How to Stop a Dog from Barking

How to stop a dog barkingMany dogs bark at some time or other, but for some it can become a bad habit or a cause of annoyance and distress for dog families – particularly if you live in a built up area. If this is you, then my quest is to help show you how to stop a dog from barking.

If you want to skip all the background, just scroll down to my 5 simple steps to take immediate action.

It is useful here to look at several aspects of dog barking, including reasons why dogs bark, what happens in a more natural environment and common ways that people currently deal with the problem, which may not be the best solution!

The main reason dogs bark

Before we can stop a dog barking, we need to look at what is causing it to bark in the first place. There are several things to remember here:

Reasons for a dog to bark

  • Your dog’s hearing is much more powerful than your’s. They are likely to hear more, as well as sounds that are in a frequency we can’t even hear. 
  • Your dog’s sense of small is super-charged, so they are a lot more sensitive to odors in your environment
  • There are many dogs that don’t naturally like cats! There are always exceptions to this – especially if you have a dog-and-cat household. Maybe they just tolerate one another, or maybe they actually love each other – but for dogs that don’t have feline house buddies, they can be inclined to bark at a cat wandering past the window of their own home. It’s a fact!
Dog barking at a cat

Maybe this is what your dog really sees when there is a cat out the window!


 

Ultimately a dog barks to communicate something he/she feels is relevant to his pack, or in the case of a domestic dog, his family. That means you! 




Let’s look at some examples:

Danger

There could be something in the wider environment the dog feels is a potential source of danger. He considers the barking as a way to warn you of this danger.

Protection

If your dog is one of these he is likely to have fairly set boundaries in his head of where the territorial lines are drawn. It’s irrelevant if they are invisible to you or not, it’s where the dog’s boundaries are that is important here. They can bark if they feel these boundaries have been crossed or breached by someone or something unfamiliar. Cue the cat I mentioned above!

With either of these reasons, the dogs feels like he is doing his utmost in defending his family and/or their territory. It is a natural instinct that they want to protect what is most important to them. Again, that’s you.


 

Natural Behavior or Bad Habits?

In order to really look at what’s natural behavior and what’s not, it’s a good idea to take a look at wild canines do. You might be surprised to learn that they do not bark much at all, unless they are puppies.

If we think about a wild environment, it is quite alright for puppies to whimper, growl and bark within the safety of a den – there is little chance they can cause too much harm by making noise in this area. 

However, as dogs grow and mature they will start to leave the den and accompany older dogs in the pack on hunting missions. Now barking becomes a whole different ball game. 

Imagine if you will the stealth of a hunting pack, getting close to their prey, working hard to stay upwind – when an adolescent dog gives a bark of excitement. The carefully selected prey bolts away and that’s it, the hunt has to start all over again with a new target. You can imagine how this would go down with the pack – “like a lead balloon” springs to mind! Therefore, it rarely happens. The younger ones are kept in check by the pack, particularly the alpha male. It could be as little as an icy, blue stare and the younger dog wouldn’t even dream of moving a whisker, let alone a full blown bark. These animals are so in tune with one another right from birth, so all the natural instincts and behaviors work exactly as they should without any human interference.

Dog barking in the wild

Is that realistic behavior in a house? No is the short answer! Over many years and the domestication of dogs, we have actually bred in a greater tendency to bark. So as a dog owner it’s not fair to expect your own dog to act like a wolf, when in fact we have asked them to bark more, and for different reasons.

It’s also good to think about what does actually constitute natural barking behavior and what is down to bad habits.

Does your dog harass the postman?

Dog barking at postman

If you have a dog that barks at the postman, does your dog really think every single day the same person poses a major threat to you? Or, does he consider the letters arriving through the slot a major invasion of his boundaries? 

If you genuinely think this is the case, I would also hazard a guess that you have a very distressed dog on your hand. Can you imagine thinking every day that the postman is seriously dangerous, or that letters are actually an alien invasion? Your dog would need to be on anti-stressants!

You would definitely need expert behavior help here.

I am much more inclined to think this is a bad habit – more because it’s been allowed to develop and continue. Your dog probably thinks it’s fun to bark at the postman and then chew up the letters! In which case, it’s more likely your dog is just plain bored.


