Does it feel like your dog is barking at everything? You’re not alone. That is why we’ve created this blog to help both identify the reason for excessive barking and to choose training methods to reduce the issue.
Whether you have a barking puppy or adult dog, it can be incredibly trying for you and your neighbors if they excessively bark. While all dogs vocalize to express themselves, when it becomes frequent it can create problems. In order to help change this behavior, you’ll need patience and understanding, as getting a dog to stop barking won’t happen overnight.
Keep in Mind
The longer your dog has been performing the barking behavior, the more difficult it will be to train them not to. However, if your dog is a rescue this behavior could be linked to trauma or neglect. Be sure to use all training techniques with as much patience and kindness as possible! Being positive and restraining from yelling is always the best practice for constructive results.
Why is your Dog Barking Excessively?
Dogs vocalize as their attempt to communicate a need. As we mentioned, it is nearly impossible to train and remedy barking behaviors if you do not know the source of them. For this reason, we have compiled some of the top reasons your pup may be being extra vocal.
Some dogs may bark excessively to express fear or as a reaction to something surprising. This behavior will happen in any setting but may increase in an unfamiliar environment or around a high quantity of unfamiliar surprises.
Boredom / Attention Seeking
Dogs, like any animal, need stimulation and attention. If your dog is feeling bored or like they are not getting your responsiveness, they may let you know by barking. Don’t be fooled – they are certainly doing this to get a response! This can be especially true if your dog isn’t around other dogs much.
Our dogs are social animals who enjoy being in a “pack”. When they are left alone, these instincts can often create anxiety that can lead to all kinds of destructive behavior. If your dog barks the most when they are home alone or they are barking when they are alone at night, this is likely the cause.
If you notice that your puppy begins their barking when a stranger or neighbor comes into what they consider their territory, this could be the source. You will know if this is the reason behind the barking behavior if they increase their barking in volume or frequency as this perceived invader comes closer. You’ll also likely see body language that can vary from alert to outright aggressive.
Teaching a Quiet Command
Teaching your dog a quiet command is going to be a great idea, regardless of the source of the barking. Often, the method to teach “quiet” can confuse dog owners as it seems a little backward. But this method is tried and true!
You can take advantage of your dog’s barking by using what is called, “paired cues”. This means you will wait for your dog to bark two or three times and then give the command, “speak”. Then, put a treat near their nose but do not let them have it yet. When they stop barking to sniff the treat, deliver lots of praise and let them have it. Repeat this until he starts barking when you give the command, “speak.”
Once your dog is barking on command, you can teach the “quite” command. When they are calm and without distractions, ask them to speak. When they start barking say, “quiet” and stick a treat in front of their nose. Praise them for being quiet and give them the treat.
After your dog has learned “quite” in a relaxed environment, you can make sure it really sinks it by practicing it with increasingly distracting scenarios until they can stop barking on command.
Training Tips Based on Source
Desensitizing to Fear Causing Stimuli
If your dog is barking based on fear, desensitizing them can be an appropriate and helpful training method. This will involve getting them accustomed to whatever it is that is causing them to bark.
You will want to locate and isolate whatever is causing your dog to be startled and proceed with the following steps.
First, start with stimuli (whatever is making them bark) at a comfortable distance. You want it to be close enough to be in view but not close enough that your dog will bark. Feed them lots of treats and provide praise.
Then, position the stimuli a bit closer. This distance can be as minute as just a few inches or feet. Once you’ve done this, once again provide treats and praise.
Finally, remove the stimuli entirely from view and stop giving treats and praise at this time.
You will repeat this process multiple times. You can judge if you should repeat it multiple times in one session or do a round or two several times. The progress will depend on the severity of the fear, so be patient as it could take days or weeks for your dog to see the stimuli without effectively.
Ignore Attention Seeking Barking
If you have determined that your dog is likely barking to get your attention and/or a reaction out of you, it is best to ignore them and stay still when they do so. Of course, this is difficult when you are frustrated, but it will help eliminate the behavior in the long run. It is vital to also not provide eye contact at eye contact often registers as a reward for them!
Wait until they stop barking. Once they have stopped you can reward them with the attention they were seeking which could mean petting, playtime, or a treat.
This strategy is effective over time because it will teach your dog that barking does not deliver what they want. You may also want to reward them when they are being quiet naturally. By rewarding them when they are calm and silent you are teaching them they can be rewarded without the behavior that causes problems!
Exercise for Boredom or Separation Anxiety
Exercise is a great option for working out a behavior like excessive barking. A tired dog will be less likely to be stressed or bored. You can keep them exercised and tired out by giving enough walks for their age/breed and by playing tiring games like chase or fetch!
If you are gone throughout the day and your dog is barking at neighbors, a dog walker is a great tool to help. Not only will the exercise calm them down it will help alleviate boredom or anxiety caused by isolation.
Limiting What Your Territorial Dog Sees
Limiting what your dog sees is a great way to help if they bark when people walk by the house. You will likely need to partner this with training strategies but it is a very helpful start!
Locate where your dog barks the most and see how you can limit their view. This can mean installing fences, drawing curtains, or covering your windows with film.
You can pair this with training by trying to distract them before they begin barking. If your dog barks when people walk by then you likely know what will begin the barking. Try to anticipate this and ask them to perform a command like sit. Not only will this help distract them, but it can also teach them to look to you when a trigger comes by.
Familiar Sounds for Separation Anxiety and Fear
One idea that dog behaviorists have found helpful for dogs barking due to fear or separation anxiety is providing them with familiar sounds. This could be a familiar tv program or soft music they may already be used to. The objective here is to create a soundscape that will mimic the sounds that play when you are at home with them.
Bark Collars – Should you Use One?
Bark collars are a widely-debated topic. They vary on what they use to discourage barking – smells, sounds, shocks. etc. We encourage you to talk to a dog trainer or behaviorist before you go this route. As a rule of thumb, our team believes that these should only be an option if your dog’s barking is putting them or others in harm’s way.
CBD is a great training tool for helping train a dog to stop barking. CBD allows your dog to feel calm and safe enough to focus on and retain what you are teaching. It can be especially helpful when your dog is barking due to fear or anxiety.
What Not to Do
Never use a muzzle as a solution by physically restraining your dog from barking when alone for long periods of time.
Be consistent in your training. Don’t allow or embolden them to bark at some stimuli and discourage them from others. You need them to know the barking is not encouraged for any reason.
If you have a senior pet or one with which excessive barking is a new behavior, make sure to not rule out medical problems. This could be anything from instinct stings to brain disease. For this reason, it is always a good plan to have your dog visit your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes.
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