How To Teach Your Dog To Stop Barking

Dogs bark. It’s just their nature and a natural part of the way they communicate. 

But sometimes, dogs can engage in what is known as “nuisance” barking, where they bark for no apparent reason, irritating the neighbors and driving you crazy. 

What to do?

First of all, you must refrain from responding to your dog’s barking that really fails to address the dog’s long term behavior. Examples of these types of failures are such things as yelling at the dog, rewarding his bad habits by giving him a treat or toy to stop his barking, or using inconsistent discipline.

Next, it’s really important to understand that you have to get at the root cause of your dog’s barking. Sometimes dogs bark out of sheer boredom and giving them something to do will solve the problem. Other underlying causes can include separation anxiety, which we addressed in our multi-part series here. 

Here are some things you can implement to stop your dog from barking:

Exercise – Dogs need plenty of mental and physical exercise. If you work outside your home and the dog is left alone, make sure he gets the time he needs before you leave for work, as a dog who is tired is less likely to bark.

Mental stimulation – Make toys and dog puzzles available for your dog so he will feel challenged. Many puzzles as well as toys have spaces to insert treats so the dog has to work for them.

Socialization – A dog that has been poorly socialized will often bark at other dogs as well as people. Ideally, socialization should be done while your dog is still a puppy for best results. Adult dogs can be socialized but it’s more difficult. 

Control his environment – If your dog stays in the house alone while you are at work, leave the radio or television on so he can experience familiar sounds, which may be comforting to him. Also, close blinds or shades so he can’t see out. This takes squirrels, mailmen and other animals out of his line of sight.

Teach your dog the “Quiet” command – In a firm but calm voice, tell your do to be quiet. Immediately reinforce correct behavior with a treat. 

Don’t react – Do not respond to your dog when he is barking inappropriately. This just rewards him for bad behavior. Dogs will bark for food, for water, to be let outside and so forth. Wait until your dog is quiet before you respond.

So, all dogs bark. But if your dog barks excessively, he may be bored, he may need exercise or mental stimulation or even socialization. It’s up to you as a responsible dog owner to find out what is going on.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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