Training Tips: Turn Down the Volume on Your Dog

Training Tips: Turn Down the Volume on Your Dog

If your house is the mailman’s most dreaded stop or you’ve taken to wearing earplugs when your dog is in the car, it’s time to focus on training your pup to stop barking.  

While barking is one of your dog’s best forms of communication, excessive barking can quickly become inappropriate and start to cause problems between you and your family, your neighbors, and possibly anyone that crosses your dog’s path.  

Learn why and how you can stop your dog’s barking with these training tips.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Before you can go about stopping your dog’s barking, you need to understand what he’s trying to tell you.  As we said before, barking is a dog’s main form of communication and he will use it to convey many emotions.  Knowing what those emotions are is the key in stopping excessive barking. Your pup’s body language will also help clue you in on why your dog is barking.

Greeting, play, or attention

Most dogs are social and they get excited to see other people and especially other dogs.  Don’t be surprised if your pup barks when you come home from work, at other dogs you encounter during your walks, or during a rough and tough game of tug-a-war.  Dogs may also bark to let you know their food bowl is empty or they need an emergency trip outside, and don’t be surprised to hear barking if you snub them after being away for the day.  She’s trying to let you know that she has needs too! Your pooch’s body language with this type of barking should match play and excitement with tail wagging and maybe jumping around.

Fear

Some dogs will voice their fear by barking.  This fear could come from loud noises, new people, or unfamiliar places.  Your dog’s barking here is letting you know that he’s not comfortable with the situation.  His posture may stiffen and he may become more jumpy.

Territorialism

Dogs like to protect what’s theirs.  Some can be very possessive of her yard, home, bed, toys, and even you.  Excessive barking may signal that someone or something is getting too close to your dog’s area or possessions.  She may also assume a more aggressive posture in case she has to defend her territory.

Loneliness or Boredom

In the wild, dogs live in packs for a reason.  They are social animals meaning they seek out the company of others.  This company isn’t always other dogs it can include humans or other animals.  Some pups may increase their barking behavior if they’re left alone for too long.  They’re missing that social interaction and trying to draw attention to themselves.  Other pups need some form of mental stimulation to prevent boredom. For bored dogs, barking becomes an activity of its own.

Separation Anxiety

Some dogs will even go as far as developing separation anxiety if left alone too often.  Separation anxiety occurs when being left alone actually triggers compulsive behaviors such as excessive barking, pacing, or destructive behaviors like chewing up their bed or your shoes.

Medical Issues or Aging

If your dog’s barking suddenly increases, check for areas of pain.  Some dogs will bark when they’re uncomfortable or don’t feel well. As pups age, barking may increase due to loss of vision, hearing, or canine cognitive dysfunction.  They may not even realize that they are barking.  This is a great reason to see your veterinarian for regular checkups.

How To Stop a Dog From Barking

You now hopefully understand some reasons behind why dogs bark.  It’s not a good idea to stop barking completely as your pup has some important things to tell you, but if his barking has become excessive there are some things you can do.  When faced with a barking dog remember that it’s always best to stay calm. Shouting or yelling at him may only increase the barking because he thinks you’re joining in. Talk in a calm, positive voice and be patient and consistent, stopping dog barking takes time.

Remove the motivation

Once you’ve figured out why or what your dog is barking at, take it away.  Sounds easy, right? It may not be as easy as you think, but here are some common strategies to decrease dog barking triggers.

Greeting or excitement barking

If your pup is the type that lets off loud barks when the mailman stops or when visitors come over, close the curtains or put her in a back room where she won’t get so much stimulation.

Playful barking

If she gets revved up while playing fetch and can’t keep quiet, stop the game and let her calm down.  Resume once she is quiet again.

Loneliness or boredom barking

If loneliness or boredom is causing desperate barking, consider taking her to a doggie day care or hiring a dog walker while you can’t be with her.  You can also look into interactive or feeder type toys to keep her entertained while you’re away.

Territorialism

If your pup is protective of her yard, make sure she isn’t allowed outside unless someone is with her.  Territorialism can easily turn to aggression if you’re not there to intervene. If she’s protective of your house, use the mailman trick and make sure she’s in a backroom when visitors are expected.

Ignore the barking

This method is for those with more steely nerves and lots of patience.  If you have the time and the means (ie. earplugs!) you can try to ignore the noise and outlast your pup in this battle of wills.  Ignoring the barking means your dog gets zero attention, positive or negative, while he’s barking. No pets, no treats, no words, not even looks.  Once he stops barking, bath him with affection or give him a treat. The key is to wait until he stops barking. If you give in and yell at him or even look at him while he’s barking, he’s won.

