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Stop Your Dog’s Excessive Barking In Its Tracks

If you've got a dog who's a motormouth, then read on!

The answer for how to stop your dog from barking isn't completely clear-cut, but it can be done. It's important to realize first of all that barking is completely normal. There are many reasons why a puppy might become overly yappy, so this page is about how to stop dog barking that's out of control.


stop dog barking

Below, I'll talk about the reasons why non-stop barking can happen.

Then, below that, I'll talk about how to stop your dog from barking, depending on which of the different reasons might apply to why the barking problem started in the first place.

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How to Stop Your Dog from Barking
First, Understand Why Dogs Bark

  • To get your attention if they need or want something.
  • To express dominance.
  • To burn off excess energy.
  • To announce control over territory.
  • To alert you to a threat.
  • Because of breeding – some dog breeds talk more than others.
  • When dogs are happy or playful, they'll bark out of fun and excitement.
  • To say “hello” to a friend, or to say “go away” to a stranger.
  • To attract attention from the pack or an outsider.
  • To complain about being alone in a house or a yard.
  • Just to hear themselves bark! For example, to relieve boredom.
  • Because their owners accidentally trained them to bark! (More on this below)
  • If a need isn't being met – one common cause of this is a lack of all-important puppy socialization or obedience training.
  • There's a problem with his health.

Why Does This Stuff Matter?

If you want to know how to stop your dog from barking, you have to know what's causing the barking. There is a reason. Your dog isn't stuck in a loop like a broken record. You need to know the reason, in order to effectively deal with it.

Your dog sees the world from a different perspective. Your dog can hear and smell better than you, for example. Whatever the cause, there is usually some kind of communication going on whenever they're barking.

How to Stop Your Dog from Barking:
The Three Biggest Mistakes!

Many people who read this page are about to realize that their dogs are barking because they were trained to bark! To illustrate this, let's look at the basic mistakes that a dog trainer or owner can make that will actually encourage a dog to bark more and more.

  1. Scolding or yelling at your puppy when they are barking, basically puts you in the conversation! This shows the dog,that the right thing to do is to make noise.
  2. Do you respond to your dog's barking by giving them a treat, feeding them, letting them inside or outside, etc? If so, you're rewarding the barking.
  3. This is the big one: Do you play with your dog, or otherwise pay attention to them when they go nuts barking? If so, your dog will drive you up the wall anytime they want social contact.

Case By Case Look at How to Stop Your Dog from Barking

excessive dog barking

Let's take a look at a handful of things that commonly cause a dog to go into a frenzy of barking, and the right and wrong things to do in those cases.

The Dog Barks Every Time the Phone Rings, and Won't Stop

That ringing sound grabs your dog's attention in a big way, and some dogs can't ignore it without proper training.

  • The wrong reaction: Yelling! Don't give any kind of feedback or reaction to the barking.
  • The right reaction: Desensitization. Get the dog used to the noise and train them to understand it's perfectly normal. You want to have that phone ring, and ring, and ring.

Now, don't do this to the point where it becomes torture. Simply call your own home phone, or have a friend call, and ignore it. Just act like there's nothing going on. It will take some time, but remember to avoid rewarding the barking, and remember to reward your dog when they begin to act as if the phone's ringing is perfectly normal and nothing to bark about.

  • If you're already underway with basic obedience training, this barking problem will go away must faster. Just tell them “go to your spot,” and that will help your dog understand their “job” when the phone rings.
  • Your phone's ring tone might be too high-pitched or too loud, and might just honestly be hurting your dog's ears.

DogProblems.com has a great deal more information about how to stop your dog from barking when the phone rings.

Stop Your Dog From Barking when Left Alone

I've said it many times, all over this site: separation anxiety is a serious problem for dogs. Dogs are more prone to this than humans, because their natural existence is one of always being with their pack. Because of that, dealing with this specific dog barking problem can take a bit more work.

If this is the specific problem you're having with your dog's excessive barking, then you really should read my article about dealing with your dog's separation anxiety, and take those steps very seriously.

However, at a glance, the things to know are:

  1. Avoid any kind of response that seems like a reward for their barking. In other words, you don't want to make them feel as if their barking habit is the reason they got attention.
  2. You need to make sure your dog has all their needs provided-for when they're alone. Plenty of fresh water, food, chew toys, and perhaps musical entertainment as well as a comfortable bed.
  3. It's also good to remove any external stimulus by preventing them from seeing outside, where passing cars or other animals might stimulate them towards barking.
  4. One of the most important steps you can take while you are at home, is to ignore your dog when you first come home. That way, they don't feel as if their frantic behavior is being rewarded by social interaction. Wait until your dog calms down, and then reward that. (Obviously, as the excessive barking behavior subsides, it's good to greet your dog as a reward as soon as you come home.)

Here's an excellent example that will show you the difference between the effects of yelling at your dog, which they can interpret as a reward for their own excessive barking, vs a different sort of feedback. The below steps are a dog barking treatment which is neutral, because it doesn't seem to be coming from you. In this example, you'll be associating an “anonymous” negative outcome to their excessive barking, where it will seem to your dog that you are not involved.

  1. Go outside, and give every appearance that you have left. Once outside, get a stick and a metal trash can lid or bucket – something that will make an ugly, loud noise when you bang on it.
  2. Wait for your dog to start barking. As soon as the barking hits a bad level, rapidly and loudly bang on that metal object. As soon as the barking stops, stop banging.
  3. If, after a period of 10 or 15 minutes, your dog hasn't started barking excessively, go back inside and praise your dog. Give positive social feedback, but then go back outside and repeat.
  4. Wait a while longer with each time you repeat. You want to be able to leave and go to work for 9 hours without your neighbors complaining about your dog, so be willing to find something to do, without your dog knowing you're nearby. (Don't forget that your dog can hear better than you think he can!)

