Dogs are motivated to bark by a variety of reasons.
- Greeting – This playful barking is often accompanied by tail wags and happy jumping.
- Desire – Dogs may communicate a desire to go outside, play, or be fed by barking for attention.
- Fear – Noises or objects that seem unfamiliar or threatening may startle a dog into eliciting an alarm call.
- Boredom – Dogs without companionship or enough to do may bark because they are lonely or unhappy.
- Aggression – Dogs may bark to ward off persons, animals, or objects they consider threatening.
- Separation Anxiety – High-pitched, ritualistic barking may occur at an owner’s absence.
- Compulsion – Some dogs self-soothe through incessant, ritualistic, and atonal vocalizations.
Barking, whether normal dog behavior or not, may still result in problems for people when neighbors complain, laws prohibit barking during certain hours, or the dog caregivers themselves are annoyed by the amount of noise.
How To Stop My Dog From Barking
Some breeds (terriers and hounds) and individual dogs are more likely to bark more often and louder than others.
Dog owners wishing to reduce their dog’s barking should first determine the dog’s motivation to bark.
Once the stimulus has been identified, any conditions that can be treated should be addressed and environmental circumstances corrected.
Limit access to stimuli that incites barking:
- Close the curtains or put your dog in another room.
- Don’t leave your dog outside unsupervised if he barks at passersby.
Avoid giving your dog attention when he barks:
- Do not talk to, pet, or look at your dog while he is barking.
- If necessary, consider crating your dog or placing him in a gated area.
- When he’s barking, turn your back.
- When he quiets, reward him with praise or a treat.
- Initially, he may only be able to be quiet as long as a few seconds.
- Wait for increasingly longer periods of quiet before offering the reward.
- Vary the amount of time before a reward is given (for example 5, 12, then 3 seconds).
This technique requires ignoring the barking until it stops, no matter how long that takes.
If you listen to him bark for an hour and then give him attention in the form of shouting or letting him out of the crate, the next time he is likely to bark even longer.
Accustom your dog to stimuli that provoke the dog to bark:
- Start with the stimuli far away, and give him lots of good treats and praise.
- Gradually decrease the distance between the dog and the stimulus.
This process is known as desensitization and helps the dog associate positive outcomes such as treats and other rewards with the stimulus that used to cause the dog to bark.
Dogs that bark from boredom benefit from daily physical and mental exercise.
Long walks, free play, chase, Frisbee, or interactive toys may address boredom.
Breed, age, and health should be considered when choosing activities.
Once the motivation to bark has been addressed, the dog should be taught behavior that can replace the barking.
Ideally, this behavior would be incompatible with barking, such as sitting quietly or going to fetch a beloved toy.
Dog owners must be present in order to teach and reinforce replacement behaviors.
By definition, dogs cannot bark and be quiet at the same time. Teach your dog a “quiet” command by teaching cue words, such as “speak” and “quiet.”
To teach this, give the dog the command to “speak,” wait for him to bark and reward the behavior. Repeat this exercise a few times.
The next step is to have him “speak” and, when he starts barking, say “quiet” and offer a treat. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, praise the dog for being quiet and give him the treat.
Practice the “quiet” command in calm environments and then gradually introduce it in busy environments.
Bark collars (shock or spray) are often ineffective.
The motivation to bark is often higher than the motivation to avoid punishment.
Shock collars can be painful and may increase barking in dogs suffering from anxiety, or stimulate dogs to be aggressive towards those they associate with the shock.
Citronella spray collars work in some dogs, but others will learn that once the spray runs out they can bark without adverse effect.
Bark-activated water sprayers or noisemakers may stop a dog from barking in a given area and will work best when used with an at-home owner who can reward the dog when the barking stops.
Debarking is very controversial and does nothing to address the motivation for the dog to bark.
Debarking is a surgical procedure that does not stop the barking, but changes the sound.
Life-threatening risks are associated with the surgery. Some dogs regain their voices after the surgery.
Puppies Barking At Night? That’s A Different Ballgame!
If you just adopted a puppy, there are so many things that are new to both of you.
It is pretty natural for a puppy to cry and bark at night when your puppy to sleep.
Your puppy could just be getting used to the crate or sleeping alone in a new home. And that’s natural.
But, if your puppy keeping barking through the night, there are some ways you can stop the barking before it becomes a nighttime ritual.
How To Train Your Puppy Not To Bark At Night
Most puppies can hold their bladder for one hour for every month of age, plus one.
Keep a daily routine and schedule of the times when your puppy needs to be taken out.
You might even have to wake up in the middle of the night to take the puppy out once in a while, but if you keep to a routine, this is less likely to happen.
Your puppy needs to be on a regular feeding schedule from breakfast through dinner.
Try to feed your puppy no later than an hour and a half before you put him to bed or in his crate.
If you make sure that his bladder is empty, there’s less of a chance that your puppy will bark through the night.
If your puppy isn’t getting enough exercise and has an abundance of energy at night, this will make him loud and naughty in his crate.
Your puppy needs regular exercise in the form of walks, hikes, and playing with people or other dogs.
Even a game of fetch around the house before bedtime to tire your pup out.
If you can teach your puppy to love her crate and that it is the most fun place in the house, it will work wonders.
Try putting your puppy in the crate during the day to make it more routine. It’s fun there!
Offer treats or indestructible toys in the crate and while your puppy is inside, close the door for short periods.
Do this regularly throughout the day to get her used to being in the crate. Then, at night, it won’t be threatening.
Make your puppy’s create a peaceful, soothing place to be.
Some pheromone sprays can help keep your puppy calmer when she’s in her crate.
Put a blanket in there and your puppy’s favorite toys. There are some different stuffed animals that can soothe your puppy throughout the night.
The Snuggle Puppy has a simulated heartbeat that might just stop your puppy from barking and fall right to sleep.
Puppies are more likely to be upset if they’re shut away in a secluded place in your home.
If they’re close to people, they tend to be calmer. Put your puppy’s crate in a part of your house like a quiet corner of the living room or bedroom may help with nighttime barking.
As your puppy gets comfortable with the crate, you can move it to another part of the house.
As always, only use positive reinforcement and praise when your puppy does the correct behavior and never yell at your puppy if he has an accident. That is just part of being a puppy!
If none of the above techniques work, you should take your puppy to your veterinarian to rule out a medical condition.
If your puppy is healthy and just barking out of frustration, it might be a good idea to hire a dog trainer.
Additional Tips For Reducing Dog Barking
- Don’t yell! Yelling at the dog will often sound like you are barking with them.
- If possible, start training and working with the dog while they are still young.
- Have realistic expectations about the amount of barking a dog is likely to do in a given situation.
- All caregivers should apply the same training methods consistently when the dog barks to avoid confusion.
- Don’t encourage the dog to bark at some noises, but not others.
- Never use a restraint device, such as a muzzle, to keep a dog quiet for long periods of unsupervised time.
- If the above methods are unsuccessful or you believe your dog is suffering from a behavioral disorder or physical ailment (pain can manifest as barking), please seek assistance from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.