How to Control Excessive Barking
I have people write to me all the time about how much their dogs bark.
They bark at postal workers. They bark at birds. They bark at parked cars. They bark at corners of the room with nothing in them.
And I get it. When I was a kid we had a dog that barked from the time we left the house until the time we came home. We didn’t believe our neighbor until we tape recorded her (I’m dating myself with THAT technology) and she ran through a full 120 minutes worth of tape.
It was crazy, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you have a dog that barks a lot and it’s causing you problems – I have help!
What do you do about excessive barking?
Incessant barking can be a headache causing nuisance.
Sure, there are times when you want your dog to bark. If someone is coming into your home, you want them to alert you.
But overall, we would really rather if our dogs didn’t work so much.
A few notes before we begin.
Regardless of why your dog barks, there are a few critical pieces of the training.
First, do NOT yell at your dog for barking.
When you yell, your dog thinks you’re just barking with them. Instead of encouraging your dog to be quiet, your dog thinks the two of you are having a conversation.
They will just bark more… and probably louder.
Next, like with any other training, always be positive in your training sessions.
It’s important to be upbeat and not negative while you’re training. Every session needs to end on a high note.
Possibly the most important step is this one.
You need to be consistent. Every member of the family must use the same rules with the dog every time.
As I mentioned in another post on training, dogs do not understand sometimes.
For them, every time must be the same, or they have no idea what you mean.
Think of it this way…
If you’re trying to learn a new language, and I say “yes” is the word for “affirmative.”
Then you need “yes” to mean the same thing every time it’s used. You need it to be “affirmative” every time.
If sometimes “yes” actually means “maybe,” then suddenly you don’t know if you understand the language.
It’s the same for your dog.
So, if you’re trying to train your dog to stop barking when you say “hush,” then every time you say “hush” your dog needs to stop.
It can’t be okay if you say it playfully, or if you don’t feel like following through.
Now, to train your dog not to bark, you need to know their motivation.
He’s receiving a reward somehow when he barks.
This is where it’s helpful to know why he’s barking. For more help on that see our post on why dogs bark.
An example is if your dog barks at animals passing by the window. Your dog receives your attention as a reward when he barks at the outside animals.
Remove the motivation by closing the blinds or curtains.
Let’s start with an easy one.
Does your dog go crazy with barking when you come home?
He so excited to see you, so you make a big fuss because it’s wonderful to be greeted with so much excitement.
Your attention is a reward for barking.
But if you don’t let your dog to bark when you come in, you can’t pay attention to them if they’re barking as you come in the door.
In this case, the way to stop your dog from barking is to simply ignore them.
Don’t pay attention as long as they bark. Don’t talk, don’t touch, don’t even look at your dog — and don’t interact with them at all.
Once your dog quiets, you can reward him with some love and attention… and you can sigh with relief.
But it’s important to not acknowledge him while he’s barking at all.
If he barks for 15 minutes, you ignore him for 15 minutes. If he barks for an hour, you must ignore him for that entire hour.
Otherwise, he learns that if he barks long enough, you’ll finally pay attention.
Instead, by not interacting with him until he’s quiet, you reward his quiet behavior. You may only get a few seconds of quiet in the beginning. Then you have to go back to ignoring him until he’s quiet.
You can also try desensitization.
This means that you figure out what she’s barking at and get them so used to it that she doesn’t think it’s worth barking about anymore.
For example, if she barks every time she sees another dog, introduce her to other dogs more frequently.
She’ll become so used to seeing other dogs that she won’t find it worth talking about anymore.
A great way to desensitize your dog to other dogs is to work with a friend who has a dog. In a neutral area, have them keep their dog just out of sight of your dog.
Then your friend can bring their dog into view a little bit.
Immediately shower your dog with attention and yummy treats. You’ll keep their focus on you instead of the other dog.
After a moment or two, your friend can take their dog back out of sight.
Repeat the process until you can stop working to keep your dog’s attention without them barking at the other dog.
Complete desensitization can take weeks since it is a natural thing for your dog to bark at other dogs on their territory. Over time, they’ll stop being so worried about other dogs.
Another way to train your dog to stop barking is to ask them to do something else.
It doesn’t really matter what this other activity is, so long as it prevents your dog from barking. The idea is to interrupt their intention to bark.
For example, if your dog barks every time they see a cat outside, you can tell them to lay down in their bed.
You can also teach them a routine for when someone comes to the door.
We have our dogs stay just outside the foyer and sit to wait for the guests.
Don’t start the training when the doorbell rings, instead begin by teaching them to “go to your spot.” To teach them their spot, choose a place that is comfortable. Maybe a bed or mat, or maybe you just want them to stay at the door to the room.
Just like teaching them to sit, you’ll treat them every time they successful go to their spot.
Once you’re able to get them to their spot every time you tell them, you can add some coming to your door to the process. Have a friend knock on your door.
When they knock, acknowledge your dog, and then tell them to go to their spot. Once they go to their spot, you can begin to open the door.
If your dog moves from their spot while you’re opening the door, close the door immediately. Repeat this process until they stay in their spot while the door opens.
Eventually, they may react to the doorbell or someone knocking at the door by going to their spot.
You can also use a command like “hush,” or “quiet.”
When you practice this word, reward your dog for behaving for five seconds. Then for 10 seconds, a full minute, etc.
Once he’s got it, begin to vary the time. This prevents their internal clock from determining how long they’re quiet… you want it to be your decision.
I frequently say that a well-behaved dog is a tired dog. In fact, most of my trainer friends see the same thing.
If you know someone is coming over, the best thing to do is to wear your dog out first. Play fetch, roughhouse, dance around the house. Whatever works.
Take your dog for a long walk, too. The walk doesn’t count as exercise for your dog, but it will mentally challenge them and help to wear them out.
Then, even if they do bark when your visitor arrives, they will quickly tire of the new situation. Once they know you have the situation under control, they’ll be glad to go lay down.
Be patient, the process can take some time. Some breeds are more difficult to train to stop barking than others.
But with patience and consistency, you can teach any dog to stop barking excessively.