Barking: Why Dogs Do It and How to Break the Habit

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Dog owners and non-dog owners alike will agree that there is nothing more annoying than a dog who barks incessantly. It’s more frustrating for dog owners who are trying to stop their dog from barking all the time but aren’t sure what they can do about it.

If you are in this situation and are feeling helpless, we have some tips that will help you bring peace back to your home and neighborhood.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

dog barking

We need to first understand what it is that causes a dog to bark, to begin with. Not all dogs are the same and they all bark for a variety of reasons. It all comes down to the situation and circumstances your dog is in.

You may have a dog that barks when it’s happy or one who does it as a way to get your attention. Others use barking to communicate with you, and others will bark if they feel frightened or threatened in some way.

Here are some of the most common reasons for a dog to bark.

Feeling Threatened or Afraid

Some dogs will bark when they feel another animal or person is intruding on their space or area that they see as their own. When this happens, dogs will take a defensive, and sometimes aggressive stance. They will also bark when they are sensing something dangerous that could threaten themselves or their owners. Some dogs bark out of fear when they are suddenly startled by something or someone.

Loneliness

With some dogs, if they have been left alone for long periods with no interaction from others, such as their owners, other people, or other dogs, they will try to communicate their unhappiness to you by barking excessively.

Greeting

Some dogs will bark as a way of greeting you, other dogs, or other people. You can usually tell it’s a happy greeting type of bark if they are jumping up and down, wagging their tail, and by the pitch of their barking, which tends to be higher when happy or excited.

Attention

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If a dog is trying to get your attention it may bark as well. This is OK if they are barking because something is amiss, and they want you to check it out. However, if they are barking for no reason, just to get attention from you, this can be seen as negative behavior.

Medical Issues

There are some medical issues that can cause a dog to bark a lot. This includes issues like separation anxiety, a compulsive barking disorder, or brain disease. This is why it’s important to take your dog for regular check-ups by your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues that may be causing the constant barking.

How You Can Stop Your Dog from Barking All the Time?

Dog’s barking is a natural thing and you never want to make them stop completely. Barking is your dog’s way of communicating potential danger and making you aware of something being wrong.

So, you don’t want to stop them from doing this and end up missing out on one of the key beneficial traits of owning a dog. It’s their way of communicating with you and you don’t want that process to stop.

The problem really isn’t with the fact that your dog barks, rather it is down to your dog excessively barking. So, your first step toward solving this problem is to figure out what is causing them to bark too much. Once you know the reason you can then begin training them to only bark when needed.

As an owner you need to have two goals in mind:

  • Training your dog to stop barking on command
  • Training your dog to bark in situations you want them to bark in, and to not bark in other situations.

Before you can attempt any kind of training, you need to be clear about why your dog is barking so much. The last thing you want to do is have your dog stop barking if they sense danger because this can save your life.

Bear in mind that there are no quick fixes to get your dog to stop barking. It will take patience and time, which will depend on how bad your dog’s barking habit is. It’s important not to give up once you have started this process.

Using the right techniques, methods, and giving enough time for your dog to learn when not to bark, you will see some great progress. Maintaining this positive habit during training is vital to you and your dog’s success. Using rewards and praise also goes a long way. Otherwise, your dog will just fall back into their old negative barking habit.

The Wrong Methods of Stopping Your Dog Barking

Where do I start here? There are some things you should never do when trying to train your dog because it can have a more negative impact.

Yelling/Screaming

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You should NEVER, under any circumstances, start screaming and yelling at your dog. Nor should you come across to them as being angry as a means to get them to stop their bad habit. The only thing you are doing is making the situation worse.

Your dog may think it’s a game, or that you are joining them in barking. Even worse, they may sense how frustrated you are and then try to imitate you as a way to appease you. In the worst case, it can lead to them attacking you.

So, if you want your dog to learn to stop barking sooner rather than later, you need to keep calm, cool, and collected. Speak to them in a firm but calm tone.

