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Problem Solving For Excessive Barking

An important part of pet ownership is teaching your puppy or dog proper pet manners and how to be a good neighbor. It is your responsibility to have control over your dog and to correct bad behavior, like excessive barking. Your pet should never be left outside unattended and you should always obey leash laws. Obedience training is an important factor in this process. Knowing a simple command, such as to come when called, could save your pet’s life. Some corrections should begin when your dog is a puppy, even before he is leash trained, while other corrections require a leash and collar. Remember, your puppy or dog is like a small child. He might misbehave due to curiosity or boredom, not because he knows what he’s doing is unacceptable. Remember, with any unacceptable canine behavior, prevention is easier than treatment.

To correct common behavior problems, follow these basic steps:

Barking is a normal, natural behavior for dogs. It is the way dogs communicate, it relieves tension and boredom, and drives strangers away. It is a “self-reinforcing” activity for the dog, which means that the act of barking is its own reward in many instances. Because of this, barking is one of the most difficult canine behaviors to modify. Barking should stop when the dog is commanded to do so. For this reason, we need to control the behavior when possible and teach the dog when it is and is not acceptable to bark. In most cases, excessive barking can be corrected with a stern “No…Quiet!” Praise your puppy or dog when he is quiet. Be consistent every time your dog is barking inappropriately. Give the quiet command and only reward when the dog is still and quiet. If your dog is being quiet when he would normally bark, make sure you give lots of praise with a pat or treat to reward his good behavior. The younger the dog, the less time he has had to develop the barking habit, and the more quickly he will learn the quiet command.


Barking is a normal, natural behavior for dogs. It relieves tension, it drives strangers away, and it is the way dogs communicate. It is also a "self-reinforcing" activity for the dog, which means that the act of barking is its own reward in many instances. Because of this, barking is one of the most difficult canine behaviors to modify. Barking should stop when the dog is commanded to do so. For this reason, we need to control the behavior when possible and teach the dog when it is and is not acceptable to bark.

Socializing puppies to a variety of new people, animals, environments, and noises can reduce anxieties as the dog grows up. Owner control, training, and leadership are also essential. While young, the dog should learn to spend time playing or relaxing alone so that it's not too distressed when it must be left alone. Many dogs will bark excessively when their owners are absent. Other dogs are very stressed by being left alone outside all day. In their mind they are being cast out of the pack's den. These dogs exhibit stress by barking, digging, chewing and general destructiveness. By making your dog more a part of the family, your dog will become happier and less prone to these stress behaviors, including unwanted barking.

Many dogs are kept outside in fenced yards or runs, especially during the day while their family is at work or school. This is when most of the excessive barking problems occur, since dogs can become over-stimulated by noises and the presence of people and animals nearby. In this case, you need to remove the visual stimulus by tarping the fence and covering any holes. Then there is the bored dog with nothing better to do who engages in recreational barking to pass the time. Owners sometimes inadvertently reinforce the barking by giving the dog attention, positive or negative, when it barks excessively. It is best not to yell, scold, go to, play with, touch or pet, or bring indoors a dog that is barking, since all of the above attempted solutions may be seen as rewarding to the dog. When a behavior results in the dog getting what it wants, it will be more likely to repeat the behavior. Reward your dog by touching or petting, or give a treat or toy once he has stopped barking and is quiet. You want the dog to associate that being quiet is what gets him the reward, not barking.

Punishment is generally ineffective in the control and correction of barking problems. Never hit, slap, or hold your dog's mouth shut to stop the barking. This only teaches your dog to fear you, which can increase anxiety and further aggravate the problem. For punishment to be effective, barking must be disrupted at the instant it begins using a technique or device that effectively interrupts the barking. When you are not present and barking begins, the only solution might be to use bark-activated products. But unless the dog is also trained to be quiet in the presence of the stimulus, devices will only disrupt, not eliminate barking habits.

