Stopping the excessive barking is the key, not to stop the bark entirely. Barking is a completely normal behavior for dogs, and they bark for many different reasons: alarm, boredom, excitement, frustration, demand, play, stress. You have coping skills and strategies for your emotions: Your dog needs some, too.
First, figure out context. Does he bark when deliveries come? When you leave for work? At the neighbor’s dogs? Knowing what your dog is attempting to communicate with his barking is half the battle. With time, patience and consistency ballistic barking will be a thing of the past.
How to stop your dog from barking
Once you figure out why he’s barking excessively, take these steps to help him adjust the behavior:
Manage the environment
- The best time to stop a behavior is before it starts!
- Set your dog up for success and minimize (ideally eliminate) repeated opportunities to get his bark on.
- Remove your dog from the situation.
- If you can’t remove him, manipulate the environment to soften the effects of the trigger, or distract him from it.
Train a positive interrupt
- Train the cue during down time to use when he is
- Say “Quiet please” or “Thank you,” and when he looks at you, immediately give a high value or favorite treat.
- Practice often so it’s second nature for him to stop and look to you when barking starts and you give the cue.
Train an alternative behavior
- Train touch, find it or go to mat/place so he has something to focus on other than barking. Here are our trainer’s tips on teaching basic cues.
- Once you have your dog’s attention, cue the behavior and have at it!
Bonus tip: Reinforce the quiet. The instant he’s quiet mid-barkfest, mark and treat. Repeat.
How to train dogs not to bark at other dogs
This is a bit tougher. Context, again, is crucial. Is he on leash? In your yard? In your car? Barking is very self-reinforcing, meaning he’s reinforcing himself by barking since he probably likes it! So, setting up your dog for success is critical.
Manage the environment
- Put up a privacy fence.
- Coordinate with neighbors to alternate dog outings .
- Only let him out when it’s neighbor-dog free. Caveat: The one time you don’t check, the neighbor dog is out and barkfest starts, then you’ll have to start all over.
This dog training video gives some helpful tips on stopping your dog from barking at other dogs:
- Leash your dog in your yard.
- Feed high value treats in the situation without the trigger (i.e. no other dogs present).
- Slowly approach fence on leash, still treating if your dog is calm. If not, go back to last point of calm and practice there a bit longer.
- Slowly decrease distance as long as he’s calm when the neighbor dogs are out.
This video has helpful tips for desensitizing your dog from a noisy environment:
Should I use a bark collar to train my dog to stop barking?
No. The allure of instant relief from your dog’s vocalizations might be tempting, but these collars focus on punishment, and not only can they make things worse, but they end up creating unintended associations and fear.
Instead, add more exercise and stimulation to your dog’s day. Fulfilling your dog’s physical and mental needs helps alleviate most behavior issues; it’s an ideal pairing with any dog training. Also, the longer a dog performs a behavior, the harder it is to change it. Act now so you don’t end up with a serial barker on your hands.