Woof! Woof! How do I stop that dog from barking?!
The noisy dog is the bane of neighbors everywhere. Forget the crazy kid parties, and the motorcycles without a muffler; it is the barking dog that causes the majority of neighborhood arguments, and noise complaints.
So why do dogs bark, and how can we stop that barking behavior?
Why Do Dogs Bark?
- Warning. Dogs may bark to warn others to stay away from his belongings, or his space.
- Alert. Guard dogs vocalize to alert pack members of interesting, or possibly dangerous events. For example, my Shiba Inu will bark whenever he sees or hears something unexpected. He stops, once I come over to check things out.
- Defensive. Dogs may use their bark to scare away possible threats.
- Boredom/Frustration. Dogs that are left alone for long periods of time, bark because they are bored and frustrated. When dogs have pent up, hyper energy, that they are unable to release through exercise, they may bark and charge at the fence.
- Stress. Fearful dogs may become highly stressed, when people or other dogs invade their space. As a result, they may vocalize and lunge, to scare people or other dogs away. Dogs with separation anxiety may bark, whine, and cry, when their owners leave.
- Excitement. Some dogs bark when they are playing or greeting people, because of excitement.
- Attention. Finally, dogs will also bark to get attention. Many owners give attention or affection to their dog, when he vocalizes. This becomes a reward to the dog, which causes him to keep repeating his barking behavior.
1. Dog Obedience Training
When dealing with a noisy dog, remember that barking is often a symptom of some other problem.
Contrary to common belief, dogs do not bark just to annoy us and our neighbors, nor do they do it because of spite or vengeance.
The best way to stop dog barking, is to identifying the root of the behavior. Once we deal with the source of the problem, the “woof, woof” symptom will disappear.
First, we need to be around to observe our dog. We want to identify –
- What starts our dog barking, for example the postman coming,
- Why our dog barks, for example to protect his territory, and
- Whether our dog is rewarded for his barking, for example the postman walking away.
Once we understand these three things, we can develop a plan to retrain our dog. During the retraining process, do not leave him alone where he can practice, and be rewarded for his barking behavior.
Here are some training techniques to stop dog barking:
a) Teach our dog the “Quiet” command.
When our dog starts barking, bring out a really high priority treat, say Quiet, and give the appropriate hand gesture in front of his face.
The smell of the treat will engage his nose, and the hand gesture will briefly startle and distract him. This will probably cause him to stop barking briefly. As soon as he stops, mark the behavior (Yes) and treat him.
Keep practicing this until he understands the command. Then, we can slowly increase the duration of the Quiet command, before treating.
We can hasten the training process by initiating the bark trigger ourselves, for example by ringing the doorbell, squeaking a toy, or playing a recording of sirens.
b) Ask for an alternative command.
In addition to Quiet, we can also ask for other commands that are inconsistent with barking.
For example, we may ask for a Down command, because dogs do not normally bark when they are lying down.
In fact, it is even better to use the Go to Mat command, which gets our dog to move to his bed and lie down. In this way, he moves away from the trigger object, to a location where he feels comfortable and safe.
c) Distract our dog.
We can also distract our noisy dog by engaging him in an alternative activity. For example, we can play a game of tug, or give him a food toy, so that he is not focused on the bark trigger.
It is best to consistently establish a routine for our dog, so that every time he starts to bark, we get him to go to his bed, and play with his food toys. If we repeat this often enough, he will automatically perform this behavior instead of barking.
Note – For retraining to work, it is crucial not to let our dog practice his barking behavior when we are not around. If he practices unsupervised barking, and is inadvertently rewarded for it (e.g. by the postman leaving), he will keep repeating that behavior. With more practice, it will become a habit, and be more difficult to stop.
When we are not around to supervise, crate our dog in a quiet section of the house, and put the radio or television on, to mask the noise from outside. Only do this for short periods of time (< 3 hours). If we will be away for a longer duration, then consider dog daycare or dog walking.
