Sometimes your dog is barking, and you just want them to shut up! Here’s how to make it happen:
- Remove stressors
- Socialize your dog to new experiences, so they become less territorial
- Distract them
- Work on your dog’s fears
- Provide them with exercise and activities
- Teach them a trick to perform instead
- Train the “quiet” command
In this article, I’ll talk about why dogs bark and how to stop them in each specific instance. I’ll also discuss what not to do, and how to train the “quiet” command to your dog, so they will shut up if they are being excessively noisy.
Figure Out Why Your Dog is Barking
The first step to getting your dog to stop barking is to figure out why they’re doing it! Dogs bark for several reasons, which I’ll discuss more below.
First, know that it’s normal for dogs to bark. Don’t expect a vocal dog to be completely silent or to stop barking entirely. If you wanted a pet that didn’t bark, you shouldn’t have adopted a dog!
However, excessive barking can annoy neighbors, hurt your ears, and is often a sign of a problem your dog has that you need to address.
Territorial barking often happens when your dog barks at someone walking down the street outside, or the mail carrier. Maybe they bark inside the house or from the back yard.
Other things that might rile up a territorial dog are someone getting close to you when you’re out or neighbor dogs along the fence line.
Here’s how to deal with a territorial barker:
- Take away the stressor. Close the blinds or install fencing your dog can’t see through. This will make it so that they can’t see the mail carrier or that other dog, and thus are less likely to bark at them.
- Socialize your dog. In order to stop your dog from feeling territorial long term, you’ll have to put in some work and socialize them. Introduce your dog safely to new situations, people, and animals. If your dog is aggressive, use a muzzle or hire a professional as necessary.
- Distract your dog. Another option is to distract your dog from their territorial feelings. The best way to do this is to train them to perform a trick instead of barking.
Fear or Stress
Fear or stress can also cause a dog to bark. Sometimes it goes hand in hand with territorial behavior.
Dogs can be scared of all kinds of things, especially if they have anxiety. Some examples of things your dog may fear are being alone, meeting other dogs, the vacuum cleaner, and strangers.
- Take away the stressor. Like I discussed above, reduce your dog’s stress as much as possible by limiting their access to the thing they’re afraid of.
- Train your dog to accept their fear using counterconditioning and desensitization. This technique involves rewarding your dog for interacting with their fear in an appropriate way.
For instance, you might slowly introduce them to friendly dogs in order for them to get over a fear of other pups.
Or, you might slowly condition them to being left alone in order to conquer separation anxiety.
Always move slowly when training your dog to accept their fears so that they feel safe and confident, instead of overwhelmed.
Many behavioral problems stem from boredom, including excessive barking. Here’s how to prevent your dog from becoming bored:
- Exercise your dog. Almost every dog needs at least one daily walk along with playtime indoors, in the yard, or at a dog park. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise each day for their age and breed.
- Provide toys to occupy them when alone. When you leave your dog alone, provide toys and activities to occupy them. A popular favorite is the KONG toy, which you can stuff with treats for your dog to enjoy while you’re away.
- Don’t leave them alone longer than they can handle. Puppies can only be alone for a few hours at a time, depending on their age. Many adult dogs still struggle to cope if you’re gone for an entire work day.
If your dog is struggling, consider asking a friend or family member to stop by and spend time with them midway through your shift. Or, hire a pet sitter or dog walker to do the same.
Let Them Get Their Energy Out During Playtime
Just like a child running around yelling outside with their friends, your dog might bark a lot when they play! It’s a sign that they’re having a good time.
Limit the excessive barking by:
- Giving your dog plenty of exercise. Exercise is important, or else your dog is going to have way too much energy. This might come out through barking or other problem behaviors, such as jumping or nipping during play.
Make sure your dog gets the right amount of energy for their breed and age, and they may not be quite so hyped up during play time.
- Allow your dog to have fun! I don’t personally believe you can expect a dog to always shut up and stay quiet. There’s a time and a place for loud play!
My dog Charlie gets really excited when playing with other dogs and barks a lot. My solution to this is to have them play outdoors so that they aren’t making too much noise in the house.
Try limiting loud play to the back yard or visiting a dog park where you let your dog be as loud as they like!
Don’t Reward Excessive Attention Seeking
Sometimes dogs bark for attention, whether from us, strangers on the street, or another animal. My dog Charlie is very friendly and also very vocal for this reason.
Maybe he sees the neighbors out and wants them to come say hi, or he sees a dog walking down the street who he’d love to make friends with.
