Dogs bark. It’s what they do. However, dogs can bark at the worst possible times – like in the middle of the night when we’re trying to sleep.
Here are some easy tips to get your canine to stop barking.
Why Do Dogs Bark
Barking is one of the primary ways dogs communicate. Identifying the type of barking your dog is doing can help you correct their behavior.
Typically, dogs bark the most when they’re surprised. This can happen when someone knocks on the door or when there is a sudden, loud noise outside.
Dogs can also bark at other animals. They can be attempting to play, trying to scare the other animal away, or experiencing sudden excitement caused by their prey drive. When a cat bolts off into another room, your dog barking is effectively him yelling “cat!”. Many dogs will aim territorial barking at other dogs or people.
People are another common target for a dog’s barking. A barking dog might be exhibiting attention-seeking behavior, or might be barking for one of the previous reasons we mentioned. A dog can be frightened of a particular person, and therefore try to scare them away by barking. Alternatively, a dog might just be alerting their dog owner to the other person’s presence.
How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking
Remove the Barking Target
If your dog is barking at a person or animal, the easiest thing to do is remove them from the area. You can put the cat in another room or ask the person to step outside for a moment until your dog calms down.
Alternatively, you can remove your dog from the area. This works best when you’re in public and your dog is barking at someone else’s pet.
This can also be done if your dog is barking at an inanimate object, like that plastic bag they’re scared of.
Train Your Dog to be “Quiet”
It is possible to train even the noisiest dogs to be quiet. This method is a little more involved, but applies to nearly every situation.
The easiest way to do this is enlist the help of a dog trainer or an expert in dog training, who can teach your pup the commend. You can also do it yourself the same way you would train your dog to do anything – treats, practice, and lots of positive reinforcement.
There are two main ways to do this: catching your dog being quiet or teach your dog to “speak” and then follow it up with “quiet” command. If your dog has little training currently, catching them being quiet will likely be the easiest. Just wait until something exciting happens or a new person walks into view. When your dog doesn’t bark, reward them and say “quiet”. Eventually, your dog will catch on.
If your doggy already has training or knows the command “speak”, you can teach them through this command. First, just tell your dog to “speak”. When he does, wait for him to get quiet again and then say “quiet”, rewarding him with a tasty treat.
Meet Your Dog’s Needs
Some dogs will bark more when their needs aren’t met. If they haven’t been walked and have lots of pint-up energy, they’re more likely to bark when someone walks by the window. A tired dog that is resting on the couch is far less likely to jump up and bark at the window.
Similarly, if your dog doesn’t have enough food or water, they might get restless and be more prone to barking. It is very important to always give your dog access to fresh water and provide them an appropriate amount of high-quality dog food. That cat outside is going to more likely to catch a hungry dog’s attention than a full one’s. If your canine is wandering around the house trying to find fresh water, they’re way more likely to bark at the car driving by.
Dogs are also more likely to bark if they need to go potty or have another need that isn’t met.
Keep Them Entertained
Dogs are more likely to notice people and animals walking around if they’re bored. Giving your dog plenty of interesting toys to play with can prevent them from noticing people and noises outside, which can prevent their levels of excessive barking substantially.
If your dog belongs to a smart breed, like Border Collies for instance, puzzle toys are a great option. You can even leave these toys full of treats while you’re away, giving your dog something to do during the day and preventing barking due to separation anxiety.
Frozen treats like Kongs can also be helpful, especially if your dog is highly food motivated. Just having a ball full of frozen peanut butter can keep some dogs entertained for hours.
Contact a Behavioral Consultant
If your dog’s barking continues despite these tips, we recommend seeing a behavioral consultant. These professionals are experts in dog behavior. A behaviorist can help with your particular situation and identify the root of your dog’s behavior. Some consultants will also provide individual training for your dog and can help you identify your dog’s behavioral triggers.
Some consultants are even covered by pet insurance, so you might not have to pay much out-of-pocket at all. In the long run, these professionals can save you tons of money and time by getting to the bottom of your dog’s problem and providing specialized training methods.
Check out my manual on Dog Barking below.