How to Stop Your Dog Barking (Vet’s Advice)

Stopping your dog from barking can seem like an impossible task. Barking can not only cause distress and disturbed sleep to you as a dog parent, but it can also cause rifts with neighbours, other dog owners, and family members. As well as being irritating, barking in certain situations can put your dog in danger of being on the receiving end of a bite or nip from another dog. So how do you stop your dog from barking?

Why does my dog bark?

Whilst persistent and excessive barking can be annoying, it is a normal way for a dog to communicate with us, other dogs, and other animals. Barking is a dog’s way of showing how they are feeling; whether they are excited, scared, bored, frustrated, or angry. Dogs will also bark as means of getting attention, acknowledging a noise, or protecting their territory. In certain situations, therefore, you would expect your dog to bark, but there are measures you can take to make sure it is not uncontrollable or excessive.

Barking at someone at the door

When someone approaches your property, whether they are a friend or a stranger, there are a few reasons this could trigger your dog to bark. It may be that the noise itself is the trigger, or it could be that they are fearful or protecting their territory. In order to decide how to stop your dog barking at guests, the postman, or your local delivery driver, you must decide which trigger is causing the barking.

Barking at cats, birds, or something else in the garden

If your dog barks at something in the garden, they’re probably acknowledging the presence of a cat, bird, or other wildlife and displaying excited or territorial behaviour. Part of this territorial behaviour is to alert you to the ‘intruder’, especially if you have previously encouraged them to chase cats, squirrels, or birds.

Barking at people walking past the house

When people pass your house, even if they don’t approach, this might trigger your dog to bark. The trigger will, again, be territorial behaviour or reaction to a noise.

How to stop your dog from barking – tips

Once you know what is triggering your dog’s barking in each situation, you can start to retrain them so that they are no longer stimulated to bark at that trigger. This retraining is not based on punishment, but on positive reinforcement with treats and verbal encouragement. If you haven’t seen our information on ‘How to Train Your Dog’, you may also find this useful.

Retraining works best by choosing a trigger, then rewarding your dog when they don’t bark as a reaction to it. With any trigger, you should start small, with quiet or low-intensity exposure, then build up gradually.

How to stop your dog from barking at other dogs

If your dog is triggered by the presence of other dogs, the starting point for retraining will be seeing a dog from a long distance. The other dog must be far away, quiet, and under control. Giving a treat and saying ‘Good boy’ when your dog does not bark, will reinforce the behavior of quiet. Over time, the dog will be tolerated at a shorter distance, but take it slowly.

How to stop your dog barking at night

Barking at night can be really frustrating, and sleep deprivation can make it easy to lose your cool. Remember that retraining won’t be anywhere near as effective if you, your family, or your dog are stressed.

Select a time for retraining when you’re feeling patient and calm. Start by leaving your dog alone for a minute, and if they don’t bark then return and reward them with a treat. Very gradually increase the time that they are left alone in the room and, with time, you should be able to sleep soundly.

How to stop your dog barking when you leave

Retraining your dog not to bark when you leave your home follows the same method as with how to stop your dog barking at night- return at regular intervals and reward them if they are silent. Start small by standing in the garden or the driveway, where you can still hear them.

Remember to communicate with your neighbours – they will be able to tell you if your dog is barking when you are not there, and they’ll probably appreciate you asking. Video monitors with app-controlled treat dispensers may help with this sort of training, too.

How to stop your dog from barking at guests, visitors and strangers

If your dog is triggered by guests to your home, retraining would involve one calm adult approaching the house, initially just to the boundary fence or end of the driveway. Reward your dog for not barking at their presence. Ideally, the same person would be used for repeated visits, slowly getting closer to the house, then entering the house. Once retrained for this person, other people or even children could be used with the same technique.

Bark Collars – Do they work?

If you’re dealing with a barking problem, you can reach a point where you’ll try anything to solve the problem. Anti-bark collars and devices can be a tempting last resort, but beware that, not only do they not work, they are also often cruel.

Controlling your dog’s barking

When you have a dog with a barking issue, emotions can run high, especially if your neighbours are also disturbed. Following the above principles, as well as ensuring your dog gets enough exercise and has enough stimulation from toys and interactions, should help it to settle. Occasionally, an expert can be required for some extra help, so don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian or a certified behaviourist for advice, if you are struggling.

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