While no pet parent would ever expect their dog to stop barking completely, if your dog barks excessively or inappropriately it can be a problem. When a dog barks compulsively, or for long periods of time, it’s not healthy for them. Taking the time to train your dog to stop barking unnecessarily will help them feel more confident and strengthen your bond.
Why Dogs Bark
Barking is one way that dogs communicate, and dogs can bark as a greeting, while playing, or to get your attention when they need to go outside. Dogs may also bark out of boredom, anxiety, or fear. Common situations that can cause compulsive barking include:
- Other dogs
- Strangers or visitors at the door
- Going to work or otherwise leaving your dog alone
- While in their crate
The first step in training your dog to stop barking is to understand why your dog is barking excessively. Is your dog feeling anxious, seeking attention, trying to alert you to something, or feeling frustrated?
Training your dog to stop barking will take time and patience, but the best time to start is now. The longer your dog acts out a habitual behavior, the more ingrained it becomes.
How to Use Positive Reinforcement to Curb Excessive Barking
Positive reinforcement is a training method that encourages desirable behavior – in this case, stopping barking or remaining quiet. Pay close attention to your dog, and whenever they’re being calm and quiet, reward them with attention, affection, or a training treat like Crav’n Bac’n Bites or Wild Weenies. With repetition, your dog will learn that they are rewarded for not barking.
The opposite approach, negative punishment, can backfire. Punishment doesn’t help dogs learn how you want them to behave, and it can make them feel afraid.
Use a Consistent Verbal Cue
If you shout at your dog while they’re barking, they might think you’re joining them and bark even more! Always use a firm, calm voice when training your dog. Remember that your dog doesn’t understand what words mean unless you train them. Choose a specific verbal cue such as “quiet”. Start by rewarding your dog’s quiet behavior using the verbal cue, followed up with a treat.
When your dog is familiar with the verbal cue, begin using it when you want them to stop barking. If your dog stops barking when you give the cue, follow with a reward.
Make Sure You’re Not Rewarding Barking
If your dog doesn’t respond to the verbal cue and continues to bark, use a different cue in a different tone of voice (something like “still learning”) and then withdraw your attention by walking away for a short time. This teaches your dog they won’t be rewarded with more of your attention if they continue barking.
If your dog stops barking and stays quiet, then reward them. But don’t give them a treat if they continue barking – this will only confuse them and disrupt the training. It’s very important to be consistent, so never encourage your dog to bark – even if you love how excited they are to see you when you get home.
Teach Your Dog an Alternative to Barking
Observe what triggers your dog to bark excessively. You want to identify the moment just before your dog begins barking, and interrupt the pattern by rewarding different behavior.
If your dog barks when someone comes to the door, you could have a friend or family member slowly approach your door to help with training. Pay close attention as your dog notices, and just before they begin barking, ask them to sit, lie down, or similar. Reward your dog with praise and a treat for doing what you ask.
This process may require a lot of repetition, but over time your dog will learn what behavior you want from them in certain situations.
Minimize Barking Triggers Outside of Training
While training is an ongoing process, it’s not constant. There will be times when you aren’t able to train your dog to stop barking, and in those instances it’s best to avoid barking triggers as much as possible. As an example, if your dog won’t stop barking at everything passing in front of your house while you’re working in another room, you may need to close the curtains. This will stop reinforcing the barking habit.
How to Discourage Excessive Barking
In addition to training your dog to stop barking, there are steps you can take to prevent unnecessary barking from developing in the first place.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise on a regular basis. Playtime counts! When your dog burns off energy through healthy exercise, they’ll be less inclined to bark excessively.
Maintain a daily schedule for your dog. Within reason, try to keep your dog’s daily routine consistent. Knowing what to expect helps relieve anxiety, which can contribute to bothersome barking.
Provide dog enrichment activities. Dog enrichment includes toys, puzzles, games or other activities that stimulate your dog’s mind and senses. This can help prevent barking caused by boredom. If your dog barks out of boredom while you’re gone at work, you might want to consider having a dog-walker visit mid-day to play with your dog, or take your dog to daycare a couple days a week.
Consider using background noise. A white noise machine, loud fan or music can help camouflage outdoor noises that trigger barking.
Keep your dog comfortable and well-nourished. Your dog could be barking to signal hunger, thirst or discomfort. Make sure the temperature is suitable for your dog’s breed, practice regular grooming, and consider feeding your dog a raw and natural diet formulated for optimal nutrition.
Stella & Chewy’s raw and raw-inspired dog foods offer 100% complete and balanced diets to help dogs thrive. Learn more about the benefits of a raw diet for dogs, or explore recipes below.