2. Dog Daycare or Dog Walker
Retraining our dog to stop barking, may require a fair amount of supervision and time. While we are at work, we can consider putting him in dog daycare. Alternatively, we can hire a dog walker to take him on group walks, at the park. Both these activities will keep him engaged, well-exercised, and prevent him from practicing his barking behavior.
Note that daycare or dog walking does not train our dog to stop barking.
It just removes him from the bark triggers, and gives him other activities to keep him engaged. If we stop these activities, he will likely start barking again. However, daycare or dog walking are great ways to prevent him from practicing his barking behavior, during the retraining process.
While it does not retrain our dog, it at least keeps the problem from getting worse.
3. Anti-Bark Collars
Anti-bark collars are a popular way to address dog barking issues. These collars are convenient, because they automatically deliver an unpleasant sensation to the dog, when he barks. In addition, the strength of the unpleasant stimulus is increased, if he escalates the frequency and volume of his vocalizations.
There are two types of anti-bark collars, a spray collar and a shock collar.
The spray collar automatically sprays the dog’s face with citronella when he barks. If he escalates his barking, a stronger spray is delivered.
The shock collar automatically delivers an electric shock to the dog’s neck, when he barks. The more he barks, the stronger the shock. Sometimes, marketeers refer to these collars as stimulation collars, gentle training collars, and other more people friendly terms, in order to make a quick sale. Do not be fooled by these sales gimmicks.
All anti-bark collars work by punishing the dog for barking.
They do not address the root of the problem, but instead try to suppress the barking behavior through the delivery of an aversive stimulus, for example, pain. As with many other aversive training methods, these collars run the risk of causing aggression in dogs, and other behavioral issues.
For example, our dog may bark every time the postman arrives. This would cause an electric shock to be automatically delivered to his neck. Rather than associate the pain to his barking behavior, he may associate it to the postman instead. This may ultimately cause him to become aggressive toward our innocent mail carrier.
If we *do* decide to use an anti-bark collar, it is perhaps best to only use the spray collars, or citronella collars. Studies (Steiss, Soraya) show that shock collars do not work any better than the spray collars, and they have a much greater likelihood of encouraging aggression in dogs.
When it comes to calming “nuisance-barking” dogs, a spritz of fragrance under the chin is more effective than electric shock, a test by the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine has found.
There are also ultrasonic bark deterrent devices. However, since this affects all dogs in a given area (including dogs who are not barking), it has gotten poor reviews. Punishing dogs that are not showing any undesirable behaviors can lead to stress, anxiety, and even more behavioral issues down the road.
Shock collars are commonly used by dog veterans, during highly supervised training sessions, and solely for off-leash distance work. Leaving a shock anti-bark collar on an unsupervised dog, for protracted periods of time, is dangerous, and may cause physical and/or mental harm.
Make sure to monitor our dog closely when we use an anti-bark collar.
Watch out for signs of increased aggression, stress, fear, or other behavioral issues. Set up a web-cam to record him, so that we may observe how he responds to the collar when he barks. Some dogs become extremely stressed or frustrated, and may even escalate their barking behavior.
Remember that anti-bark collars work, by suppressing the barking behavior, and does not address the root of the barking problem.
Even though it may stop dog barking in the short-term, the problem may reoccur once our dog gets habituated to the spray or electric shock. It also increases the dog’s stress level, and lowers his quality of life.
4. Surgical Debarking
Surgical debarking, debarking, or bark softening, is a surgical procedure where tissue is removed from a dog’s vocal chords, to reduce the loudness of his barks.
Most debarking procedures do not completely remove a dog’s vocalizations. Dogs that are debarked, usually have a huskier, softer bark that can only be heard at close range.
Surgical debarking is a controversial subject, and many consider it to be inhumane.
As with anti-bark collars, surgical debarking does not address the root of the barking issue. Instead, it may add stress to the dog because he is now silenced. The dog may feel more vulnerable, and may be more likely to use his bite, since his bark is no longer available.
