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Dog barking through a metal fence

The essentials

  • Dog barking is a natural behavior — Just like humans talk, dogs often bark to communicate their feelings.
  • Barking excessively may be a genetic or medical issue — Excessive barking may signal an underlying medical issue, or simply your dog’s breed’s tendency to vocalize.
  • Training is key to prevention — For cases that aren’t medical, training and playtime are essential to reduce the amount of barking.

Whether you’ve just adopted a dog or new puppy, or you’ve been living with your doggie for years, you may wonder if their love of yapping at passersby (and anything and everything else in their line of view) is normal. How much barking is considered “normal,” when does it become excessive, and what can you do about it?

No matter the cause of the barking, there are ways to help narrow down the reason for it and techniques to train your dog to better communicate their needs. We’ve compiled the most common causes of dog barking and the best tips to help you curb the behavior.

👉 Never yell at your dog for barking, as this is ineffective and confusing. Instead, use consistent, short, and positive training sessions.

Why dogs bark

Dogs may bark for many reasons. Just as you use your voice to express concern, fear, or happiness, dogs bark as a means of communication.

Whether a happy bark or one of fear, barking is natural, but excessive barking can become an annoyance or nuisance for your household and even your neighbors. Here we list out some of the most common reasons for compulsive barking:

  • Wanting your attention. Sometimes, your dog barks to tell you they want attention, whether that be asking for pets or belly rubs, telling you they need to go outside to use the bathroom, or asking to go on a walk.
  • It’s in their nature. Some breeds are naturally more chatty than others. Beagles, basset hounds, and other hound breeds are considered among the most vocal dog breeds. Other dogs that bark a lot include Chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers, cairn terriers, poodles, Siberian huskies, and Pomeranians.
  • Behavior issues. Dogs are natural pack animals, and as extremely social animals, they like to be around other dogs or their owners. When you leave for work, Fido may feel lonely or bored, so they may bark to express their feelings. If your dog has separation anxiety, they may bark or whine when they are alone to hear their own voice and ask for attention.
  • Underlying medical conditions. If your dog seems to be barking more than usual, they could be trying to tell you something is wrong. Any source of pain, discomfort, or diminishing senses (like vision or hearing loss) can lead a dog to bark as they try to express it to you.  Older dogs may bark excessively when experiencing canine cognitive dysfunction , which is similar to what humans experience with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
  • Territorial barking. Regardless of breed, dogs will often bark when they — or their families or territories — feel threatened. This alarm barking can come in short bursts or prolonged bouts of barking at any perceived threat, from squirrels to a neighbor’s dog walking by. Typically, dogs barking for this reason will have tense bodies with their ears and head at attention, a standard alert pose.

How to stop a dog from barking

1. Identify the cause of the barking

Dogs don’t bark without reason. They might be bored, anxious, scared, or trying to tell you something. Once you figure out why your dog is barking, you can address the root cause directly. If your dog barks when they’re bored, regular walks and playtime can help. If they’re anxious or scared, calming techniques and perhaps even professional training might be needed.

2. Talk to professionals

If your dog’s barking has increased, contacting your veterinarian should be your first step. They can help determine if any health issues are causing your dog’s barking behavior or if it could be an underlying behavioral problem . In some instances, it may be beneficial to engage with a professional trainer or certified applied animal behaviorist who can help identify the cause of the barking and teach you and your pet better ways to communicate.

🐶 When seeking a professional dog trainer, look for certifications like CPDT-KA, CPDT-KSA, or CBCC-KA. It’s important to research and read reviews of potential trainers and don’t hesitate to ask for references. It’s crucial to avoid trainers who employ punishment-based or dominance-and-submission methods as these techniques are often more inhumane.

3. Avoid situations that make your dog uncomfortable or scared

If your dog is in good health and is still being vocal, they may be barking for other reasons. They might feel threatened by the sound of other dogs or they could be struggling with socialization. Sometimes, it can be visitors, strangers, animals in the garden, or loud noises that cause your pet to bark out of alarm.

If you can modify a situation that makes them uncomfortable, like keeping them inside the house when you know the neighborhood kids will be getting off the bus, that can also curb barking.

4. Consider medications and/or supplements

Your vet may suggest medications or supplements to manage medical or behavioral triggers for your dog’s barking. Calming supplements could be recommended for stressful situations like thunderstorms or fireworks. In certain cases, the vet may prescribe medication to treat the root cause of the barking, and for severe instances, psychoactive medication could be considered as a last resort.

Some owners consider using CBD to reduce their dog’s barking, but it’s important to remember that these products are not federally regulated and their effectiveness is not scientifically proven – though they are working on it! They could also potentially interfere with other medications or supplements your dog is on. Most pet insurance policies do cover prescribed medications, including those for anxiety.

👉 Always consult your vet before starting a new supplement or medication.

5. Use counterconditioning and desensitization

Utilizing counterconditioning training can be a major help when confronting unwanted behavior such as excessive barking. Owners can utilize this method to alter their dog’s barking in favor of other behaviors, like sitting when they see something they’d normally bark at or going to their kennel.

Similarly, if you can train your pet to no longer be triggered by whatever causes them to bark in the first place (e.g. animals, other people, or their reflection), then they will no longer have that reason to bark. Positive reinforcement plays a huge part in ensuring they keep up with their new behavior.

