Most dogs bark from time to time. Of course, barking can be loud and disruptive, so you might wonder what you can do to stop frequent barking.
Without a doubt, constant barking can feel very frustrating. But it’s also a natural dog behavior, which is why it’s important not to punish your dog for barking.
Scolding your dog doesn’t do anything to address the underlying causes of barking, like separation anxiety, stress, or boredom. It could also make the problem worse—and may even lead to other concerns, like aggression, according to Nicole Ellis, Los Angeles-based author and Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
“If we can directly affect the main causes of barking, we can get it to end in a more positive manner and help our pets become more comfortable,” Ellis says.
Below, we’ll offer some positive strategies to help curb excess barking and explore some of the reasons why your dog might bark so much.
How to Prevent Dog Barking in Every Scenario
You can start to curb excess barking by finding ways to prevent it and teaching your dog when it’s OK to bark.
Preparing in advance is important, Ellis says, because once a dog becomes excited or nervous and starts barking, you may have a hard time getting them to stop.
According to Ellis, this is because is self-reinforcing, rewarding, and just plain old fun. The solution, then, lies in giving your dog something more exciting than what they’re barking at—whether that’s a treat, puzzle toy, or positive attention from you.
These seven approaches can help you stop barking as soon as it starts and teach your dog better barking behavior.
1. Redirecting their behavior with treats or a toy
According to Ellis, you can try offering a high-value treat or favorite toy to distract your dog.
For example, if they give a bark of alarm or greeting at the window as someone walks by outside, you can show them the treat or toy and have them come to you. You might also try keeping some treats near the door. When the doorbell rings and your dog starts barking, you can get their attention with the treats and reward them once they sit quietly.
This method can also work well on walks where you encounter other dogs. If you have the treats ready before another dog passes by, your dog will begin to learn to look to you instead of the passing dog.
This works because the treat or toy pulls their attention back to you and becomes a reward for quiet, calm behavior. As a result, your dog may be less likely to bark in the future.
2. Removing your dog from the trigger area
Sometimes the best response to barking involves removing your dog from the situation. If there’s a landscaping crew working in your neighbor’s yard, for instance, you might settle your dog with toys, chews, blankets, and other favorite things in another part of the house—one that doesn’t have a view of the strangers.
You can’t remove your dog from every trigger, of course. Still, this tactic can work to manage short-term barking, like greeting barking or alarm barking.
3. Putting up sight barriers
Territorial and alarm barking happen when dogs see or hear something that catches their attention. That’s why so many dogs bark at the living room window or along the fence. But you can do a lot to stop window and yard barking by blocking your dog’s view of potential barking triggers.
Privacy fencing, for example, can cut off views to neighboring yards or the street. You can install privacy screening over your existing fence, so this may be an option even if you rent. If you have the option, you might also consider planting privacy hedges.
Indoors, leave your curtains or blinds closed. If you want to let in natural light, you can use spray-on glass coating or removable plastic film to make your windows opaque. When your dog doesn’t see strangers or animals outside, they may be less likely to bark, after all.
4. Giving your dog a quiet zone
A quiet zone can be any spot away from common barking zones, like front windows and doors.
This safe space for your dog might include:
- A crate decked out with a comfy bed and crate cover, or a gate to keep them in the room.
- A stuffed KONG toy or puzzle feeder to keep them busy (and occupy their mouth).
- A white noise machine (a fan or radio will also work) to mask exterior noise and produce soothing sounds.
Replacing the outside “threat” with soothing things can help your dog feel more comfortable, which may reduce their need to bark. And of course, if your dog barks out of frustration or stress, some chill time can also make a difference.
5. Addressing separation anxiety
Dogs who experience separation anxiety may bark excessively when you leave the house. It’s important to address this type of barking—both to ease your dog’s stress and help keep your neighbors from complaining.
As noted above, barking is rewarding for dogs, so they may turn to this behavior when left alone. However, working on easing their separation anxiety can make a big difference—not just for their barking, but also their emotional health.