This method may not work for everyone since some of us have neighbors and sleeping family members to think about.  But it could still work for excessive barking in certain situations such as when your dog goes in his crate for the night.  You can then try to put the crate in a more sound proof part of your house, like the garage or basement, in order to wait him out without disrupting too many people.

Use the ‘quiet’ command

For this method you need to take a step back and actually teach your pup to bark.  Before you write this off as crazy think about this, if you can reliably get her to bark you can more easily get her to stop.  Start by telling your dog to ‘speak.’ After two or three barks, give her a treat. The barking will stop while she’s sniffing the treat and you should praise her.  When she’s got the ‘speak’ command down, insert the ‘quiet’ command as you give her the treat so that she stops barking to receive the treat after hearing the word quiet.

Divert your dog’s attention away from barking

If you’ve got your dog’s reason for barking pinpointed but are still having a hard time getting him to quiet down, try giving him something else to do entirely.  If he’s busy with other actions, his normal barking routine won’t even cross his mind. Do these every day or especially before a known barking event, such as visitors coming over.

Tire your dog out

A tired dog is a quiet dog.  Playing games or exercising with your pup will have him headed for his bed rather than warming up his vocal chords.  Increase the frequency or intensity of his walks, play fetch, go to the dog park, or host a doggie play date. This is a great method for dogs that bark at night.

Give your dog mental or physical challenges

This is similar to tiring him out but instead you’re trying to keep him entertained.  Run him on an agility course, do an obedience lesson, or play with interactive toys. Interactive toys are great at stopping dogs from barking when left alone.

How to Stop Excessive Barking

If your dog insists on copiously barking even after trying all of the above strategies, it’s time for some more intense intervention.  

Visit your veterinarian

A dog that continues to bark excessively after applying some basic training tips may have an underlying medical condition.  As we said before, dogs can bark due to discomfort from pain or other illnesses and as they age. If your pup isn’t responding to any of your stop barking interventions, visit your vet for a full checkup and to discuss other options.

Bark collars

Let’s put these in the last ditch effort category.  Dog collars to stop barking are controversial but do have their place in some training regimes.  They should only be used after exhausting other barking dog solutions and consulting with your veterinarian.  Bark collars come in three different types. All types should be properly fitted snuggly around your dog’s neck.  The collar senses the vibrations for your dog’s vocal cords when she starts to bark and then provides a different barking deterrent depending on the type of collar.

Shock collars

These collars send a static shock when your dog barks.  Most of them start with a small shock that increases with intensity if your dog continues to bark.

Citronella collars

Since most dogs don’t like the scent of citronella, these collars work by blasting the scent when your dog begins to bark.

Ultrasonic collars

These emit a high pitched sound as a dog barking deterrent.  

  • Ultrasonic bark control device:  As an alternative to the ultrasonic no-bark collar, an ultrasonic bark control device emits the same unpleasant noise to deter barking but isn’t used on your dog.  Instead you can place it in your home or outside in your yard, wherever your dog exhibits his barking behavior. These dog barking deterrent devices have a range of 50 or more feet and come disguised as cute bird houses to blend into any décor.  
  • Reward behavior training system:  Instead of providing a barking deterrent, these devices remotely dispense treats to distract your pup during known barking triggers.  These need to be used wisely as you don’t want to dispense a treat and reward her after she starts to bark.

What Not To Do To Stop Dog Barking

With all of these ideas to try on what to do to stop your dog from barking, here are a few things that you want to make sure not to do to avoid confusion during your training.

Don’t yell

This one was already briefly mentioned, but yelling at your barking dog can actually increase the barking since he may think that you’re joining in.   

Don’t reward barking

Obviously, but this means don’t comfort or pet your pup even if he’s fearful or anxiously barking.  Wait until the barking subsides before you try to fix things.

Don’t ‘debark’

You may have a hard time finding a veterinarian that will perform this procedure anyway.  Instead use your time and money on training materials or classes to stop the barking.

Can You Stop a Neighbor Dog From Barking?

Depending on your relationship with the neighbor, absolutely.  The first step would be to give them a copy of these training tips!  Secondly, you could try an ultrasonic bark control device that you hang in your yard to emit the unpleasant noise when she barks.  Again, yelling at the barking neighbor dog might not stop the barking and might upset your neighbors.

----

Barking is a normal form of communication for all dogs, but sometimes it’s taken to the extreme.  If you’re looking to turn down the volume on your best friend remember that patience and consistency is the most important in whatever training method you take.  It’s not going to happen overnight and you may have to try many different methods until you find one that works. When it does you’ll be enjoying the sweet sound of silence before you know it.

Previous article Training Tips: How to Teach Your Dog You're the Pack Leader
Next article Find Out if Your State Requires Dog Seat Belts