No matter whether you are an animal person or not (and chances are you are an animal person, since you’re here), a consensus can be reached that noisy animals are annoying. And because dogs are (generally) louder than cats, their barking is especially irritating. Many dogs can get away with barking because their owners live in houses that block the noise from reaching others. However, at the end of the day, it’s still an annoying habit for the people who live with the dog (AKA, you.) And if you are traveling or asking someone else to watch your dog, it can even be embarrassing. So, in order to get your dog to stop barking, we need to identify the situation that the dog is barking in. Here are a few common ones.
BARKING IN A CRATE
As a general rule, make sure that your dog is getting enough stimulus before you stick them in their crate. If your dog is bouncing off the walls with energy, chances are they will not be quiet no matter what you do. The fastest way to stop barking in a crate is to bolster your dog’s love of their crate.
There are a few different ways you can do this. One great thing to do is to make sure that your dog has lots of things to do inside of their crate. While you don’t necessarily need to give them bedding to lay on (especially if they are still in the potty-training stage), you can give them a variety of toys and bones to chew on. One of my favorite things to do is to stuff a Kong with peanut butter, canned pumpkin, or cream cheese and freeze it. If you give it to your dog, it takes them quite a while to get all of the food out! It works especially well if you put their breakfast or dinner of kibble inside of the Kong and then just smear the peanut butter, pumpkin, or cream cheese at the opening before freezing it. They’ll work harder to get the food on an empty stomach, which will keep them occupied for even longer.
Make sure to reward the dog when they decide to be quiet. You can do this by taking some treats and dropping them into the back of the dog’s crate occasionally. Another very important rule is to never let your dog out when they are being noisy/barking. Even if you are worried they will have an accident, wait until they are quiet (even for 30 sec.) before letting them out. Make sure that when you come back home, you do not immediately let your dog out. Wait for them to calm down before you open their crate. While you are waiting for your dog to calm down, make sure that you are ignoring them. You could even walk past their crate to another part of the house until they are settled. If you are interested in more to build your dog’s confidence in the crate, Susan Garrett has a phenomenal DVD detailing crate games, which you can find here.
BARKING AT OTHER PEOPLE OR DOGS
The most important thing that you can do when your dog barks at another dog is to break their eye contact. One more time for emphasis: do not let your dog stare at another dog in the eyes! If another dog is barking at your dog, you can also use this little trick. Break the two dog’s eye contact by redirecting your dog’s attention.
You can do this very easily: back up and ask your dog to look at you. You could also ask your dog to do some basic obedience. Even if your dog has next to no training, you can call their name and continue to back up until your dog looks at you. The second your dog takes their eyes off of the other dog, reward. Have a party! Use both verbal reward and treats.
The same rule applies when your dog is barking at another person. You’ll want to redirect their attention by asking for basic obedience, tricks, or even for them to look at you. Again, reward your dog as soon as they shift their attention from the other person back to you. If you are having no success to stop your dog from barking despite attempting to redirect their attention, take both yourself and your dog out of the situation. Back up until your dog is paying attention to you again. Ask them for the same commands you asked them before. When they do what you ask, have a big-time reward!
One of the most important things to remember when you are in this situation is to not yell at your dog. Even if you say “NO!” it is likely that this will only escalate your dog’s level of arousal (excitement/noise.) Most dogs bark at others because they are insecure. Yelling at your dog will only increase their insecurities and worsen their attitude towards others.
There are also outside tools you can use to control your dog’s level of noise. You can use automated tools, such as a bark collar or citronella collar which automatically punishes your dog each time they bark. You can also use a sonic birdhouse which lets out a painful high-pitch keening sound each time your dog barks. You could also use mint breath spray or sour apple spray to spray at your dog each time they are noisy. The last option is an E-collar, in which you could choose to shock your dog each time they bark. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you must show your dog what is the “right” behavior and not just mark the “wrong” behavior.
For example, one of my students told me that she could not get her dog to stop barking in her crate even though she was using an E-collar. However, her mistake was that she was only using the E-collar. She wasn’t rewarding the dog for being calm and quiet in the crate. All of these tools have the potential to help, but only when they are paired with lots of positive reinforcement as well!
Everyone can agree that noisy dogs are annoying — what is your worst experience with a barking dog? Have you owned a dog that barks a lot? What did you do? Let us know in the comments down below!
*All photos credited to @endeavorsofego
Erika Newcomb is a full-time college student with a passion for pooches! She’s been training dogs for over 13 years and has been teaching agility classes for the last 3 years. As part of the behind-the-scenes support for @endeavorsofego, she can often be found brainstorming photo ideas and playing with Ego.