Why Dogs Bark and How to Stop Excessive Dog
Dogs will be dogs, and most dogs will bark,
whine and howl at times - it's only natural.
Dogs vocalize to communicate with humans and to
express themselves. Sometimes we want our dogs
to bark in order to warn us about potential
danger or protect us from harm. However,
excessive dog barking can be considered a
behavior problem. What is the solution? Well,
your dog needs to understand when to bark and
when to be quiet, and it's your job to teach
this to her. Start working on problem barking as
soon as you can. The longer you wait, the harder
it gets to curb the behavior. It is a good idea
to teach your dog the Speak/Quiet Commands
This may be easier said than done. However, with
dedication and consistency, you can teach your
dog to bark on command AND to be quiet.
It is important to understand that dogs bark for
various reasons. They do not bark just to annoy
you and your neighbors, nor do they bark for
spite or revenge. Dogs don't bark just because
they can (though it might seem that way at
times). Certain dog breeds bark more than others
- some types of dogs were actually bred to be
barkers. Then again, the Basenji does not bark
at all (though the breed can vocalize in other
ways). If you listen closely, you will
eventually learn your dog's different barks.
Understanding the reason why your dog barks is
the first step towards controlling the behavior.
In general, dogs will most commonly bark for the
- Warning/Alert: It is natural for
a dog to bark when someone is a the door or
when strangers pass the house or car. Many
will bark if they sense some type of threat,
proclaiming "I'm here protecting this place
so don't mess with me." The sound of this
bark is usually sharp, loud and
authoritative. Honing this instinct with
training can help protect your home and
- Anxiety: Anxious barking often
seems to be an an act of self-soothing for
many dogs. It is often high-pitched and
sometimes accompanied by whining. This type
of barking is common for dogs with
- Playfulness/Excitement: This type
of barking is especially common in puppies
and young dogs. Many dogs will bark while
playing with people or other dogs. Even the
sound of the bark tends to sound upbeat and
possibly musical. Some dogs will bark
excitedly when they know they are about to
go for a walk or car ride.
- Attention-seeking: When you hear
this bark, you will usually know just what
it means. This bark says "Hey! Hey! Look!
Here I am!" Other dogs may whine and bark
together to get attention, almost like the
tone of a whining child.
- Boredom: The bark of a bored dog
sounds like a dog that barks just to hear
her own voice. Though it tends to be
annoying, it is also kind of sad. Bored dogs
often bark to release excess energy, and
sometimes bark out of loneliness. They
usually need an activity and perhaps even a
- Responding to Other Dogs: This is
probably a familiar scenario - one dog down
the street starts barking, and one by one
the rest of your block joins in. It's like a
cacophonous rendition of Row Your Boat.
Prevent and Stop Excessive Barking
Once you determine the cause of your dog's
excessive barking, you can begin to control the
behavior. The best way to prevent excessive
barking in the first place is to try and remove
any potential sources of the behavior. You also
want to be certain not to inadvertently
encourage the barking. Finally, give her better
things to do besides barking.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of
exercise so there is not as much pent-up
energy to burn by barking.
- Avoid leaving a lonely dog alone for
long periods of time if possible.
- Never comfort, pet, hug or feed your dog
when she is barking for attention or out of
anxiety - that would be rewarding the
behavior, thus encouraging it.
- Shouting at your dog to stop barking
does not help. It may actually cause her to
bark even more.
- Avoid punishments like shock collars.
They are not only painful and unkind - many
dogs will learn to test them and eventually
work around them.
- Try to get her attention with a clap or
whistle. Once she is quiet, redirect
her attention to something productive and
rewarding - like a toy or treat.
- After getting your dog's attention,
practice basic commands, like sit and down
in order to shift her focus.
- DO NOT let your dog bark constantly
outside, regardless of the reason. You can
hardly train her to stop barking by yelling
at her across the yard. Plus, it is one of
the fastest ways to turn neighbors into
enemies and send an invitation to your local
- Train your dog to
Speak and Be
- Consult your veterinarian and/or trainer
if you continue to face barking issues
despite your best efforts.
