How to Stop Your Dog From Barking

Gus gets his bark on.
Photo by Gregory, Pittsburgh

To reduce your dog’s barking, you must first pinpoint what sets him off and tailor your behavior training to his triggers. His barking is instinctual. But constant barking is intolerable for you and the rest of his human family. Let the barking continue for too long unabated, and you may face discontented neighbors who are suffering along with you. Read on to learn the common causes of excessive barking; how much barking is acceptable; and most importantly, how to curtail incessant barking, day or night. We’ll also give you a rundown of which dog breeds bark the most—and the least.

Why Your Dog Barks

Barking is one of the ways your dog talks or shouts to you and others. Your dog’s bark may be an excited “hello!,” “look at that!,” “look at me!,” or “someone’s at the door!” In instances when your dog is protecting himself, you, or his territory, his bark translates to “watch out!” or “don’t come too close!” These barks based on excitement, fear, or anger are all perfectly normal and, to a degree, should be expected as a natural form of canine communication. But when your dog starts barking and doesn’t stop, you’ve got a noisy problem no matter the cause. Though your dog may bark excessively because he’s on the chatty side, most inordinate dog barking is a form of compulsion caused by separation anxiety, boredom, or being too territorial.

Why Do Dogs Bark at Night?

Boredom, anxiety, loneliness, stress, and age are among the reasons dogs bark at night. Dogs may even bark in their sleep in response to dreams. While your dog may seem to bark at nothing, he is quite sure he has a good reason to howl. You may be able to ignore the nighttime barking, but your neighbors aren’t interested in your canine’s serenade. Your city or state may even have a nuisance barking law or noise ordinance against dogs disturbing the peace.

New puppies bark and whine at night. Puppies don’t sleep through the night until five months or older—their bladders are small, and they miss you when you’re gone. The barking may subside when you come to his rescue, but answering your puppy’s cries may create an attention-seeking habit. Instead, tire him out with plenty of exercise during the day. Stick to a bedtime routine and consider keeping his crate near your bed at night until he has settled in. While his floppy ears and fuzzy grins may be difficult to resist, avoid interacting with your puppy after you’ve tucked him in for the night so he learns to sleep.

Sounds or movement from outside can incite a round of howls from your watchful companion. Draw the curtains to minimize visual stimuli and run a fan or white noise machine to cover up sounds.

Older dogs may regress at night—a once-quiet sleeper may start barking or whining after dark. This change may be caused by discomfort, illness, or cognitive decline. If your senior dog begins to bark at night or if his “voice” seems to have changed, consult the vet for advice.

When Barking Is a Warning

A warning bark is a clear sign from your dog that a situation makes him uncomfortable—and warning barks should always be heeded. This type of bark is different from an alarm bark. Multiple barks let you know there’s something you should look into: a raccoon in the yard, a stranger at the door, rumbling thunder in the distance. A warning bark is a throaty, guttural sound often accompanied by a low growl. This type of bark says he feels threatened by a person or a situation, and he is not afraid to react. Reprimanding or discouraging this type of barking takes away your dog’s ability to communicate his unease, and so doing can lead to aggressive responses without warning. Instead, remove the threat or get your dog out of the area and remember the trigger to avoid the situation in the future. Warning barks shouldn’t go unchecked; contact a behaviorist to address potential aggression before it becomes a problem.

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking

As you embark on training your dog to woof within reason, remember the process requires time, repetition, and consistency. Your dog may learn quickly, but you’ll be less frustrated if you expect improvements over weeks rather than days.

Also, remember yelling and punishment will undermine your efforts. Yelling is the human equivalent of barking. It will only scare your dog, distract him from his lessons, or inspire him to join in on the hollering. Training using positive reinforcement is always your best course.

Strategies to Curb Barking When Your Dog Is Alone

For Separation Anxiety: When you leave your dog alone for long stretches, he may bark due to separation anxiety or boredom. To figure out how to prevent the commotion, you must first figure out why your dog barks when you leave. For separation anxiety, make sure your dog has a comforting spot where he can retreat when you’re out. A dog crate that doubles as a safe den, or a dog bed and a shirt with your scent on it, can help relieve much of your dog’s anxiety. Don’t make a big deal out of your departure, and greet him calmly upon your return. If he has a severe case of anxiety, he may require desensitization training. If you can’t undertake this more intensive training alone, your veterinarian can recommend a dog behavior specialist.

For Boredom: If your dog barks from boredom, make treats and toys available when he is alone. A puzzle toy filled with a treat your dog must work to retrieve is a great way to keep him occupied for extended periods of time.

For Barrier Reactivity: Barking and lunging are two common reactions to barrier frustration—also called barrier aggression or barrier reactivity. This behavior is often caused by stress, fear, or anxiety. Dogs react because there’s something out of reach that they desperately want. To reduce reactivity when your dog is in a kennel, looking through a window, or behind a fence, work with a behaviorist to identify and manage his triggers and to desensitize him. Dogs with mild barrier frustration may be appeased if left in a room without a view of the busy sidewalk. Or, turn a negative association into a positive one by offering treats for calm behavior inside a fence or crate.