6. Create a quiet zone

Designate a peaceful area in your home where your dog can relax, away from loud noises and distractions. This might be a spare room, a corner of the living room, or even a special crate. Fill it with their favorite toys and blankets to make it as comfortable as possible. Over time, your dog will learn to associate this space with quiet and calmness, which can significantly reduce their need to bark.

7. Add additional training and playtime

Training is a great way to teach dogs better communication skills, and extra playtime can help keep them from feeling bored or lonely. Plus, a tired dog will be less likely to bark without cause.

Use vocal commands — Teach your dog to understand a simple command like “quiet.” Aside from being more aggressive, the term “shut up” is more complex and harder for the dog to learn. Remember to keep training sessions positive to reinforce good behavior and utilize food or other high-value treats to help.

Ignore barking for attention — Some dogs bark just so you’ll give them a scratch on the head. Don’t encourage this behavior by giving in. Instead, wait to give them attention or a treat once they have stopped barking.

Burn energy with play time — Your dog might be barking because they’re bored or have too much energy. Make sure to schedule plenty of games of fetch and add a long walk to your daily routine to help them burn off their energy and keep their mind stimulated positively. Mental stimulation and physical exercise can have a profound effect on your pup!

Teach new communications — Dogs may bark to go outside or to greet other dogs. Use treats and training to teach them to communicate in other ways. For example, teach them to jingle a bell on the door handle when they want to go outside or use treats to encourage them to walk past doggie passersby quietly.

Increase exercise — Additional walks or runs can be a helpful resource in curbing bored barking. If you’re having a hard time handling the increase in enrichment, consider investing in a dog walker or sending your pup to doggy daycare. This works while working from the office, but can also apply even if you’re at home.

Consider crate training — Crate training may be helpful for dogs with separation anxiety who are barking a lot. Just be patient, as crate training may take several weeks, and don’t use this option for more than five hours at a time for adult dogs. Make sure to give your dog safe toys in the crate to keep them occupied.

Things to avoid when addressing your dog’s barking

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed or embarrassed if your furry friend barks excessively, but there’s no need to fret. Some common mistakes you can avoid when trying to alter your dog’s barking habits are:

  • Yelling at your dog. While you may feel frustrated, it’s better to temper your emotions and not yell at your pet. Some dogs might think you’re “barking” with them which may make them want to do it more.
  • Swatting at your pet. Whether using a newspaper or your hands, swatting at your pet or smacking parts of their body doesn’t help curb barking. If anything, it can create negative associations you don’t want.
  • Being impatient. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will progress in curbing your dog’s barking. Remember that this process will take time and effort and won’t happen overnight.
  • Giving attention to every bark. Remember the idea of conditioning? Well, if you respond to every bark, your dog will learn that they can always get your attention if they bark, regardless of the reason why.
  • Overusing collars. Some owners may turn to products like shock collars, bark collars, or spray collars to curb their dog’s barking habit, but as with anything, overuse can lead to negative effects. Additionally, deterrents like these are not recommended by leading behavioral experts or certified veterinary behaviorists.
  • Encouraging their barking. It may make sense to support your dog barking if they’re guarding your home, but if you encourage barking miscellaneously, then you’re conditioning that response in your pet — which you may end up regretting the next time the mailman comes to the front door.

A barking dog can be frustrating and disruptive, but remember that showing your agitation by yelling or cursing will only make the dog feel worse. Physical abuse should never, ever be used against a dog. It’s not only ineffective — it’s illegal.

Instead, focus on patience and practice and helping your dog grow into the happy healthy pup you know they’re capable of being. Barking can seem like a big problem, but with hard work and positive reinforcement, even the barkiest dogs can be kept under control with the proper training methods.

Frequently asked questions

Why is my dog barking at nothing?

If your dog seems to be barking at nothing, this could be a sign that they might be in pain or have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). If excessive barking is a new problem, visit the vet to help identify any underlying medical issues. Your dog might also be barking because they feel lonely or bored. For times when you’re gone, make sure the dog has plenty of toys and their favorite comfort objects, like a dog bed or ThunderShirt, to feel cozy and safe during your absence.

How do I get my dog to stop barking at everything?

Understanding the cause of your dog’s excessive barking is the first step towards addressing it. This could be due to boredom, fear, attention-seeking, or territorial behavior. Strategies can include training your dog to understand quiet commands, providing physical and mental stimulation, and ensuring a comfortable environment. Consistency is key in this process.

Do anti-barking devices work?

Anti-barking devices can work for some dogs, but they are not a universal solution. These devices often use ultrasonic sound, vibration, or a mild shock to deter barking. However, they don’t address the root cause of excessive barking and are not recommended for use by professional dog behaviorists.

How do you fix nuisance barking?

Fixing nuisance barking requires patience and consistent effort. Begin by identifying the cause of the barking and then tailor your approach accordingly. This might involve positive reinforcement training, increased exercise, socialization, or even professional help if necessary. Always ensure your pet feels safe and secure, as stress can often exacerbate problem behaviors.

How do you stop a dog barking ASAP?

If you need to stop your dog from barking immediately, try distracting them with a command they know well, like ‘sit’ or ‘stay.’ If this doesn’t work, a high-value treat or toy can also serve as a good distraction. Remember, it’s crucial to address the underlying cause of the barking to prevent it from becoming a recurring issue.