When I first adopted him, he wanted my attention on him all the time—so much that he’d bark over me when I tried to have a conversation with someone else!
Here’s how to stop your dog from barking just for attention:
- Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and attention throughout the day. If your dog’s physical and social needs aren’t met, they’re going to ask for attention in the way they know how—barking!
Prevent this by making sure they get enough exercise every day and also providing them with lots of quality time.
- Ignore your dog when they bark, and reward them when they stop. If you’re already giving your dog plenty of attention and they’re just acting spoiled, the best thing to do is ignore them when they bark.
When your dog stops barking, wait a few minutes. Then reward them for being quiet with praise, attention, and even a treat!
They will quickly learn that barking doesn’t get your attention.
Train Them How To Greet You or a Guest
Barking is sometimes your dog’s excited way of saying hi! They’re happy you’re home, or excited to have visitors.
If you want your dog to stop barking every time someone walks through the door, the easiest way is to train them to do something else instead.
For instance, my dog grabs a toy every time someone walks in. His bark is then muffled or non-existent.
Sometimes he grabs another item when he can’t find a toy, which has resulted in some funny moments. For instance, he once grabbed an empty can of cat food and his bark echoed when he barked into it!
Other things you can train your dog to do are to go to their crate until you call them over, or to sit in a certain spot calmly as the door opens and someone walks inside.
Remember, though, never to use the crate as punishment. Don’t yell at your dog to go to it, but instead use positive reinforcement to train this behavior.
Tire them Out with Exercise
If your dog is barking too much, there’s a good chance they have too much energy. Dogs need exercise every day for both their physical and mental wellbeing!
A tired dog is also much easier to deal with than one who is full of energy with nowhere to release it.
Most dogs need at least one daily walk along with some play time. Depending on the breed, they might need to go all day or be happy with a quick stroll around the block.
Flat-faced, or brachycephalic, breeds can’t handle strenuous exercise or intense heat, and may need to play indoors on hot summer days.
If you’re unsure how much exercise your dog needs, research their age and breed or ask your veterinarian for advice.
With rescue dogs, you can research a breed they’re close to as well as pay attention to what they like.
For instance, my dog is a Labrador mix rescue. I exercise him as I would a Labrador since it’s his only known breed, but I’ve also noticed some herding instincts in him—so I try to engage those as well with games and activities.
Teach Your Dog the “Quiet” Command
The “quiet” command trains your dog to be quiet when they are barking. You can train it using the following steps:
- Teach your dog to speak. The good news is that this is a super easy trick for a noisy dog to master!
It’ll be easier to stop your dog from barking when the barking is controlled.
- Say “quiet” and wait for them to stop barking. This shouldn’t take too long, since you’re not training during uncontrolled barking—but when the “speak” command is given.
- Reward your dog for being quiet. Repeat the command so that your dog knows what you’re looking for, praise them, and offer a treat!
- Practice makes perfect! Keep practicing this until your dog understands. Try it in different rooms of the house, outside, or have different family members give the command.
Remember to keep training sessions short and end on a positive note whenever possible. Don’t wait until you or your dog gets frustrated. Training should be fun!
- Add distractions. Once your dog knows “quiet,” you can begin adding distractions and giving the command when they bark on their own.
For instance, try saying “quiet” as guests walk through the door or when someone passes by outside—whatever has been triggering your dog’s excessive barking!
Don’t Yell at Your Dog
Yelling at your dog when they bark is almost instinctual for a lot of us. I know it was that way for me before I knew better!
You want to be heard over their loud barking when you tell them to shut up and knock it off! However, you might have noticed this doesn’t work very well.
This is likely because your dog doesn’t understand what you’re yelling about—you haven’t taught them a command like “quiet,” so for all they know, you’re just shouting along with their barks.
Maybe you’re as excited as they are that the mail has arrived!
Yelling also gives your dog attention, and for some dogs, even bad attention is better than none. They’ll continue the behavior because it gets a reaction from you.
Don’t Punish Your Dog for Barking
Lastly, never punish your dog for barking. Remember that it’s natural for a dog to bark, and they aren’t doing it to upset you or to act out.
Harsh training methods have been proven not to work. They undermine your dog’s trust in you and damage your relationship.
Many punishments for barking that people use are also abusive, such as hitting your dog’s snout or using a shock collar. You should never hurt your dog to get what you want from them!
Holding your dog’s mouth shut or using a muzzle are also things you should not try.
There are much better ways to train your dog, as outlined above. Positive reinforcement is more humane and more effective.
Writer: Katelynn Sobus