Don’t Be Too Nice

We’re not telling you to be mean to your dog. Just not to be all wishy-washy and overly sweet if you want them to learn to stop barking all the time. Firm and assertive is the way to go. Otherwise, they may mistake you overly sweet tone as affection and approval of their barking habit.

Be Consistent

Inconsistency is one of the biggest downfalls when trying to train your dog to stop barking. For a start, you don’t want to confuse your dog when trying to teach them when to bark and when not to bark.

This means getting everyone who interacts with your dog on board with the training. Everyone needs to follow the same training method when your dog barks at the wrong time.

If you let them get away with barking at the wrong times once, and then punish them the next time, it is just sending them mixed signals that are confusing to them and makes the training process harder and longer.

Don’t Use Food

Never under any circumstances, should you try to use food and treats as a way to make them stop barking. All you are doing here is teaching them that when they bark you will reward them. Only reward positive behavior, not negative behavior.

The Right Ways to Stop Your Dog from Barking

We’ve gone over the wrong ways to train your dog to stop barking. Now let’s get down to what will work when training your dog.

Remove Rewards

Most dogs won’t bark for no reason at all. A dog barking tends to be associated with a reward of some sort. So, it’s your job to figure out what it is that your dog associates with barking and then stop giving it to them whenever they inappropriately bark.

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Attention is one of the biggest rewards that your dog looks for and they may think barking is the way to go to get that attention. So, when your dog is barking inappropriately, deny them that attention. That’s right ignore them. No eye contact, no touching, no communication, nothing.

Do this until they stop barking and then treat them when they do stop. This gets them to associate something good with them stopping barking. They need to understand that they will get nothing from you while they are barking for no reason.

The key that makes this method a success, along with any kind of dog training, is continuity and consistency. Some dogs will be easier to train than others, giving up bad behavior right away. Other dogs will keep repeating the bad behavior for longer.

Regardless of whether your dog is learning easier or harder, you need to ignore them for as long as necessary until they learn to stop barking. You then need to consistently reward them when they stop barking every time too, this way they get the message you are trying to send loud and clear.

The worst thing for you to do is crack under the pressure and start shouting at your dog for barking. Doing with means you have lost the battle and all the effort and time that you put into training. All you are doing is telling your dog that if they continue to bark enough, they will eventually get their way and your attention.

Desensitization

This is a simple yet effective training method to get your dog to stop barking. All you need to here is figure out what it is that is stimulating your dog and causing it to bark. Once you figure that out, you need to get your dog used to it so that it doesn’t make them feel threatened any longer, thus triggering a session of incessant barking.

This is a method that will work very well in situations where the stimulus is a person or an object.

The first thing you need to do is expose your dog to whatever the stimulus is from a distance. Once they have been exposed to this at some distance and no longer bark, reward them. You need to maintain a good distance between the stimulus and your dog, however, or they will start to bark if it is too close.

The next step is to shorten the distance between the stimulus and your dog a little at a time. Keep giving your dog rewards as long as they continue to not bark. If your dog does start to bark, stop rewarding them. Once they stop barking again, go back to rewarding them.

This teaches your dog to form a positive association between the stimulus and getting rewarded as a result of them not reacting to it. This way they won’t bark when they are exposed to it again.

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Something else you can do when you and your dog are doing this training is to gradually lengthen the time that you want your dog to remain quiet when they are being exposed to what is triggering them in order for them to get their reward.

Bark Only When Taught/Told To

This is a two-step method of training your dog not to bark inappropriately. The first step involves ordering your dog to stop barking when you want them to stop. The second step involves training them to bark after a certain event or situation. You can start it off by saying “speak” to your dog.

Once your dog has barked a couple of time after your request, get some of their favorite treats but only let them sniff at it. If, after sniffing the treat your dog continues to bark, don’t give it to them yet. When they sniff their treat and stop barking, then you can let them eat it.