Because of these reasons, surgical debarking should only be considered as a last resort option; when the only other alternative is euthanasia. Take the temperament of our dog into account, and consider how this process may affect his long-term quality of life.
Debarking is illegal in England. In the United States, debarking laws are determined on a state by state basis. Currently, it is only illegal in Ohio.
Please, no bashing comments, I feel terrible enough about my situation. I worked as a volunteer for two different animal shelters for 10 years. I walked dogs, cleaned up poo, cleaned cages, fed animals and bathed them 40 hours a week in addition to working 40 hours in my profession. I became disabled and could no longer go to the shelter, so I changed to at home volunteer work, doing fostering for orphaned kittens and puppies. This sounds like fun, but feeding every 2-4 hours around the clock, making/buying formula, all the extra laundry, cage cleaning, keeping them cleaned, getting them to urinate ect. takes work and time. I kept a kitten the size of a hampster alive when the vet gave her an 18% chance of living.
Over the years I have worked at the shelter on Thanksgiving and Christmas when no one else wanted to volunteer. I have spent thousands of dollars on vet bills for the foster animals. One year I took in a feral cat and her 4 kittens. For years I had a dog, the feral cat, 2 of her kittens and another cat (all indoor only).
Now, to my point. My current dog has behavior problems. Separation anxiety, inapropriate urination by the door (when he hears a noise or spots movement outside), and general anxious behavior. Yes, the vet is aware. He is with me a great deal since I am disabled. While I have worked with him, and spent $75.00/hour having the vets recommended pet behavioralist work with him, he continues to have issues. My husband works long hours, so walks him 1-2X/day. I cannot walk him.
The dog we had before this dog, was perfectly behaved. She came that way. Our boy dog (yes, he is neutered) has been very high strung since the day we got him. Because of his behavior, he attracts a good deal of attention and people decide it is their place (because they LOVE animals) to call the police or speak to me because they feel he is distressed. Yesterday, he came in to car with me to run a 30 minute errand. I checked the weather before I left and due to the 32 degrees, I put his cashmere wool coat on him. He has 2″ long fur. Someone was very rude to me about having the dog in a heated car. Another time a woman called the police, because my husband tied the dog to a fence. There was a sign saying NO DOGS at the park. My husband was helping me, due to my disability and we were about 6 feet away from our dog (keeping a constant eye on him). Another time, my husband was in the car with the A/C running on a warm day. We were taking the dog to the vet. I went in the store for a few minutes, while my husband stayed in the car with the dog. When I returned to the car, a woman confronted me about having my dog out on a hot day. My husband claimed she had been standing in the parking lot and looking at him for 5 minutes. She told me she was thinking about calling the police.
If there really are so many people who LOVE dogs, then where the heck were these animal lovers when I was the only volunteer. From my years of working at the shelter, I know dogs with temperments/behavior issues like my dogs, end up abandoned on highways, dropped off somewhere, euthanized ect. The last thing I need is strangers putting their 2 cents in my business. Any suggestions, other than someone else telling me off.
For separation anxiety, desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises helped with my dog.
More on dog anxiety.
As for other people and what they say, what worked best for me is to just focus on my dog and do what is best for him. I observe my dog carefully, I read up as much as I can on dog behavior, and I got help from several trainers.
Being embarrassed by my dog.
More on where I get information on dog behavior.
More on how I went about looking for a good trainer.
Thank you shibashake for all the links. I appreciate you taking the time to find all the info specific to my issue. I will read and print all of them today. In addition, I will suggest my husband read them, so we can take the same approach.
Hope it is o.k. to contact you in the future, to let you know what I have learned and done to improve my dogs life.
Hello, it’s me with an update on my barky dog and his behavior. After reading all the info you suggested, the big change I tried was getting rid of his kennel.
I noticed a change right away. This made me feel awful! I was told to use the crate when his anxiety/barking escalated. After taking the crate away, his anxiety went way down. It is so sad thinking I was making him feel worse.