“We want to desensitize the act of leaving and also the routine of getting ready to leave,” Ellis says. So, you might start by picking up your keys and bag and going to the door, but then turning back to walk into the kitchen to get a drink or snack. The idea is to get your dog used to the idea of you leaving without reacting to your departure.
If your dog’s separation anxiety persists, a trainer can offer more support.
6. Teaching new commands
Training your dog by introducing commands may also help prevent excessive barking, especially if your dog often barks due to frustration or to seek attention.
Try these commands:
- Recall: You can use this command to call your dog away from barking triggers, like a ringing doorbell or a dog outside.
- Speak: Training your dog to bark on command can help teach them not to bark at other times, especially when paired with “Quiet.”
- Quiet or Settle: These help your dog “calm down” on cue. Ellis says to make sure to reward “quiet” right away after using “speak.” She also says it’s best to use these commands at home.
- Show me: Ellis uses objects to teach this command. It can take some time and patience to teach your dog, but it may help if they bark out of nervousness when approaching certain things. The goal of this command is for your dog to get closer and closer to the object and then look back at you. Then, you reward them with treats and praise.
- Sit and Stay: These commands can help keep your dog occupied when a barking trigger is nearby. If your dog tends to bark while on the leash, have them practice sitting and staying. Then, offer a reward for calm, quiet behavior.
Practicing desensitization techniques with a dog trainer can also help your dog become so accustomed to barking triggers that they no longer respond.
7. Ignoring the barking
Ignoring barking may not work for all dogs or all scenarios, but it may come in handy for certain types of barking—like attention-seeking barking. In fact, when your dog wants attention, reacting to the barking can teach them this method works—and that’s not a precedent you want to set!
Instead, try turning around, looking away, and generally not reacting to send the message that you won’t respond until they’re quiet. Once your dog realizes their barking doesn’t get them what they want, they may stop.
Training takes consistency and patience, but the long-term rewards are worth it!
7 Types of Dogs Barking. Plus, Why Punishment Doesn’t Work
Understanding why dogs bark can also play a major role in preventing constant barking. Once you know what your dog’s barking really means, you can find ways to stop it.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the main types of barking include:
- Territorial barking: If your dog barks at visitors, other animals, or everything that passes your house or car, they’re saying, “Hey! This is my territory.”
- Alarm barking: This type of barking happens in response to new noises and sights. They may seem stiff or move forward as they bark. Alarm barking doesn’t just happen in your dog’s territory—it can happen anywhere you go.
- Attention-seeking barking: Your dog may bark when they want something, like food, a treat, a walk, or playtime.
- Greeting barking: Your dog uses this bark to say “Hello!” You can recognize this type of bark because your dog will seem relaxed and may also wag their tail.
- Compulsive barking: This repetitive barking will often be accompanied by a repetitive movement, like pacing around a room or yard.
- Socially facilitated barking: It’s not uncommon for dogs to bark in response to other dogs. So, if one dog’s bark sets off a chain reaction throughout the neighborhood or dog park, you’re dealing with social barking.
- Frustration-induced barking: Many dogs bark excessively in response to a frustrating situation, like being confined or separated from other dogs or people. If your dog barks when you leave or at night when they have to sleep away from you, they may be barking in frustration.
What doesn’t work to stop barking?
Sometimes dogs bark because they want your attention. For instance, they may want a treat, or they might need to go outside. You may feel tempted to follow them and find out what they want, but Ellis discourages this practice. It can quickly lead to a habit of your dog barking to get what they want.
Instead, wait until your dog is quiet and then suggest “Outside” or “Walk”—this will also help them connect getting what they want with quiet behavior.
And remember, punishing a dog for barking never helps, and it may lead to more problem behaviors. Plus, if you raise your voice, your dog may just interpret this as something exciting. They might think, “We’re all having a fun party!” Ellis says.
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