Basic Pet Care
Teaching Your Dog to Stop Barking
A dog that barks incessantly may be more than a nuisance; in some places loud day-and-night vocalizations are grounds for eviction. So unless you live in the countryside far from neighbors, it's critical to teach your dog to stop barking.
Before starting training, it's worthwhile to investigate what triggers your dog to bark. These are some of the most common causes:
Urgent Need. Has it been too long since your dog was fed or walked? Barking is one way he has to get your attention.
Protection. Does your dog primarily bark when someone comes to the door or a car drives up? It's his natural instinct to protect you, and barking is a warning to other people that he's got your back.
Loneliness. Does your dog bark when you leave him alone? He may be bored or lonely. Consider hiring a dog walker to give him a break during the day while you're at work. See Getting Cats & Dogs to Get Along if you believe a companion could help him calm down.
What Doesn't Work
- Yelling over the barking. Shouting "stop barking!" just adds to your household's decibel level. Your dog may even take your loud voice as encouragement.
- Bribes. If you try to reward a dog to stop barking, he'll learn that barking equals a treat.
- Muzzle. Using a device to close your dog's mouth for a long period is cruel and could be dangerous.
As with most habits, it's easier to train a dog to adhere to good ones early than to try and change behavior and break bad habits later.
- Exercise. A tired dog will be less likely to bark endlessly.
- Change of venue. If your dog stands on your porch or in your yard and barks at every passing car and person, bring her inside. If she barks indoors, put up curtains or opaque film over the windows. Have workers coming over? Ask a neighbor to dog sit for a few hours and bring your dog to his house.
- Teach 2 commands. If your dog knows the basics sit and stay, he can also learn "speak" and "quiet." To get your dog to speak, start barking until he joins in. Once he learns that command, give it – but interrupt mid-bark by saying "quiet" – and give a reward when he stops.
- Consistency. As with any training, it should be practiced and reinforced so that you dog won't forget to be on his best behavior. Every member of the family should practice the anti-barking measures you take.
- Issue corrections. In a training session, you can give the dog a correction (one firm tug on the leash and firmly say 'No barking!') when he barks inappropriately.
- Professional help. Take action so that excessive barking does not escalate to aggression. Contact your veterinarian or start working with an animal behaviorist or trainer.