Thank you for the help. While he continues to bark, it is less than before. Because the crate was removed and his anxiety is less, the urinating is decreased significantly. When he barks at the door, we ask him to sit and then he stops barking. This is when we pick him up.
Thank you, thank you thank you!
I am so glad that he is feeling better. Thank you for giving me an update. 😀
kathy cease says
my 11 month old shep dog has started barking at friends as they sit with me in the patio or walk around the house. It is getting frustrating trying to stop him. what do I do?
I do people desensitization exercises with my dog to help him be more calm and relaxed around people.
I have a 7months old german shepherd/australian shepherd x great pyrenees mix. We dont have a problem with barking at home or at backyard, but when we get to the dog park he puts on a “guard mode”. His tail gets up and he raises his head and starts to guard every little noises or movements outside the park. If a dog comes in he barks loudly with his tail raised up, but not being aggressive. I can’t get any contact on him while he is in his “guard mode”. Im really getting helpless with him.
Yeah, a dog park can be stressful for a dog because suddenly, there are so many new smells, sights, and sounds. Exposing my dog to too much stimulus before he is ready for it, can cause overload very quickly and make him go read-brained. At this point, he is no longer capable of listening to me or learning.
I helped my Shiba Inu to stay more calm around other dogs by doing dog-to-dog desensitization exercises. With desensitization, I start small, in a low stimulus environment, at a distance, and with a single calm dog. In this way, Sephy is able to stay in control, and can learn from the experience.
The more calm and successful experiences Sephy has with other dogs, the more confidence he gains and the more comfortable he gets with them. Similarly, the more reactive or negative experiences that he has, the more likely he will go reactive in the future. Therefore, I always try to not only maximize successes, but also to minimize failures.
With Sephy it is very important to carefully manage his environment, start small, go slowly, and gradually build up his tolerance.
Hi, we recently adopted a 5 yrs old beagle whose owners gave him up because they lived in an apartment and worked long hours. We have a garden but he seems to always find a way out so we prefer to put him on a long leash between two trees when we leave him on his own (max 4 hrs a few times a week) but he barks continuously according to the neighbors who have threatened to call the police :-S we try to take him with us most of the time but we also want him to be more calm and comfortable for his and the neighbors’ sake. There are no issues with him inside the house when we are home and at night he sleeps through on a pillow outside our bedroom. He is fine in his doggie carrier in the car but I wouldn’t want to lock him in there when we are out. We take him for a 20 to 40 min walk twice a day. How can we make him calm and happy in the garden on the leash when we are gone?
How is he if left alone inside the house? How does he escape – does he dig under the fence? If he digs under the fence, then one thing that has worked well for my dog is to put concrete blocks all along the fence line to prevent digging.
When nobody is home, I prefer to have my dogs inside the house. There are fewer distractions inside the house, they don’t bother the neighbors, and they can be more calm and relaxed as a result. When they are outside, there are usually interesting smells, sounds, and more, which can be very exciting. Squirrels and cats may also come over.
In general, I would not recommend tethering a dog outside unless supervised. Leashes can get tangled and it can be frustrating for a dog to have interesting stimuli all around, but keep hitting the leash when he tries to run after it. This can also lead to other behavioral issues.
More on dog escapes.
My six month old Shiba never used to bark, but suddenly starting about a week ago he literally will not let us sleep at night. We haven’t been doing anything differently, and we do our best to keep him active during the day so he’ll be tired at night. Nothing seems to help. He barks and whines constantly as soon as we lay down and tell him that it’s bed time. I’ve been staying up with him and giving him treats when he listens to the “quiet” command, but I can’t do this forever. I need sleep! He’ll be getting neutered within the next couple weeks. Will that help this behavior?
What is his daily routine like? Does he sleep in the crate at night or is he free to roam about? Could he be thirsty? Are there any noises outside? Sometimes my Shiba will vocalize when he hears unusual noises outside. Have there been any changes in the environment?
Another thing I have noticed with Sephy is that he sleeps more peacefully when I take him out for a very short walk before bed so that he has a chance to empty his bladder. He doesn’t really like going in the backyard as much, but if I walk him, he will go.
