To Bark or Not to Bark – That is the Question


Hi Everyone!

Today Suzy, The Dog Training Lady, our resident pet trainer, is sharing with us some tips on How to Train Your Dog Not to Bark when it isn’t necessary. Enjoy!

Being a doggie parent, we experience a sense of protection when our dogs bark. Our dogs bark when there is a person on your property or there is a knock at the door, or they are giving you some sort of warning. When is it okay for them to bark or not to bark?

The problem starts when the barking doesn’t stop, or your dog is barking at everything, from the person riding their bike, to the mailperson, and even the occasion passer-by.

So how do we get our pooches to stop the incessant barking?

Dog Barking**

There is not a simple answer to reduce excessive barking.

First, we need to determine is WHY our dog is barking. There can be a variety of reasons that a dog will bark, and sometimes the cause is a behavioral issue.

They don’t bark just to tick off you or your neighbors, that’s a vengeful trait, and one that humans possess not dogs. Dog don’t plan revenge, so we can cross that off the list right now. I know many people have said “that dog is just trying to drive me crazy”. That is not the case.

Barking, howling, growling and whining is how dogs communicate, just as we speak to each other in different tones, dogs are trying to tell you something. If you listen very closely to your dogs barks and other sounds you will begin to hear a pattern and identify his or her reason for barking, and what they are trying to communicate to you.

My dog Spike had an identifiable bark for a person, one for when he wanted to go outside, and one if another dog was near his house.

Each bark had a different tone. It may take a while, but you can learn to pick up on these differences, and before you know it, you will be able to speak “dog”.

The other thing to keep in mind is the breed of your dog. Some breeds for example: breeds belonging to the terrier group have the genetics to be a “Sir Barks-A-Lot”.

Let’s take a look at some reasons that dogs bark:

Separation Anxiety


Excessive Confinement or Inappropriate Shelter

Loud or Unexpected Noises

Environmental Sounds

Play Time or Excitement

Alert or Warning

These are the most common, but there can be other reasons. In order to resolve the barking issue you have to determine the cause.

The problem at hand is – what to do when the barking won’t stop.

We could write a complete book on all the barking, and how to control each individual reason, but for the sake of this post we will review some general practices to work on. Keep in mind two very important things:

  1. Don’t YELL at your dog – this is human barking.
  1. Have patience – this will take time, and a lot of patience. Barking is something you want them to do at the appropriate time, but still want it controlled at inappropriate times.

Here are a few general practices to help control the inappropriate barking.

Select a one-word command e.g., “Enough” or “Okay” for the actions you really want. Use your chosen word all the time, use an even tone of voice always, and be sure that everyone in the house uses the same word in the same manner. Consistency is key for correcting excessive barking behavior.

Call your dog and, have him or her lie down and stay (canines do not bark as much when they are in a down position), we are well on the way to fixing a barking issue.

Always reward your pet for great behavior. Select a unique treat; what I like to call a premium reward, little pieces or cooked chicken, turkey, or hot dog will certainly help your dog or puppy understand that he or she is really doing something good. As time goes on, and the barking begins to improve you will not provide a treat every time, just saying “Good Dog” and a scratch behind the ear will work just as well. Dog’s love being loved on!

In many instances, yelling “No” is just going to make it worse, as I previously mentioned this is the equivalent of human barking.

If he or she is barking due to a loud noise, do not hug your pet, or talk soothingly, otherwise your playing right into your dog’s barking.

When you do this, you are actually unwittingly rewarding the barking behavior. It also helps if you don’t react to the sound. I know this is easier said than done.

I live in the lightening state, Florida, and we can have some serious lightening storms here. It took me a while to train myself not to react to the lightening. When my dogs, and cats saw that I was not bothered by it, they stopped reacting to it.

Be patient with your dog, as well as yourself. This will not be an overnight transformation. Habits take a great deal of time to break, especially this one, excessive barking is tricky. You have more than likely been accepting the behavior, or yelling at the dog to stop, so we are starting from square one here.

This is un-training, this is not like teaching your puppy to sit. This is reversing something that has been going on for a while. If you are starting with a young puppy, you are actually very fortunate; and you need to start this training right away. Take it gradually, one step at a time. The opportunity to properly change this habit will be gone if you become upset with your puppy.

Do not hesitate to ask a specialist. Dog Trainers, behaviorists, as well as, your vet could offer you important guidance. Having them witness your dog’s barking episodes could provide them useful hints to help you fix the barking issue. They will be able to identify what type of barking it is, and if it is a behavioral issue or something else.

Controlled training – try to established control scenarios to use as training sessions.

Use 5 to 10 minute sessions of controlled exposure to a particular barking issue.

An example of this would be a dog that will not stop barking when someone knocks on the door. Have someone (another household member, or ask a friend) to help you with this.

Have them come knock on the door, your dog starts barking, don’t get up, and answer the door immediately. Treat it as a non-issue, like you didn’t even hear it.

Call your dog and ask for a down, and stay, or a sit, and stay. If he or she is still barking, use your selected word “Enough”, when the barking stops, answer the door.

Only do this a couple of time per session, but be consistent with this training sessions, until you are satisfied that your pet will bark once or twice and stop.

Be sure to socialize your dog. Socializing your dog, and taking them to different places gives them exposure to different things, things they may otherwise bark at if they didn’t experience it.

Think of the training police dogs must go through, can you imagine a dog that doesn’t bark when a gunshot goes off. This is accomplished through exposure.

