Why Dogs Bark & How to Stop A Dog from Barking

Do you know how to stop barking? “Will you please, for the love of doG, stop barking!” When Shadow-Pup joined our family, he and Bravo-Dawg egged each other on. Now that he’s the only dog, he and the cat tease each other and prompt bark-fest and meow-athons.

We love our dogs, but when noisy dogs get revved up, dog barking can drive us nuts. Shadow has a “demand attention” barking problem that shatters glass. He also loves barking at squirrels and tells on Karma-Kat when the cat gets on a counter, and at us when we can’t read his mind.

So what’s the answer–how to stop a dog from barking? The key to stop barking includes understanding why dogs bark.

Learn what canine howls mean here. And refer to this post on doggy (and kitty) tail talk.

Dogs bark to communicate--so what's he saying?

Dogs bark to communicate–so what’s he saying?

A Fun Dog Barking Poll

How to stop a dog from barking got the most canine topic votes on my informal Facebook poll (stay tuned for a cat-centric one, too!). See, I want my next big project (an on-demand pet behavior course) to answer YOUR must-know questions.

So here’s your turn. Fill in the blank in the comments: “I wish I knew how to fix my cat/dog’s (…..)”

WHY DOGS BARK

On Facebook, some of the comments were very specific. Some of these included barking at:

  1. motorcycles and skateboards (bicycles are a biggie, and so are joggers!)
  2. doorbells
  3. TV doorbells
  4. other dogs
  5. in the backyard (squirrels!)
  6. when (known) visitors arrive

The key to stop dogs barking is to understand why the dog barks. There’s no single answer, but in all cases, the dog is REWARDED (gets something s/he wants) out of the barking. It’s a simple cause/effect situation. Take a look again at the above complaints, and see where they might fit in this list of some common barking reasons. Ask yourself–how do I respond to the barking?

KINDS OF DOG BARKS

  • Play bark (“Gotta shout about the game!”)
  • Howdy-do bark (“Nice to see you.”)
  • Defensive bark (“I’m scared, go away.”) Refer to this post on dogfighting for more information.
  • Offensive bark (“It’s MY property, don’t come near!”)
  • Fire alarm bark (“warning, Will Robinson!”)
  • “Look at that!” bark (strangers, friends, garbage truck, your new hat, SQUIRREL!)
  • Boredom bark (“Come entertain me…”)
  • Lonely (“Poor me” or separation anxiety)

Personally, I want my Shadow-Pup to bark. You should want YOUR dog to bark, too–at the appropriate times. I don’t want him silent when that burglar prowls outside. So after several barks, he gets praise and then a treat (and it’s hard for dogs to bark while chewing).

HOW TO STOP DOG BARKING

How do you stop barking? It sounds counter-intuitive, but to teach dogs to SHUSH you must first teach them to SPEAK on command. Here’s how.

  1. Set up “trigger” situations with the doorbell, a friendly visitor, or whatever gets the bark-aholic going.
  2. Just as the doorbell rings, say “SPEAK.”
  3. When the dog barks, praise him and offer a toy or treat or whatever floats his boat as a reward.

It will take several repeats before your dog recognizes that the command SPEAK means permission to yap. Practice this (even without the doorbell), and for the first several days ALWAYS reward the dog with a yummy or fun game he loves. Once the lightbulb goes off in his furry noggin, and he recognizes he gets PAID to bark on command, he’ll be eager to win your approval with this new skill.

TEACH BARKING DOGS TO “SHUSH”

Once he will SPEAK on command, it’s time to teach SHUSH. That’s easy–after he’s barked, do NOT give him the reward, but instead say SHUSH…and hold out the treat in your closed fist. Dogs stop barking to sniff and chew, so that typically stops the noise mid-yap. Give him the treat, while repeating GOOD SHUSH, while he chomps the yummy.

Again, it will take several repeats, but that’s the basics. You’ll slowly expand the amount of time he must SHUSH in order to earn the treat. Once your dog knows both SPEAK and SHUSH, you’ll be ready to move on to practice in the specific circumstances that are most bothersome.

I’d love to help you stop your dog barking, with more prescriptive how-to tips. Meanwhile, don’t forget to get YOUR biggest pets peeves on my list. Fill in the blank in the comments: “I wish I knew how to fix my cat/dog’s (…..)”


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