Some dogs will bark excessively indoors. They may be reacting to something they see from a door or window. Try restricting access to the dog's outside view (close the drapes, put him in a back room, etc.) to help control this behavior. Placing a blanket over the dog's crate to create a small, dark area can help keep your dog calm. If your dog overreacts to the arrival of visitors, simple obedience commands can be used. Teach your dog to come to you and sit or lie down when greeting people, rather than to run, bark and jump up on visitors. Or send your dog to his crate, placing a blanket over the crate to create a small, dark area to help keep him calm. This unacceptable behavior is often inadvertently reinforced when the dog is a puppy, and then carries over into the dog's adulthood much to the owner's dismay.

Since it is acceptable and desirable for our dogs to bark to alert us to people at the door or to warn us of intruders, we don't want to completely stop our dogs from barking, but just get it under control. The best approach to barking control is to train the dog when to bark on command and stop on command. To do this, it is important to teach the dog the "Speak" command first, and then "Quiet." Following are the steps to teaching both the Speak and Quiet commands.

Teaching the "Speak" Command

I believe it is important to teach your dog a "Quiet" command. To do this, you must teach a "Speak" command first.

Find something your dog wants (treats, food, toy). Entice the dog with the object, increasing the dog's desire for it. Hold it above the dog's head and ask the dog to "Speak." In the beginning, an exasperated exhale, squeak, grumble or noise should be considered good behavior. Reward that exhale or other vocalization with treats, petting and praise. Repeat until the dog shows enthusiasm and barks. When the dog barks, give a big reward (treats or play session).

If there are occasions where your dog barks regularly, use these situations in your training by asking the dog to speak. For example, if your dog barks when the doorbell rings, say "Speak" and then ring the doorbell. When the dog barks, reward by giving praise and a treat. Repeat until you can phase out the doorbell or other stimuli. Behaviors like "Speak" are easier to train because it's something your dog already does naturally.

Teaching The "Quiet" Command

  1. Put the dog on leash.
  2. Ask the dog to "Speak," and when he does, give a treat.
  3. Do this 4-6 times in a row.
  4. Then ask to the dog to be "Quiet." When your dog barks, quickly tug the leash and say "No!" "Quiet, good!" Very quickly give 3 treats in a row. The dog learns quiet has a high value reward.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until the dog doesn't need a leash correction. Do this 4-6 times in a row. Take a play break.

As the dog progresses, don't give any treats for "Speak", but give 1 treat for "Quiet".

Reasons Dogs Bark

Problem Solving For Barking

Anti-Bark Collars

There are numerous collars on the market that produce an electrical stimulation, an irritating ultrasonic sound, or a smell (offensive to dogs) when the dog barks. Collars alone will not cure the problem, but may be used in addition to behavior modification. Unfortunately, these collars do not always produce the desired effect. For some hard-core barkers, the punishment for barking is not sufficient to get them to stop. They would rather bark and be punished than not bark at all. For dogs that bark due to separation anxiety, fears or phobias, these collars should not be used as the collar's correction may increase their fear and anxiety, thus making things worse. Bark activated products are the most practical means of deterring excessive barking, and may be a better choice than owner-activated devices since they ensure immediate and accurate timing.

Citronella Collars - The collar contains a reservoir of citronella solution that sprays into your dog's face every time he barks. One drawback is that the collar contains a microphone, so the spray is delivered in response to the sound of the bark. However, other noises may set off the collar, causing your dog to be sprayed even if he hasn't barked. Also, some dogs can tell when the reservoir is empty and will resume barking. It has about a 50% success rate.

Audible and Ultrasonic Collars - These collars emits a high-frequency sound when the dog barks. Some are activated by the noise of the bark, while others are owner-activated. The rate of success for this type of collar is reportedly rather low.

Electric Shock Collar - This collar should only be used as a final option since they have the potential for injury and abuse. The electric shock is painful to the dog and many dogs will endure the pain and continue barking. It has about a 90% success rate. You should discuss this option with your veterinarian.