.... including tipping a dish so she could get at the food as it was hard for her to get up, she learned it because we would tip the plate for her... she also tried turning the dish but (I watched her try a few times) it was too hard to maneuver everything so she stopping trying... again, she was learning from us doing it for her. If it takes too much energy or effort they won't bother, and she was very sick so turning the plate was too much... but she tried. She also knew she could ask for help getting up, and she learned "lie down" or "down" for when we gave her the IV fluids. If only I could have gotten that all on video... So if you can figure out how to show benefit for the animal, you may find they will learn, but that means trying to figure out how they view the world and trying to translate it by action. Has anyone been able to observe dogs understanding multiple words together? Can this be expanded somehow? I suspect it's that few have tried to work very hard on this type of communication but I could be wrong.

  26. karen fielder

    I have had a beautiful rescue dog for nearly 4 months now. She is a joy to have but she has a barking problem that I just cannot get on top of ! As the day turns to evening she just stands and barks continuously at the top corner of our very large garden - there is nothing there as we continually check. So not to upset neigbours we keep her in the house from about 6pm onwards and take her out on the lead for toilet needs throughout the evening. I know that this may sound silly but we think she may be afraid of the dark as even though we take her out on a lead (with a torch) throughout the evening for toileting she whimpers and gets over excited with barking; almost as though she is trying to frighten anything off before she reachers the garden out of fear? Anyone help ???

  27. Keegan Donegan

    I foster for a local rescue and have adopted a 4 year old Chihuahua mix about a year ago. I went through the usual problems of potty training, walking not pulling the leash, etc. The things my little Pinto does is bark when I walk outside and when I come home. He also willl bark at me through the front door window if I'm working on my car or something out front. Also when I come in and start petting him he nips at my fingers like he's doing it affectionately. It's very light and gentle nibbling on my petting hand.
    He also barks at anything that's goes past the front door. Should I block his view out the window?

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