Strategies for Friendly or Territorial Barking

For Territorial Barking at Home: For affable or protective barking, training your dog to follow the “quiet” command will help. Allow your dog to bark a few times when he sees a friend or stranger from his own turf before responding to his communication with a “thank you” or a “hello.” Think of this as showing your dog courtesy for his friendliness or his helpful warning, depending on the circumstances. Then in a deep, firm voice, tell him “quiet.” As soon as he stops barking, praise him and give him a treat. Repeat this routine each time he barks. After he consistently responds to “quiet,” start extending the time between the command and the treat until the word alone does the trick.

For Protective Barking Away From Home: If your dog tends to bark at strangers or other dogs when you are off your property during your walks, don’t allow for even a little barking. For peaceful strolls around the neighborhood, you want to avoid making anyone fearful or wary at the sight of you. During training sessions, keep a close watch for people. When you approach someone running, biking, or walking their dog, or as you pass someone in their yard, request an alternative behavior from your dog: Tell him “quiet,” or have him sit and turn toward you and give him his favorite dog treat before he takes notice and starts barking. In many instances, this will distract him from barking until you are past the object of his concern. Praise him each time he goes by a person without barking.

Tip: Using a marker word like “yes” or “nice” allows you to reward your dog for a job well done, even when you don’t have treats within reach. Choose a short, easy word or sound that you don’t use often. Spend time “loading” the marker word—say the word, then give a treat immediately after. Repeat the routine about 20 times, then take a break. A few hours later, do it again. Practice throughout the hours, indoors and out, so he knows the word means a treat, no matter where he is. With consistency, this practice conditions your dog so he gets a feel-good rush similar to a treat. When he walks past another dog on the sidewalk without a peep but you can’t get to the treat pouch in time, let him have an enthusiastic “yes!” to reinforce the good behavior.

How to Stop Your Dog from Barking at the Door

Encourage quiet, polite greetings by teaching an alternate behavior when there is a knock at the door. First, without any distractions, put a treat on his dog bed and tell him “go to bed.” Repeat the process until he associates the command with the action. Enlist a helper to ring the doorbell and continue to practice until he goes to his bed reliably, even when the doorbell rings. Then, try opening the door to welcome the guest—if he barks, close the door. Keep trying until he stays quietly put, then offer plenty of praise and rewards. Alternatively, teach him to retrieve a toy when the doorbell rings—it’s hard to bark while carrying a tennis ball.

Dogs who bark at the mail carrier receive unintentional reinforcement: The delivery is made and the driver retreats—in your dog’s eyes, he has scared away a nasty intruder. He may be fearful of the mail person’s vehicle or uniform or may want to protect his turf from a threat. To stop him from barking with each delivery, employ the same tactics as when visitors arrive. If you can get him to stop barking before the mail person leaves, your dog won’t associate the exit with his vociferousness. Ask your mail person to meet your dog so they’re no longer strangers. Many postal workers offer treats to distract dogs, which adds incentive to bark—request the mail carrier provide a treat only in exchange for quiet.

If these tactics don’t work, consider an electronic training collar as a last resort to reduce unwanted barking. Always use it in tandem with positive reinforcement training strategies, and stop using it when your dog demonstrates he no longer needs it.

Tips for Success

  • Ignore your dog if he continues to bark beyond your “quiet’ command. Many dog owners unwittingly train their dogs to bark by giving them attention, whether positive or negative, when they yip and yap. It seems reasonable for your dog to bark when he needs to go outside or when he’s excited to see you after a separation. But if you respond to his continued barking, he will understandably think barking gets all of his needs met. Many dogs will even take the negative attention from barking, if that’s the most attention they get. Consistently show your dog that he gets your attention only when he is quiet.
  • Keep homecomings peaceful. Dogs can easily become overexcited when you or a friend comes through the door. To avoid unwanted barking or jumping, don’t respond to your dog until he settles down.
  • Give Your Dog Plenty of Exercise. Ensuring your dog gets vigorous activity throughout the day can offset many problem behaviors. A dog who is tuckered from long walks and play sessions will have less energy to chew up his dog bed, dig up the yard, or bark endlessly.

It may take four training sessions or forty, but before long you’ll enjoy increasing stretches of welcome silence. Your dog will continue to bark happy greetings and to warn you of a squirrel invading the back yard, but these will now be brief proclamations. With a rub on his back, your dog knows you are listening and appreciate your special “talks.”

Which Dog Breeds Bark the Most?

Certain dog breeds are typically noisier than others. Some breeds instinctively sound the alarm over every interloper, from a neighbor walking past to a friend at the door to a squirrel in the yard. Others raise a ruckus to protest alone time. Others are simply the talkative type. Though positive training techniques can reduce barking episodes, if your neighbors are nearby, or you must leave your dog alone, think carefully before welcoming one of these dog breeds into your home.