 

Taking Constructive Action

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, it’s time to visit the wild relatives again. How do dogs stop one another from barking in the wild? It’s quite a simple process, that is carried out by any dog in the pack that ranks higher in terms of dominance. (e.g. the pack leader, a puppy’s mother etc).

The dominant animal places its mouth gently over the barker’s muzzle.

Stop a Dog from Barking

Picture taken from “How to Speak Dog”, by Stanely Coren

They don’t bite, but at the same time they often give a breathy growl that is short and low. because there is no pain involved, the offender doesn’t feel the need to try and get away, or retaliate in any way. Silence usually follows immediately afterwards.

Follow these 5 SIMPLE STEPS

What you will need: your hand and your dog needs to be wearing their collar

It’s quite an easy technique to imitate, but remember it will be a form of training so you need to make it  a consistent action whenever your dog is barking near you. Through repetition comes reinforcement, then through practice becomes ingrained behavior – patience and consistency are key.

When your dog is barking, and near to you:

Step 1…

Using your hand that is nearest to the dog, with your palm facing up, slip your fingers underneath the collar, just at the back of the dog’s neck

Step 2…

With that hand, create resistance by holding the collar taut – not tight enough to cause any discomfort to your dog, after all you are not trying to strangle him. (If your dog is in need of a collar, take a look here for good quality options)

Step 3…

Place your other hand over the dog’s muzzle, curving your palm around to fit the shape and pressing down gently. It’s not a “smack on the nose”, but a firm pressure

Step 5…

At the same time, in a quiet, businesslike fashion, say “Quiet”. Try and keep you tone unemotional – and remember you need to use the same tone each time you issue this command.

 


What you should not do?

Dog muzzle to stop barkingThere are many techniques that dog owners adopt to try and stop their dogs barking – water pistols or squirt bottles, lemon juice sprays (ouch in the eyes!), muzzles, rolled magazines, rattle cans and electric collars.

I’m sure you have heard about cases where owners have used adhesive tape to try and prevent barking, with dire consequences for the dog. 

Firstly, I would like to emphasize you should never beat your dog, or do anything to cause it physical pain.

If your dog is barking with good intentions, as I have pointed out above – i.e. to protect you or his territory – imagine how he would feel if you take harsh action. This can cause a major breakdown in your relationship with your dog. He views it as an act of devotion, so punishing him is like a smack in the face and very hurtful to his feelings.

Another thing you shouldn’t do is imitate their barking or make loud noises. The dog will take this to mean you are joining in, because he is doing the right things. Even shouting can be viewed by your dog as your own version of human barking! 





 

How long will it take to stop barking?

I can hear most of you asking this question, but I can’t give a definitive answer. Depending on the breed, it may take anywhere from two repetitions to several dozen.

Like all new dog training, you must give it time, be patient and consistent with your methods, to help your dog learn what you are asking him or her.

Also, if your dog is otherwise a well-trained dog, they are likely to respond much quicker to this new instruction.

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I hope you have found this helpful – I would love to hear your experiences and feedback, so please feel free to leave me a comment below.

22 thoughts on “How to Stop a Dog from Barking

  1. Ron Shanko

    You never have told us about how to stop barking so you published nonsense with a promised answer.

    Reply
    1. admin

      Hello Ron,
      I appreciate you may be having problems stopping your dog from barking, and you are entitled to your opinion. However, I did give a series of instructions, which if consistently used will stop most dogs barking. I have copied these again below, in case you missed them. I also said at the very beginning of the article that not all dogs are barking for the same reason, with advice on how to understand why your dog is barking in the first place. If your dog has serious barking issues, which have not been cured through this method, then you will need to seek one-to-one support from a professional who can come into your home and work directly with you and your dog. I did also state this in my article too. I’m sorry these simpler methods have not worked in your case. All the best, Mara.

      When your dog is barking, and near to you:

      using your hand nearest to the dog, with your palm facing up, slip your fingers underneath the collar, just at the back of the dog’s neck

      with that hand, create resistance by holding the collar taut – not tight enough to cause any discomfort to your dog, after all you are not trying to strangle him.
      place your other hand over the dog’s muzzle, curving your palm around to fit the shape and pressing down gently. It’s not a “smack on the nose”, but a firm pressure
      at the same time, in a quiet, businesslike fashion, say “Quiet”. Try and keep you tone unemotional – and remember you need to use the same tone each time you issue this command.