Other times, Sephy may vocalize because he is trying to get attention. In this case, I use the Quiet command with him a couple of times, but if he keeps going, then I send him out of the bedroom. I do not give him treats/affection/other rewards for attention seeking whining at night. His reward for staying quiet at night is that he gets to stay in the bedroom, which is something that he likes.
I ignore continued whining outside. In this way, he learns that if he whines to get attention, then he ends up not getting to be with his people at all. However, I am careful to identify the source of the whining first. Sometimes, when Sephy vocalizes, there is a good reason for it. 🙂
Hi I have a pugalier he is almost one years old in 2 weeks we tried the citronella spray worked for two months only until recently to days he starts barking and stops when we let him inside the house and put him in the garage. We were thinking about giving him up we tried with training and sprays I want to keep him what should I do ???
What type of training have you tried (other than the spray collar)? What is his daily routine like? How much time does he spend on his own? Does he know basic commands? Pugs, I think, really love being with their people.
We walk him everyday for 40 minutes roughly he is very active jumps around always wants to be in the house. He knows his basics. He rarely spends time on his own if he does its like an hour or two if we are out or when we are all sleeping. Yes he loves spending time with us a lot. When we let him in the backyard he inspects everything! then starts barking so loud looking in the sky so confused.
My dog does well with method 1, which includes-
1. I put the behavior under command control by teaching my dog the Quiet command.
2. I give my dog an alternative command, and then make sure to reinforce the positive behavior by rewarding him very well for it.
3. I distract my dog with doing something else so that he doesn’t obsess on barking, and so that it doesn’t become a habit.
Does your dog only bark when he is outside? Does he only bark when he is outside alone? If he stops barking as soon as he is in the house, then I am not sure I understand why you would need to give him up? Are the neighbors complaining? Can he come in and out of the house whenever he wants, or are there certain times when he has to stay outside? Likely, I am missing some important detail.
Also when he barks he tends to howl really loud he is not a pug but a mixture of pug and cavalier
Yes he barks outside a lot but he also barks inside sometimes and also he barks when he is alone. There is a neighbour behind us who keeps complaining about him barking when he is outside. We cant leave him in the house we work and our kids go to school which leaves him alone in the backyard. We let him in sometimes when he barks to much or when we want to play with him. He always barks at night and early in the morning and wont stop.
Hi, I adopted an almost 5 YO male shiba from a rescue about 10 days ago. He has a very strange (to me) barking pattern. He will bark or howl at people with or without dogs walking past the front of the house but does not bark at all at anyone who comes onto the porch and up to the front door. I have a screened porch so this involves someone opening the screen door first so Piper definitely knows when this happens. He sometimes will not move from his perch on the couch at all but at most will go to the front door (which is glass all the way down) and sit on the other side of the door without making a sound. This is exactly the opposite of how any dog I have ever had (including a shiba mix I had prior to him) behaved and I am perplexed!! I would like him to serve as an “early warning system” when people come on the porch and approach the front door. Is there anyway to train him to bark in these situations instead of the ones he currently chooses? Thanks in advance.
One possibility is to put the behavior under command control, e.g. Speak and Quiet. Then, we can get a friend to step on the porch and as soon as she does that, we give the Speak command. If we keep repeating that with the proper reinforcement, then the “step on porch” action could trigger the “speak” behavior.
How is Piper when he meets new people during walks? Is he confident about meeting strangers or a bit shy? It could also be that he is still getting used to his surroundings, and his behavior may change as he gets more used to his new environment.
Hi there. I have just adopted a beautiful jack Russell whippet cross. She is 4 years old and called Hollie. She is brilliant with people but she has a tendency to bark at other dogs. Never bites but barks and growls. She also gets quite jumpy when people make sudden movements. How can I help her get over this?
For dog-to-dog reactivity, I do desensitization exercises with my dog.
Here is more on why dogs jump on people, and how I discourage my dog from jumping.
