Got a dog that barks constantly?
Try these seven tips that experts recommend for reducing excessive barking.
It’s natural for a dog to bark excessively, sometimes.
Your dog might be barking because they are nervous, excited, alarmed, feeling playful, or just trying to communicate with you.
What seems loud and excessive to us is just the dog’s way of expressing itself.
That said, a dog that constantly barks can be a huge stressor on your home.
There are ways to train your pup out of its excessive, noisy barking.
It just takes a little patience.
Below are seven tips that experts recommend for reducing excessive barking.
Expert Tips For Reducing Your Dog’s Excessive Barking
The following steps are recommended for curing a bad barking habit:
- Identify the cause of the barking
- Use positive reinforcement
- Give your dog plenty of exercise
- Eliminate stressors
- Provide distractions
- Be consistent
- Don’t be afraid to bring in a professional
We’ll break down each of these tips one by one. However, before you read any further, here are a few important things to keep in mind:
First, all of these steps will work best with a younger pup. The longer a barking habit is established, the harder it will be to get rid of.
If you notice your puppy barking, don’t write it off as just a “puppy thing” – start training them out of it now, before it becomes a bad habit.
You may have a rescue who picked up the barking habit years ago. If that is the case, remember to be patient and stay positive. You know the saying; old habits die hard.
Remember that dogs are individuals – each one is different. These suggestions are not universal rules to get your dog to stop barking.
Get to know your dog’s personality, understand why they are barking, and find what is right for them. Patience is the key.
1. Identify the cause of the barking
Step one in fixing any bad habit is understanding why it started. Again, barking is a dog’s natural form of communication.
Dogs bark out of fear, defensiveness, playfulness, or just to get attention. The best way to solve the barking problem depends on what kind of bark it is.
You should be able to tell if your dog is barking out of fear or alarm. You will see your dog’s tail tuck between its legs or ears go back.
They will be reacting to some kind of change, noise, or threat around them, so pay attention to what is going on when your dog starts barking.
If it starts up every time there is a loud, sudden noise, or new presence in the house, it is probably a fear bark.
You might find that your dog barks excessively when they are playing. This is common in puppies but can really become an annoying habit as the dog gets older.
It doesn’t mean you need to stop them from playing – just that it will take a lot of training and positive reinforcement to teach them to play more quietly.
One of the most common reasons dogs bark is out of loneliness or boredom.
You may be getting complaints from the neighbors that your dog barks incessantly while you are away from home, or you may hear them barking if they are away from you in another room.
They are just bored and calling for your attention.
Remember, dogs don’t like to be alone. A lonely, bored dog is likely to bark until attention comes, especially if it has gotten them attention in the past.
2. Use positive reinforcement
This is really important, no matter what the cause of your dog’s barking is.
A lot of dog owners are tempted to react negatively when their dog is barking excessively – this is guaranteed to worsen the problem.
Physical punishment, shouting, or removing toys or treats is only going to make your dog bark more.
You might be tempted by a shock collar, whilst they can be effective, they’re painful and cause stress. A vibrating collar is a better choice, but it only works with positive reinforcement.
Instead of punishing bad behavior, you should reward good behavior. Give your dog a reward when they are not barking, and ignore them when they are.
If you have a dog who barks when they play, simply stop playing with them until they play quietly.
If you have a dog who barks when they are separated from you, do not go to them while they are barking. Give them treats and attention when the barking stops.
Ignoring a barking dog is easier said than done. If you find yourself getting agitated and tempted to yell, try removing yourself from the situation to cool down.
It is important to never use negative reinforcement, no matter how tough it gets.
3. Get your dog plenty of exercise
A tired pup is a quiet pup. A lot of the time a dog that is barking excessively just needs to let out some energy.
It’s always important for your dog to get plenty of exercise every day, If they do not have a spacious yard to run around in, take them on multiple walks each day.
Dogs need exercise and the stimulation of new sights, smells and sounds outside of the home.
Too busy to fit in all the walks your dog needs? Never underestimate the benefit of a neighborhood dog walker.
They never charge too much and it’s always worth it. Letting your dog get some energy out will make a huge difference.
4. Eliminate Stressors
If you have a dog who barks as a response to stress, especially an older dog or a rescue with a tough past, it is extremely important to create a calm environment for them.
You can’t control someone setting off fireworks or dogs walking by outside, but you can get rid of the stressors in your own home.
Keep loud noises and excitement to a minimum. Uninstalling your doorbell or installing a gentler one is a great move if you have an excitable pup.
Of course, no house can be stress-free all the time. Having a safe, quiet place reserved for your dog is helpful.
If you are having guests over or watching a loud movie, first make sure that your dog is somewhere quiet, with toys, food and their bed, where they will be away from the stressors.
5. Provide distractions
Remember, if your dog is barking a lot, they might just be bored. Find a way to keep them entertained when you can’t give them all of your attention.
Toys are a great place to start. Some dogs like to have something to listen to so they don’t feel alone in an empty house; try leaving a TV or radio on low while you are out.
If your dog has something to occupy their time, they are less likely to be susceptible to whatever is causing them to bark.
6. Be consistent
Whatever method works best for you and your dog, make sure you stick with it. It takes time to stop excessive barking, and changing tracks will just set you back to the beginning. I
f you have decided to not let the dog inside when they bark, for example, be sure to never let them in when they are barking. Wavering and giving in every once in a while will only confuse them.
If you have a command for your dog, make sure to use the same one every time. No, Stop, Hush, etc.; your dog will not understand what you are saying unless you use the same word every single time to mean “stop barking.”
And remember – if you choose to use a command, don’t shout it.
7. Don’t be afraid to bring in a professional
Last but not least, remember that you are only human, and excessive barking is a tough habit to break.
If you are really struggling with an excessive barker, don’t be afraid to call a professional trainer. Ask around, get some advice, and use all your resources. There are people who can help.
A trainer can work with your dog in or out of your home, and use all kinds of different methods.
If you do choose to hire a professional, be sure to do your research first and determine what will be best for your dog and your situation.
Barking is natural, but excessive barking can be annoying, disruptive, and stressful. If you have a dog who barks excessively, there are ways to solve the problem.
Remember to be patient, positive and use all the resources available to you. Never hit or shout at your dog it will not effectively stop the barking.
Use positive reinforcements and ignore bad behavior instead.
With patience and understanding, you will be able to reduce your dog’s excessive barking.
About the author: Andy is a dog lover, animal behaviorist, and owner of Pet Gear Lab.