The Chihuahua

These are naturally yappy dogs who sometimes develop a Napoleon complex to boot. The self-appointed protectors of their pack and domain, Chihuahuas will let the entire neighborhood know when anyone approaches their homestead. During walks, Chihuahuas may let loose ferocious barks at bemused dogs 20 times their size. Your Chihuahua will also bark to demand lap time if he’s feeling ignored.

The Samoyed

This puffy white dog topped the list of noisiest dog breeds on a 2018 study by Furbo, the makers of a smart home camera that tosses dogs treats when they’re home alone. Samoyeds are active, intelligent dogs who get bored quickly and don’t enjoy being left alone for long. They’ll bark to hasten your return, and when you do, they’re sure it was the barking that did the trick. In your company, Samoyeds are not an overly vocal breed. They thrive when they stay active and spend most of their time with their owners. Keep in mind, most Sammies will spend time alone with no fuss if you show them affection and keep them engaged when you’re home.

The Basset Hound

While Basset Hounds are a generally laid-back breed and can take some alone time in stride, leave your Basset on his own for too long and he will howl in protest. You may also get a cranky visit from neighbors next door—and down the road. The mournful howl of the Basset Hound travels far and wide. Plenty of loving attention and activity will keep your Basset Hound from becoming bored the moment you drive off.

The Beagle

The merry Beagle prefers the company of his human pack and is prone to separation anxiety and boredom when left alone too long. To cope, your Beagle may bark and bay incessantly. Positive behavioral training and crate training can help him feel secure when spending a few hours alone, but if you need to leave him alone longer, it’s best to enroll him in doggy daycare.

The Yorkshire Terrier

Though they’re wee, Yorkshire Terriers can make a mighty racket. Terrier breeds tend to be talkative, and are rarely shy about weighing in when they like something, when they don’t like something, or when they want something. Obedience training and socialization can keep the barking in check, but don’t expect silence with a Yorkie in your world.

Which Dog Breeds Don’t Bark—Or Bark the Least?

All dogs bark or vocalize. Some dog breeds, however, are known as strong, silent types. Typically, they only rarely let loose with barks, yips, howls, or yodels, and only when necessary. It’s important to remember that quiet dogs are no less social than their noisier counterparts, and need just as much love and attention. Ignoring them can even plant the seeds of a nuisance barking problem. Members of the quiet(er) canine crew include:

The Basenji

Also known as the ‘African Barkless Dog,’ the Basenji can’t bark like most dogs because of the placement and shape of his larynx. In place of a bark, your Basenji will yodel when he vocalizes. Though usually quiet, this is not an easy breed. Basenjis are loving and lively, but they require patient training, socialization, and frequent activity to stop destructive behaviors.

The St. Bernard

This large, jowly breed is easygoing and doesn’t bark often. For this reason, St. Bernards don’t make dependable guard dogs. They may let loose one of their deep, loud barks—or not. Quiet and low-maintenance, St. Bernards are usually easy to live with, though you will have to clean up an abundance of fur and drool.

The Whippet

These small, graceful sighthounds make quiet companions. Whippets aren’t very protective, so barking to announce the arrival of the mail or a visitor isn’t typically an issue. And though prone to separation anxiety, the Whippet does not typically bark as a coping mechanism. Make sure your energetic Whippet exercises each day, and he’ll relax happily and quietly by your side the rest of the time.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Playing and snuggling with his people, and welcoming newcomers with a wag is the Cavalier’s way. This sweet-natured, gentle breed isn’t one to carry on and cause an uproar. Because they are so attached to their people, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will whine, whimper, and bark when left alone for too long. It’s best if your Cavalier has company all day, by way of a family member, or other two- and four-legged friends at doggie daycare.

The Bulldog

Though Bulldogs look pugnacious, they are placid spirits around the house. It’s important they stay active for their health, but in between walks and playtime, they’re happiest catching a nap in your vicinity. Though they’re big snoozers who don’t bark much, Bulldogs are not silent—their flat (brachycephalic) muzzles cause frequent snorting, snuffling, and snoring.

The continuum of noisy versus quiet dog breeds is long, and the above lists are by no means exhaustive. And every dog has a unique personality, so you could wind up with a close-mouthed Chihuahua or a babbling St. Bernard. But researching dog breeds gives you a general idea of decibel levels and bark frequency, so you can make an informed decision based on your lifestyle.

4 thoughts on “How to Stop Your Dog From Barking”

  1. I have a Black and Tan and Treeing Walker coonhound. Early mornings or late evenings when I let them out they get on a scent and start barking. Short of electric bark collars how do I stop this barking. We live in a city with lots of woods around us so we have fox, raccoons and possums that will cross the yard. When the dogs get that scent they go crazy barking. How do I stop the barking?

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