Getting your dog to stop barking is a frequent complaint of pet owners. But let’s think about why our dogs are barking in the first place. Anxiety or fear is often the root cause. Some dogs might also bark just for attention or our of boredom. Barking is also contagious – your dog might be barking simply because other dogs are barking!
Most likely, different causes will have different solutions, but here are some steps to try to help curb your dog’s excessive barking:
Remove the barking stimulus.
Try to get into your pet’s head and find what’s causing them to bark, then avoid that trigger if possible. Put yourself in your dog’s perspective and see what might be motivating them to bark. Are there dogs walking on the street that are in your pet’s line of vision? Try closing the curtains long enough to train your dog not to bark. And don’t forget to reward them for their good behavior when they do see a dog and don’t react by barking!
Desensitize your dog to his barking triggers.
Sometimes it’s not possible to remove your dog’s barking triggers. In that case, you’ll have to try to desensitize them to it. If your dog flips out when they see another dog, for example, try exposing them to a lot of dogs (slowly, not all at once to overwhelm them!). Hopefully, your dog will get used to seeing other dogs and won’t feel the need to bark and bring attention to every dog they see from now on.
Don’t yell. (Even though it’s a natural reaction!)
Yelling escalates the noise and stress level of the situation. Plus, when you yell, your dog naturally thinks that you’re joining in and barking with them! Shouting at your dog to stop barking will likely result in them barking even more, and even louder, to try to match your level.
We know that yelling will escalate the situation. It sounds harsh, but ignoring your barking dog will most likely help de-escalate the situation faster.
If you suspect your dog might be barking for your attention, ignoring them when they do this will teach them to stop. Think about it like this: you are rewarding your dog for barking by giving them your attention. If you stop paying attention to them when they bark, they will learn that barking doesn’t work and will stop. It’s hard, but try not to talk to or even look at your dog when they are barking. Just don’t interact at all, and soon they will learn to stop barking for your attention.
Train your dog to stop barking with a command phrase.
If your dog is really driving you nuts with their barking, it might be time to try more specific training. You can teach them a phrase that you will use when you want them to be calm and quiet (and not barking). Practice the word and reward your dog for behaving for the specified amount of time afterwards. Start with 5 seconds, then increase to 10 seconds, a full minute, etc. Once they are consistently responding to the command phrase, you can try varying the amount of time. This helps them learn to stay quiet until you release them and not always for just 10 seconds. You can also try slowly exposing your dog to their triggers and using the command phrase to keep them calm. Don’t forget to always reward them for their good behavior!! With patience and consistency, you can train your dog to stop barking.
If your dog is barking a lot because they are an anxious dog in general, check out this article on how to help nervous pups feel calm and safe.