      Reply
  2. Irma

    I will definitely try this on my one year old dog. She is going to a dog school next month, but the trainer told me that I need to work on her on some behavior problems first. I have seen that she has gotten a habit of barking when people arrive at the house or close by. I will try this technique with her. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hello again Irma,

      It may feel a bit frustrating to have minimum behavior standards for dog school, but it’s a good policy since there will be lots of other dogs there. Let me know how you get on with this and if there’s anything else I can help you with just let me know. Good luck at doggie school!

      Mara

      Reply
  3. christinamk

    This is such useful information and written so beautifully! Thank you for this, I will be sure to use this when I get a dog! It is enlightening to know that canines in the wild have tactics to stop barking. I’m interested to know what other natural conditioning canines had for each other in the wild and how those could shape the way we interact with our dogs today.

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Thank you for your comments Christina. If you would like to receive my articles as they are written, you are welcome to sign up to my client list. The sign up form is available on most of my web pages. Hope to hear from you again soon,

      Mara.

      Reply
  4. Pauline

    I love your website (maybe it helps that I love dogs), The huge picture of the dog is brilliantly crisp and clear and yet still loads really quickly. The page about barking also offers really helpful advice for dog owners which leads to benefits for dogs themselves. It is also very interesting reading. Good work.

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Thanks for your nice comments Pauline. I’m glad you like my main picture! All the best,

      Mara.

      Reply
  5. James W D

    I live in a townhouse and my neighbor has three beagles. They are great dogs and I love them a lot. The funny thing is when we are out on our mutual decks one beagle will excessively bark at us. However when we come over to visit she loves us and we have no issues. I guess that “invisible” line is just between the decks… lol.

    Anyhow, I know they have been working with her on the barking and I will be sure to share your advice here with them. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi James,

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and you did make me laugh. I can almost picture the line between your two decks. It sounds like they are being very responsible neighbors and taking time to work on the problem. Now that Spring is here you may well be out on the decks more! Have fun with the beagles, Mara. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Teresa

    Hi–This is a very well written article. It emphasizes the fact that a good pet owner is similar to a good parent. When faced with unwanted behavior of any type from your child or your pet, you must first determine why you are getting the behavior. Identifying the problem, and working to eliminate it, will eliminate the behavior. You mentioned that boredom can be a source of barking for your dog. In order to reduce barking for this reason, work hard to engage your dog and keep him active and therefore less bored–an easy solution and one the conscientious pet owner will be glad to employ. Keep up the good work! You are providing valuable information.

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi Teresa,
      Thanks for reading this and your in-depth reply. I totally agree that having a dog is very similar to the parent-child relationship. If you don’t take the time to understand the root cause of the behavior it’s much more difficult to try and correct it. And you have hit the nail on the head with your thoughts on how to combat boredom in a dog! There are plenty of indoor dog toys to keep a dog busy.
      Thanks again,
      Mara.

      Reply
  7. Adam

    Hi! Thank you very much for this great article! It was really informative and has clarified a lot for me! 🙂

    My question may be a bit off-topic, sorry for that (but you seem professional in the topic, that’s why I ask it here).

    We’ve had a dog since last summer who was kinda “barky” so we had a quite lot of conflict about it with the neighbours (who are mainly elderly people).
    We feel ready to adopt a new one, but we would like to have a dog which doesn’t bark that much. Do you think there are some types which tend to not bark so much, or are maybe easier to teach not to bark?

    Thank you for your answer in advance!

    Adam

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi Adam,

      That’s an interesting question. I’ve known all types of breeds that bark, but in my own personal experience I tend to put dogs into two camps – big dogs that bark infrequently, but can be loud when they do, or smaller dogs that bark more often but it’s more of a “yapping”. Either way, it’s the constant barking that seems to cause problems with neighbors. I think you are best to go with a dog you feel an attachment for and train him or her as best you can. If you are really concerned about it, try and ask the shelter what the dog’s barking is like before you adopt, but there won’t be any guarantees once you get the dog home. Let me know how you get on and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any other questions. I’m sure you will provide a nice home for a new adoptee!

