Barking Dogs

Any dog owner can tell you that barking dogs are not appreciated – especially by neighbors! At the same time, barking is a perfectly natural behavior for a dog. It’s how they communicate. It really only becomes a problem when a dog barks excessively or at the wrong time (like 2 am when people are trying to sleep).

Why do dogs bark?

Dogs bark for different reasons at different times.

  • To warn you (There’s someone at the door!)
  • For attention (Pet me!)
  • In frustration (My ball is under the sofa and I can’t get it!)
  • To Play (Let’s play! Tag, you’re it! Bark bark bark! HAHAHA You can’t catch me!)
  • When they’re anxious (You left me here all alone. Where are you?)
  • When they’re bored (Bark Bark Bark.) This is often done to hear the sound of their own voice.

Humans appreciate some of these reasons more than others. If your dog barks to tell you there’s a stranger at the door, we usually appreciate it. If your dog barks to tell you the trash people are stealing your stuff again, it’s not as welcome. If your dog barks in frustration because there’s a squirrel on the patio, well, most people aren’t terribly interested. Boredom and anxiety, however, require some attention from you. If your dog is bored then you need to spend more quality time with him. He probably needs more exercise. And you can see that he gets more toys and safe things to chew on so he will have something to do.

Anxiety is a more serious problem and beyond the scope of this short article. If your dog is barking because he’s anxious he could be displaying other signs of anxiety or separation anxiety. This could require a trip to the vet and possibly some behavior modification work.

Stopping excessive barking

There are several ways to stop excessive barking but the best way is usually to teach your dog the “Quiet” command. You can do this, ironically, by also teaching your dog the “Bark” command.

You’ll need plenty of small treats to teach these commands. You can use something like pieces of kibble or small training treats, or even small cut up pieces of hot dog or chicken.

You can wait until your dog is barking at something or have a friend do something that usually makes your dog bark (like ring the doorbell). When your dog starts barking, give him the “Bark” command and reward him with a small treat. Your dog won’t have any idea what the command means or why you are rewarding him but if you do this repeatedly your dog will catch on. He’ll figure out that you are rewarding him for barking. Keep doing this. Eventually your dog will start waiting for the “Bark” command before he barks. Sneaky, huh? If he’s waiting for the command he’s not barking.

All you have to do now is teach him the “Quiet” command. Give him the “Bark” command so he barks and reward him. Then when he’s quiet give him the “Quiet” command and reward him. Repeat. It really is as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of practice but once your dog figures it out, you can control your dog’s barking.

It’s very easy to teach these commands if you are using a clicker so you can “mark” the exact moment when your dog does what you want him to do but you can still teach the commands even if you’re not using a clicker.