So exposing your dog to as many things as possible, drop that metal pot on the floor once in a while, it’s a loud noise, you’ll just pick it up, and you pup will see it was no big deal. If they keep barking, use your word “Enough” is a calm and even tone of voice.

I know the question is out there, but please, please, don’t use a shock collar, if it has gotten that extreme, spend the money on a trainer, not a shock collar.

If it has gotten to the point that you are going to surrender your dog because your neighbors have complained to the homeowners association about the barking, and you have been given a difficult choice. Please get a trainer or behaviorist right away. Shock collars are expensive, so use the money, and get someone that can help you train your dog in a positive, and loving manner.

After all our dogs are meant to be our alert system, it’s really their job. Believe me our dog’s like having a job to do, it makes them part of the family, well, besides loving on everybody. 🙂

We need them to bark; it is up to us to teach them when it is okay to bark and when it’s not.

I hope in some way I was able to help you get started in the right direction. If you have specific questions, I am always happy to help.

I would like to thank Rachel, and Rooney for allowing me to guest post for it’s always a lot of fun!

Until Next Time,

Pawsitively Yours,

Suzanne Dean, ABCDT

I want to thank Suzy for writing another amazing behavior column for us. Suzy has been contributing to our blog for a long time, and we wouldn’t be able to address behavioral issues without her, so please show her some love by going to her website.

As always, if you have any behavioral issues you would like us to write about, please leave a comment below.

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13 Comment

  1. Reply
    Caren Gittleman
    February 19, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing this info. I have a Shetland Sheepdog (barking is part of their lineage lol)…but…I have been working with him. My sister-in-law said when her Springer Spaniels were being trained, the trainer used “good quiet.” I have been doing that with Dakota (when our new neighbors across the hall come in and out)….and I am having some success. When he is quiet, I say “good quiet” (in reference to the neighbors), then I call him over to me to be petted.
    The problem?
    My husband.
    He not only doesn’t do it, he thinks it is stupid….and the rare time he has tried it, he doesn’t say it when Dakota actually IS quiet when the neighbors come out.
    I am fighting a losing battle, not because of Dakota, but because of HIM!
    Caren Gittleman recently posted…Sensitivity:Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  2. Reply
    M. K. Clinton
    February 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    I’m going to send this to my daughter for when Pierre moves back home. He goes nuts barking over squirrels! BOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…The Benefits of BenecoatMy Profile

  3. Reply
    Two French Bulldogs
    February 20, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing some good advice
    Lily & Edward

  4. Reply
    Jana Rade
    February 23, 2015 at 9:01 am

    JD barks at a drop of the hat. Cookie often just makes this “snorty” kind of sound when she hears, smells or senses something that doesn’t belong. Only sometimes she’ll actually alert-bark. She does bark to solicit play, though. And she makes all kinds of noises, you’d swear she’s really talking.
    Jana Rade recently posted…What Is Opposition Reflex?My Profile

  5. Reply
    Michelle Wolff
    February 23, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Sent this to my mom and daughter – hoping they read it!
    Michelle Wolff recently posted…Feral Cat Support in TexasMy Profile

  6. Reply
    February 23, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Teaching not to bark is so darn difficult! A trainer I know teaches dogs to bark on cue in order to then use that controlled circumstance to teach them to stop on cue. It is rather interesting!
    Carleen recently posted…How To Make Dehydrated Sweet Potato Dog Treats in Your OvenMy Profile

  7. Reply
    Cathy Armato
    February 23, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Very good tips! My dogs are not barking at all except on one occasion when my Husky demand barks. We’ve been trying to eliminate this but it’s not working well. I will try the sit/down and using my Shhh sound and see if that works. Thanks!
    Cathy Armato recently posted…Keep Pet Dental Health Top Of Mind All YearMy Profile

  8. We’ve been working on the barking recently and two of my three dogs got the message pretty quickly. A treat is more fun than barking. Just gotta work on the terrier now. He’s smart, so I think he’ll get it pretty soon.
    –Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats
    Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats recently posted…Rules of Dog: The Other Dog Always Has the Best StickMy Profile

  9. Reply
    February 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. Yelling at dogs won’t help.
    Dogvills recently posted…Best Small Hypoallergenic Dogs For AdoptionMy Profile

  10. Reply
    February 23, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    This is really great information! It can be hard to remember that sometimes the things that we do to try and curb a behavior are actually rewarding that behavior.
    Robin recently posted…Help for Kitten Season #FoodShelterLoveMy Profile

  11. Reply
    Ruth Cox
    February 23, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Great tips here for barkers and the humans! My coonhound Valentino rarely barks. I had two concerns: one, he barks at the stray and feral cats that abound in our neighborhood. He is getting much better at the Stop command now, though, so after a bark or two I can get him to stop and sit. The bigger issue is anxiety barking. He starts the minute I walk out the door without him. I’ve tried small increments of time and it is non-stop. Soon I am back to full time working outside the home so this is going to be an issue to deal with I’m sure.
    Ruth Cox recently posted…Pawsitive Welcome Mat for GuestsMy Profile

  12. Reply
    Christine & Riley
    February 23, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    This was great! I love the first on of not yelling at your dog, because it’s human barking! love it! we normally don’t have this problem in the house, only when I come home and everyone is screaming for my attention 🙂
    Christine & Riley recently posted…Beating Canine Cancer, One Shih Tzu at a TimeMy Profile

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