What this does is create in your dog’s mind a positive association that when they bark a couple of times after you “speak” command, they will be rewarded. Unfortunately, dogs don’t really understand that when we tell them to be quiet, we mean right then and there.

So, when you want to get your dog to stop barking on your command, you will need to teach them what those terms on. Pick a word, like hush or quiet and make sure you stick with that same word throughout the training so that your dog learns what this means.

You first need your dog to master barking after you give your “speak” command before you can move on to your “quiet” command. It’s pretty simple to do.

First, give your “speak” command. When your dog begins to bark as they should, use your “quiet” command, using a firm but calm voice.

Wait until your dog has stopped barking before rewarding them with a treat and praise. This will help your dog to associate your “quiet” command and them stopping barking with rewards.

Tip: A common mistake people make when using this method is to reward their dog while they are still barking, which can be counter-productive.

As you and your dog progress with the training, gradually increase the amount of time you need for your dog to stay quiet when you give your command before you reward them. After you have done enough of these training sessions your dog should understand what the quiet command means and will no longer need a treat to respond to it.

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With any kind of training, it’s a good idea to expose your dog to using this method in a number of environments, scenarios, and place to help them get used to responding to these commands anywhere they happen to be.

Distraction

This is a method to use when your dog’s reaction to some stimulus is continuous barking no matter what you say to them. It uses distraction as a means of getting their attention away from whatever is stimulating barking.

Many things can be used, such as a jar of coins, or something that will emit a sound that is high frequency. When your dog starts barking inappropriately and they hear a sound that is high in frequency, they will connect the unpleasant noise with them barking when you don’t want them to.

To make this method work, your dog can’t know that you are the one creating the high-frequency sound, or whatever else you choose to use as a distraction. They need to believe that their barking is what is causing the sound all on its own.

Bark Collars

This is a popular method that you may have heard of before.

The bark collar is placed on your dog and, whenever they start barking, the collar will automatically pick this up and emit something that stops your dog from barking. These interrupters can vary depending on the type of color you get.

Some of these bark collars will emit a noise. Others use electrical stimulation via a low frequency.

There are a number of bark collar methods to list so it’s best to do a bit of research and choose the type that will work for you and your dog.

WARNING: Shock collars will deliver an electrical frequency to your dog that can be painful, something that can cause them both psychological and physical trauma. This can lead to your dog becoming extremely aggressive, more so if they know where the source of their pain is coming from, including yourself should they realize you are causing the pain.

There are also bark collars that use a quiet of a citronella scent to stop your dog from barking. However, this is something your dog can adapt to quite quickly, even to the point that they realize what the scent can is there for. So, they can manipulate the collar in order to use up the scent quickly, leading them to get back into the habit of barking all over again.

Mental and Physical Activity

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Many dogs will bark as a result of having too much pent-up energy that they have no means of channeling elsewhere. Finding ways to help your dog release this excess energy can help with the barking. They need to get the necessary mental and physical activities on a daily basis, which is important.

When your dog is tired out from a session of physical and mental exercise, they won’t feel that need to bark in order to relieve excess energy. It’s also important for them in order to lead a happier and healthier life. Dogs who are angry, bored, or just want attention tend to bark more. By eliminating these things through mental and physical activities, you’ll gain a quieter home and a happy dog.

The best ways to make sure they are getting the physical and mental exercise they need is simple. Take them out for daily walks. Make it interesting by walking in nature, or up an incline to get them more exercise. You can play games with them in a dog park, run around with them, or allow them to roam for a bit with their friends.

For mental exercise, there are a number of toys and games that you can get, which are interactive and can get their minds flowing. Overall, you will have a much happier dog. Usually, an hour of exercise can work wonders.

That is pretty much it on how to get your dog to stop barking at the wrong time. Remember, all dogs are different and some of these methods will work better than others, depending on your dog and the reason for their excessive barking.

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