After enough repetitions, your dog will learn that excessive barking leads to a scary, unpleasant noise, and that the way to make that noise stop is to stop barking. That negative outcome will appear to have nothing to do with you, if you are stealthy enough. Meanwhile, the more your dog learns to avoid excessive barking, the more you will return to the house and immediately greet and praise him.

When All Else Fails -
If These Steps Don't Stop the Barking, or
If You Can't Make Time for These Steps

There are three more options at this point, if your steps for curtailing the excessive barking either don't work on your dog after a few weeks or months, or if you simply can't make the time to do them.

  1. Obedience school. Like they say on TV, “professionals are standing by to assist you.” This is a much better option than the next one…
  2. A “No-Bark” collar. There are collars that respond to the sound of a bark by spraying a mist that smells horrible to your dog. This is honestly not something I prefer to recommend. Barking in-and-of itself is a normal behavior, it's only the excessive barking that you want to discourage. Also, you don't want to use a “no-bark” collar if you have multiple dogs, because the other dogs might punish or shun the barker … or for that matter, the “problem barker” might get misted with that smell when the other dogs bark. Both of these are very bad for your dog's social connections with the rest of the pack.
  3. There is one more recommendation that I absolutely hate to even bring up, so I'm going to save it for further below.

Excessive Barking for Attention or Other Requests

If your dog thinks that barking his head off is the way to get food, to get played with, or to go outside, then this is a lot easier to deal with than what's above. Relying on the necessary foundation of basic obedience training, use a command word (or begin to establish a command word) such as “shut up,” “stop,” “be quiet” – pick one and be consistent.

As with any kind of obedience training, it's important to associate the promise of a reward with the desired outcome. For example, take their ball or get a cookie, then use the command word: “Be quiet.” Wait for the dog to calm down and obey you before you give them the cookie. Make them remain obedient and quiet for a long enough period of time that they realize that it was the period of time where they were being quiet, and not the noise that came before it, which earned them a reward. If you don't wait at least a little while – say, 20 seconds – then, you're basically giving in. Waiting long enough makes it clear that you're rewarding the quiet, not the noise.

After a while, you won't need to give them a treat anymore, because you've instilled the habit of obeying the command.

Training Your Dog to
Stop Excessive Barking:

The Final Word on
Barking Out Their Demands

Finally, as a long-term strategy that goes beyond the initial training to curb excessive barking: Just ignore it. Remember that even looking at your dog is a reward to them. Do not give in, do not interact with them, do not provide anything that can be confused as a social reward, including yelling at them, when they bark. Just ignore them and walk away.

Dogs Who Bark at the Mailman, Other Passers-By, and Visitors

Your dog is a territorial creature, and sometimes your dog will feel as if anybody approaching the house must be driven away. Part of the challenge for dealing with this case of excessive barking is that they are usually going to be rewarded for this. As far as your dog is concerned, the scenario works like this:

  1. Mailman comes to the door.
  2. Dog begins barking excessively.
  3. Mailman goes away.

The dog, left to his own devices, is going to believe that he has successfully driven-away a threat.

Once again, the solution begins with starting early in correct training for obedience. Just as with the previous situation, you need to rely on your established command words, or your dog's habit of learning new command words, such as “stop,” or “be quiet.” This is more effective than another suggested solution, which is to keep your dog away from the area where the mailman can be seen – because your dog's senses are finely tuned, and he will recognize the sound of footsteps even through the walls. Aside from that, you want your dog to actually be obedient, not be tricked into obedience.

Another technique that can help a lot is to request help from the specific person, such as the mailman, who stimulates your dog into barking on a habitual basis.

Ask that person to help you by giving them treats so that, whenever they come by, they can give you dog the treat and socialize with them. Here, you're relying on, and expanding upon, the basic foundations from your socialization training given to the dog as a puppy. The message you'll work on now, is to teach your dog that they were wrong to assume this person was a threat just for coming near the door. Once you help turn that person into your dog's friend, they'll be less likely to make that assumption again.

Dogs Who Refuse to Respond to Training, and Continue Excessive Barking

aggressive dog barking

Above, I said there was one more option, and that I hated it. Quite plainly, I recommend that nobody ever do this. Still, I'd feel as if I'm depriving you of an option if I completely refused to mention it.

This is a step you never want to take. But it is available as an alternative to surrendering your dog to a shelter. Your dog can undergo “de-barking” surgery, rendering them unable to bark. Don't do this without trying for many months to resolve the problem with “normal” training, obedience school, the “no-bark” collar and even medication have failed. Denying your dog the ability to communicate is a step that must not be taken lightly.

Obviously, subjecting your dog to “de-barking” surgery will affect his or her mental health in a very negative way. However, it can be a better solution than risking your friend's death at the hands of a pound or shelter. In all likelihood, if you go to a veterinarian and ask about de-barking surgery, that vet will want to help you with another strategy.

In Conclusion

Dealing with excessive dog barking is something that is best handled before it begins. Once the dog knows that you are the alpha leader, and knows that you expect the barking to stop because you've taken positive reinforcement steps to reward quiet, all of these problems are far less likely to arise.

For a complete guide on training your dog at home with almost no cost to you, check out this dog training course: “8 Weeks to a Perfect Dog.”

Learn more about dog training techniques, or return to dog behavior problems and solutions.

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