How to stop barking dogs is one of the most typical questions we get.
New dog owners can sometimes be confused and frustrated by episodes of excessive barking.
Understanding why your dog barks in such an extreme way are not always obvious. Nor is it always easy to work out how to get your dog to stop barking.
What is ‘excessive’ barking?
You need to know if you have a problem in the first place.
Under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995, excessive barking is defined as, “when a dog creates a noise – by barking or otherwise – which persistently occurs, or continues to such a degree or extent, that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of a person”.
Examples could include:
- Barking for prolonged periods.
- Frequent, excessive barking.
- Barking at unreasonable hours, such as the early morning or late at night.
A dog barking excessively can also be legally determined as a ‘statutory noise nuisance’.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the owner could be taken to court if no action is taken to stop the nuisance, and a fine imposed of up to £5,000.
No one would want the situation to reach this stage.
But the longer your dog has become used to barking excessively without an attempt to restrain, the more difficult it could be to break the habit.
Six Ways To Stop your Dog from Excessive Barking
There are six recognised techniques you can try, which have all proven to be successful in stopping a dog from barking.
Ignore your dog barking
It’s probably the one method that most people would think to try first. In some instances, it may well be that your dog is barking simply to gain your attention.
The technique requires you to not look, talk or touch your dog.
By adopting a tactic which lets your dog know that you are not taking any notice, you avoid starting an “attention-reward” feedback loop.
In other words, the dog is rewarded for their excessive barking by receiving your attention – and the cycle is then repeated, endlessly!
When your dog does finally quieten down, even for a moment, you should:
- Immediately reward with a treat. Your dog will realise they are being rewarded for being quiet.
The next step is to:
- Slowly increase the reward time between your dog quietening down and receiving their treat.
The key to success with this technique is to remain patient – no matter how long the process may take. You need your dog to learn that you are in control and will not submit to their ‘demanding’ behaviour.
The alternative is your dog will ‘learn’ how long they need to bark to gain control by your show of attention.
Motivation and reward should always be considered as key factors, which leads to the next technique…
Remove your dog’s motivation to bark excessively
Your dog will mostly bark to alert you to someone or something approaching the house or passing by the window.
Your dog will also bark to receive a ‘reward’ for the behaviour.
The reward can be to gain your attention (as discussed above). Your dog may have also learned to gain attention by continually barking at people, cars or animals passing by.
This behaviour can sometimes be referred to as “barrier frustration” if your dog both barks and lunges at the window, and could be due to boredom or anxiety.
Removing the source of the motivation will deprive your dog of the ‘end-reward’ from their continuous barking behaviour:
- Close the curtains
- Put your dog in another room
If your dog is outside in a yard, immediately bring them into the house – and never leave outside unsupervised at any time.
You may even be able to prevent your dog barking as soon as your dog notices someone about to walk by.
Before they bark:
- Give your dog treats, one after another, until the person has passed out of sight
Following on from removing the reward motive is…
Familiarise your dog with the source of the stimulus
This technique may take a little longer and requires more patience than simply closing the curtains!
The aim is to gradually familiarise your dog with the source of the stimulus, such as another dog, by placing far enough away so your pet won’t be provoked to bark when it comes into view.
Slowly move the stimulus a little closer by perhaps, as little as a few inches or a few feet at the start.
Expert Tip: Continually feed your dog reward treats as the stimulus is moved closer. Only stop feeding treats if the stimulus is moved – or moves out of sight.
Remember! The intention is for your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to receiving reward treats. Not a source of anxiety nor an incentive for “attention barking”.
Once again, you are in control of when your dog receives the reward, not the other way round!
The learning process may need to be repeated many times. It may take days or even weeks before your dog is able to focus their attention solely upon you and the treats you are providing without barking at the other dog.
Divert your dog’s attention with a random command
It’s a well-known technique often used with humans too, of course.
Here, we simply replace the focus of attention with a command that also makes it difficult for your dog to continue barking.
The tactic involves your dog learning to react to a barking stimulus with an activity that hinders them from barking.
As soon as your dog starts barking:
- Immediately go to put a treat ‘reward’ in their basket, mat or rug, which is normally outside of the living room, in a different room or area.
At the same time:
- Instruct your dog to go to their “bed” – to discover the treat reward – and stay with your dog.
The next step is to:
- Open the door while they’re still in their basket, on their bed or rug. If your dog gets up, close the door immediately.
The process may need to be repeated until your dog has learned to stay put while the door opens.
Exercise your dog properly every single day
It’s essential, of course! To remain healthy and full of life, your dog requires daily physical exercise.
It also provides the sensory | mental stimulus, both of which can help to stave off boredom, frustration – and excessive barking behaviour!
Your dog will be too tired to bark!
Whatever the breed, age and health of your dog, you should at least ensure two long walks per day as well as activities, such as fetching and chasing a ball or favourite toy.
But what happens if you are not having much success with any of the above techniques?
Contact a certified professional dog trainer
No two dogs are exactly alike. Behaviour learning can be quicker and easier than you imagined.
But in some individual cases, the process may take longer than you first thought. Patience is always key to finally seeing a positive breakthrough.
You may start to feel that your dog is not really responding at all. They are still excessively barking at family members, strangers and other dogs passing by.
It may be time to consider finding a certified professional dog trainer for specialist advice and guidance.
Stopping Your Dog Barking
Top Training Tips at All Times!
- Don’t yell at your dog to be quiet – your dog thinks you’re barking along with them!
- Don’t confuse your dog – be consistent & apply the same training methods every time.
- Keep your training sessions positive and upbeat!