      Mar

      Reply
  8. Jessie

    This is such an informative post. I have a 14 year old black lab, and we have been very lucky when it comes to his barking. He barely barks at all anymore, and even as a puppy, it would be more out of excitement that someone else was holding one of this toys. I love the part about protection, for reasons why dogs bark. I feel like this is true for my dog as well. Great article.

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi Jessie,

      Glad you liked my article and your lab sounds like a true gent! All the best to you and your lab,

      Mar

      Reply
  9. Westwaters

    Hi Mara, I totally love your site. I’m obviously a dog lover (have had 5 Westies over the past 30 years). ( I just had to stop to let my dog Leo into the house-he lets me know he’s ready to come in with 1 bark in front of the sliding glass doors). What a wealth of information you’ve presented. I wasn’t aware of the “barking in the pack” from puppy to adulthood, but it does make much sense. I always took my dogs to work with me everyday
    (fitness club) so they were what I called “socialized” & well behaved. I retired last year and of course got another puppy and am finding that she does not respond to my commands as well as the others have.
    I’m wondering if I’m just too lenient with her since I don’t
    have to worry about her misbehaving with other people.
    When company comes however, she (10 months) has a habit of jumping up at their legs. Any suggestions on how to break that habit, I tell everyone to say “down” but she gets so excited-thinks everyone’s here to see her! Again, great site, and I will continue to check in on new posts, as well as recommending you to my “doggie lover friends”. Much success…

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi there,

      Thank you so much for your nice comments about my site – glad you like it. Leo sounds like he’s got his communication all sorted out! Regarding your puppy, the first thing you can try is this – when she jumps up, don’t respond or speak to her. Ignore her and turn your back. This should do the trick, but you will need to tell people when they come over to do the same. Any speech or bending down to pet her will be an encouragement to keep doing it – like you said, because it’s exciting to her. If you take away the human reaction, the excitement will soon wane and she will hopefully greet your guests by going up to them, wagging her tail but not jumping. It may take a bit of practice, but if you have any problems please come back to me and I’ll see what else I can suggest to help. There is also online help available with dog training. Good luck and let me know how you get on.

      Mara

      Reply
  10. JeffWA

    Hi Mara,
    What an incredibly informative article that you created on your website, regarding attempts at getting a dog to stop barking.

    Through the years we, as human beings, have come to better understand dogs and their behavior. Educational instruction has been written to help dog owners realize how to better train their pets.

    Truly, it is so much better compared to when I was much younger and in the late 60’s – late 1970’s my family owned a cocker spaniel. Then, the very wrong thought was to punish a dog who we thought was misbehaving through the animal’s barking. As you stated in your excellent article, this was all wrong thinking enacted by human beings. Quite simply we did not then understand how many dogs’ brains worked, their behavioral traits and indeed what could have been happening within the dog’s own mind were he/she to be barking often.

    In reading your bio I see that you grew up around dogs and have been a pet owner all of your life. Did you ever study dogs in some type of training/school/educational setting? The reason I ask is because through the info that you used as part of your explaining how to work with a barking dog, you exhibit such high knowledge of the subject material.

    An excellent article Mara. Many dog owners who have pets that bark quite often would receive a lot of info simply by reading your thoughts on the matter in this article.
    Jeff

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi Jeff,

      Thank you very much for your response. It is true that with the help of science we do know so much more than we used to about all sorts of animal behavior. I did study Zoology at University, although that wasn’t my major! I have a huge love of animals, and especially dogs. Most of what I have learnt has been through personal experience, reading, research and speaking to qualified dog trainers and carers.

      I’m glad you thought this was informative.

      Mara

      Reply
  11. Dorina

    Some dogs bark for a reason, but others have no one, while others do in both cases.
    The problem with these dogs is not always barking, but wishing that they would be silent at certain times or when required to. In my town there are many dogs. The mayor proposed that all dogs be required to stop barking, but his proposed measure was not voted on by the council.

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi Dorina,

      Yes you are right – dogs can bark for no apparent reason to us. But even if like you say they are on their own, they may be barking out of boredom or frustration, or maybe even loneliness. The dogs will have a reason most of the time – the other times it may be as I suggested, that it’s a bad habit which has got out of control. Toys can help with boredom, and there are some excellent indoor toys available. I would be interested to know, how was the mayor planning on controlling the dog barking? And what was going to be the outcome if the rules were broken? Please do let me know if you have time.

      All the best,

      Mara.

      Reply

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