In Training: Teaching Your Dog Not To Bark

Barking is normal behavior and just one way dogs communicate. But what if your dog holds routine bark fests in the backyard? Here's help.

Why Dogs Bark

The first step in obtaining peace and quiet is to realize that most dogs bark for specific reasons. Some reasons include:

  • Solitary Confinement. A dog left alone or confined for long periods without supervision is likely to bark because he feels anxious or sad and is afraid the owner may not return. (Will your dog be left along for much of the day? Some dogs adapt to this better than others.)
  • Who's in Charge Here? Your dog may bark excessively for your attention because you unintentionally trained him to do so. One "woof" and you open the door to let him out. Another and you let him in. A polite bark is rewarded with a treat. A loud one brings praise for alerting you to stranger danger. Too much barking brings censure. To a dog, humans are consistently inconsistent.
  • Inactivity. Lack of exercise can easily result in a dog that has pent-up energy and barks out of frustration. A well-exercised, happy dog is more likely to sleep when you're not there.
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How to Stop the Barking

So, what can you do about your dog's barking? Here are some tips:

  • Let's get physical. Dogs that spend most of their time in the backyard or in the house probably need an exercise outlet. Even if your yard is large, dashing around it in circles is not the equivalent of exercise and interaction. Take your dog for a long walk, or head to the park for a change of scenery and a game of fetch.
  • Love the one you're with. Bring your dog into the house when you're home. It's important that he feels he's part of the family and is loved. Develop a relationship with him through play and fun.
  • You've got a friend in me. Dogs are social creatures. Take your dog to the same park daily or weekly and let him make doggy friends. Dogs romping around together tire easily and sleep soundly.
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More Strategies

Once you've tried some of these doggie deterrents, if your dog still insists on barking his heart out, then you may need to employ a more serious at-home training strategy like this:

  • First, teach your dog that barking is okay until he is told to "Be quiet." Each time your dog barks, command him to "Be quiet." Simultaneously, hold a treat in front of your dog's nose. Most dogs get quiet immediately because they can't sniff and lick the treat while barking at the same time.
  • Praise your dog continuously during his quiet time with petting and words of encouragement.
  • After three seconds of no barking, let him have the treat. As you continue with your training, increase the amount of time you require him to be quiet before giving the treat.
  • When your dog makes a mistake and barks (and he will) reprimand him immediately. Never strike your dog, but do something that will catch his attention, such as clapping loudly or squirting water in his face. As soon as your dog stops barking, you must instantly reward him.
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Practice and Patience Are Key

Don't expect overnight miracles from a dog that's been barking for months. It may take weeks to replace an old habit with a new one. If you keep up with the training, you will see a new pattern develop. Instead of barking relentlessly at the insignificant, your dog will bark appropriately and for a reasonable length of time.

Until you have retrained your dog about the appropriateness of barking, he should be confined to a place where he will cause the least disturbance. Shut your doors and windows and leave a television on to mask noises that might provoke your dog from the street. You may also want to shut off the telephone and doorbell if these set off a barking spree.

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Top 10 Dogs for Watchdog Barking

Looking for a dog that WILL bark to deter potential burglars? Listed from most alert to least alert, these breeds will bark vigorously at the presence of an intruder or in situations that seem out of the ordinary.

  • Rottweiler
  • German Shepherd
  • Scottish Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Poodle (standard/miniature)


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