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Why Dogs Bark & How to Stop A Dog from Barking

by | Jan 18, 2023 | Dog Training & Care | 12 comments

Do you know how to stop dog 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. Shadow has an incredibly piercing voice, and we’re still working on teaching him bark limits.

dog bark

Dogs bark for attention, like this Bulldog pup.

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.

stop dogs barking

Dogs bark when ignored.

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.

dog howling

Lonely dogs add howls to the barks.

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

Dogs use barks to communicate defense (I’M SCARED, GO AWAY) or offense (I OWN THIS, KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!).

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
play barking

Dogs also use barks during play, like this Aussie pup barking at a Chihuaha friend.

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?

stop dog barking

Barking means different things depending on what the rest of the body does.

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).

bark communication

Dogs bark to communicate. It’s up to humans to figure out what they mean.

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.

why dogs howl

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

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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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

12 Comments

  1. Cathy Armato

    Excellent, I look forward to the webinar. I have a big issue with my Husky. She demand barks, particularly when she senses it should be mealtime. She doesn’t really bark other than that so it’s hard to train Speak without rewarding the demand barking. Ignoring the behavior doesn’t serm to work. It drives Us nuts!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. Amy Shojai

    Ha! *scribbling notes* Will make sure to include some tips specific to that issue.

  3. Kristian Taylor

    Thanks for sharing this information. I’ve been around animals my whole life and not sure I have any burning questions for you (right now). I really like how you stress the repetition and reward process of training.

  4. Lola The Rescued Cat

    This is a great post! Mommy is a behavioral psychologist with humans and loves this. P.s. she’d rather work with animals!

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Lola, thanks for stopping by! I get to work with the pet parents, too…and often it’s easier to work with the animals (shhhhh, I didn’t say that!).

    • Amy Shojai

      Hey Rebekah! Well…training cats to use the toilet can be done and there are kits out there that offer step by step. There are pros and cons to it, though. It’s convenient for people, of course. But…the cat’s “output” is a barometer of kitty health, and monitoring the litter box is one of the best ways to do that. When cats instead use the human toilet, a lot of that info gets (literally!) diluted. Oh, and cats won’t flush (ew!). But that’s certainly a topic to add to the list!

  5. Claudette La Fleur

    Im fostering a reactive boxer….he grew up on the street and attempts to kill or maime every other animal …loves people. .kids especially. ..is there a way to train this out of him? It’s pretty hard to adopt out an animal that wants to kill your neighbours Jack Russell .

    • Amy Shojai

      Bless you for fostering this needy dog. Yes, you can work with reactive dogs to reduce and tone down the behavior but it will always be a management issue for safety reasons. I will also say that truly dangerous dogs very often attack silently–you won’t hear the barks, snarls ahead of time. The number of injuries and severity of these injuries toward other animals predicts how well (or not) the effectiveness of rehab. It’s important to prevent incidences because the more a dog “practices attack” and is successful at it (nailing the Jack Russell), it reinforces and encourages the behavior.

  6. Robert

    Hi Guys. As a new owner, I’ve been wondering how to train my dog the right way. Been searching for some methods, found this article to be relevant: https://sites.google.com/vi Do you guys think it will work?

    • Amy Shojai

      The site you referenced goes to a 404 page (nothing there) so I haven’t a clue.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 7 Cat Scratch Training Tips: How to Stop Cat from Clawing | AMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] ← Why Dogs Bark & How to Stop A Dog from Barking […]
  2. Cat Clawing: How to Stop Cats from Scratching Furniture - […] How to stop a dog from barking got the most canine topic votes one of  my informal Facebook polls…
  3. What to Do When Dogs Act Scared of Loud Noises? - […] your scared dog shivers and moans, hides under the bed, or barks back at the noise, it’s important to…
  4. Separation Anxiety & Dogs! What to Do to Solve Canine Separation Angst - […] left alone, affected dogs act anxious or distressed, often become extremely vocal, and sometimes forget house training. They may destroy property either…
  5. How to Stop Dog Attacks and Prevent Dog Fights: Keep Small Pets Safe - […] barking, snarling threat can escalate to attack, especially when the target pet is much smaller, and […]
  6. Have You Howled Today? Why Dogs Howl & What it MeansAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] about barking communication here, and what tail wags mean in this […]
  7. Pet Tail Talk: What Dog & Cat Wagging Tails Tell UsAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] Learn what canine howls mean here, and all about doggy barks here. […]

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