Big hugs to Hollie!
Hi, first of all, i just want to say that i love your site and chanced upon it when i was researching about shiba inus. Thank you for sharing your knowledge 🙂
Okay and secondly, i’ve got a question: my shiba puppy rarely barks and is pretty quiet but active. Recently however, she sometimes, for no apparent reason, spontaneously starts barking and growling at one of us. We’re confused and a little bit freaked out as well. She’d also stop just as abruptly and resume whatever she was doing. These barking spells last for about several seconds. Why do you think she does that?
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. What was Shiba doing right before the barking? What were you doing right before the barking? Was Shiba working on a toy/food chew? Was Shiba resting? Were you moving near her or towards her before the barks? Anything happening in the environment before the bark? Any noises from outside?
What is Shiba’s routine like? What kind of training is she accustomed to?
Context is very important when it comes to dog behavior.
My boyfriend and I have two six-month-old chow mixed breeds. They are both females and are litter-mates. They used to share a large yard during the day, but they fight when they are home alone, so now one of them stays in a kennel for the morning while the other runs the yard and my boyfriend switches them when he comes home for lunch. In the evenings, they usually come inside until bedtime. We kept them together, because so they would be company for each other and I hate having to keep them separated, rather than letting them play. I’m afraid we might have to give one up if the fighting continues.
At night, there are many other neighborhood dogs that bark. One of ours is mostly quiet, but the other barks all night (30-seconds of excited barking several times an hour). We got her a spray collar, which was effective for a short while. But now she barks to set it off and sniffs the air like she likes it. We also got her a static collar. Again, it worked at first, but now it makes very little impact. They never bark in our presence, so trying to train them to a command is rather difficult. The majority of the time they do bark, it seems like they’re barking at each other (non-aggressively). I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do to keep them quiet. Mainly, I don’t want the neighbors to complain. No one else seems to try to control their dogs and we haven’t heard any complaints yet. Should I just let it go?
Also, the fighting pre-dated the use of anti-bark collars and the collars are not used in combination and only when we are at home. They collars do not seem to escalate her barking or make her more aggressive.
Persistent or continuous barking is usually a symptom for some other underlying issue. I monitor my dogs closely, and if I notice such symptoms –
1. I work on identifying what the underlying issue is.
Persistent outside barking combined with aggression *can* be the result of barrier frustration combined with redirected aggression. During walks with my dogs, I will often see two dogs barking at the fence. Then one will turn on the other out of frustration because he cannot get to what it outside. Here is more on barrier frustration and redirected aggression.
As you have observed, punishment and pain may suppress the behavior in the short-term, but in the long term it will have little effect because the underlying issue remains.
2. I come up with a plan to help my dog with the underlying issue.
For frustration and stress issues, I usually try to reduce my dog’s frustration and stress. Exercise helps a lot with my dog because it gives him an outlet for his frustrated and stressful energy. I walk all of my dogs every day. My Shiba Inu is older and lower energy, so he goes for at least a 1 hour walk daily. My Huskies are higher energy so they usually go out for at least 1.5 hours (usually more).
In addition, I also have supervised play sessions. I set up play rules and interaction rules, and make sure that my dogs follow those rules during play. For example, they are not allowed to hump each other, steal from each other, or bully each other. I enforce the rules and manage their excitement level by throwing in play breaks. I also play games with my dogs because it is fun, I can use that as a teaching opportunity, and it gives them more exercise.
I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs and make them work for their food through obedience commands, grooming exercises, and doing other types of ‘work‘ for me. This gives them more physical and mental exercise. I also set up a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules so that they know what to expect from me and what to expect from each other. This helps to reduce uncertainty and stress.
Proper dog socialization can also help a dog get more comfortable with different sounds, people, and other animals. As such it can also help with barrier frustration issues.
Here is a bit more on how I exercise my dogs.
For more serious aggression issues, including fighting, I would get help from a professional trainer who can help to identify the root of the issue and come up with a plan for retraining.