A Note About De-Barking Surgery
"Debarking," or cordectomy, is an elective
surgical procedure involving partial removal of
a dog's vocal cords. Debarking does not take
away the dog's ability to bark - it just makes
it sound quieter and raspy (considered annoying
by some). In this dog lover's opinion, debarking
surgery is unnecessary and unfair to the dog.
Surgery and anesthesia are always risks, so any
procedure that is purely for human convenience
and does not medically benefit the patient or
animal community should be avoided. In addition,
excessive barking indicates an underlying issue
that is usually behavioral. Surgery takes the
noise away, but the anxiety, fear or similar
problem remains unaddressed. Rather than
debarking your dog, spend your time and money on
training and/or visiting a veterinary
When It's Not Your Dog Barking
The sound of barking dogs in the neighborhood
can quickly go from nuisance to nightmare -
especially when you are trying to work or sleep.
If you are comfortable with it, try politely
approaching your neighbor to discuss the matter,
or write a direct but civil letter. You may try
gently suggesting a local dog trainer or
behaviorist. Many people prefer to contact the
neighborhood association or other group to act
as a moderator. As a last resort, you may need
to call the police - just keep in mind how this
could be detrimental to your future relationship
with said neighbors. On the other hand, you may
not even care about that after a certain amount
of sleep deprivation.
To Train Your Dog to Speak or Be Quiet
Teaching your dog to "speak," or bark on
command can be fun as well as useful. A
barking dog can ward off intruders and alert
you to potential danger. Excessive barking
can be a huge problem, but teaching the
speak / quiet commands can sharpen the
natural instinct to bark. With dedication
and consistency, you can teach your dog to
bark on command AND to be quiet. Different
dog trainers and owners have varying
techniques, but here is one basic method
that works for many dogs.
Time Required: 10-15 minutes, 1-2
times per day (may take several weeks)
- Choose one simple word for the bark
command. The word should be easy to remember
and used consistently. Good choices:
"speak," "bark" or "talk."
- Choose one simple word for the quiet
command. This word should also be easy to
remember and used consistently. Good
choices: "enough," "quiet," or "hush."
- When your dog barks, briefly acknowledge
it by checking for the source (look out the
window or door, go to your dog). Then, get
her attention with a clap, whistle or
- Immediately after the barking stops, say
your quiet command in a firm, audible and
upbeat voice while giving a treat.
- Practice the "quiet" command frequently.
You can do this anytime she barks, but keep
- Once your dog seems to understand
"quiet," you can move onto the bark command.
- Create a situation that will cause your
dog to bark. The best method is to have a
friend ring the doorbell or knock on the
door. As this occurs, say your speak command
in a clear, upbeat voice.
- After your dog barks 2-3 times in a row,
say "good speak!" in a clear, upbeat voice
while giving a treat.
- Repeat the speak command process several
times until your dog seems to understand.
- Once your dog learns "speak" and "quiet"
separately, you can use them together - have
your dog speak a few times, then tell her to
- Rewards should be immediate and very
tasty. You need to make obeying "worth it"
to your dog. Small, stinky liver treats or
similar goodies work best.
- Some people prefer to teach "speak"
first, and "quiet" second. Others like to
teach them together to begin with. This is
your choice - it is about your comfort
level, confidence and your dog's ability to
learn. Use your best judgment. Dogs with a
tendency to become "excessive barkers" might
need to learn the quiet command first.
- Be patient yet consistent. These
commands can take weeks to master for some
- Teach speak only works on dogs that will
bark. If you are training a puppy, wait
until she develops the ability and desire to
bark, otherwise she will become confused.
Remember that the Basenji dog breed does not
Training works very well when teaching
the speak/quiet commands
Training for Dogs
to Clicker Train Your Dog
Operant conditioning is a scientific
term that describes the way animals
learn from the consequences of
certain behaviors. Positive
reinforcement is a type of operant
conditioning often used in dog
Clicker training, a common form
of positive reinforcement, is a
simple and effective training
method. The clicker is a metal strip
inside a small plastic box that
makes a distinct clicking sound when
pressed. The click is much faster
and more distinct than saying “good
dog” and much more effective than
using treats alone. To teach a dog
the meaning of the click, a treat is
given immediately after clicking.
Once the dog learns the positive
effects of the clicking sound, the
clicker itself acts as a conditioned
According to Alyssa Walker of
Walker Dog Training, clicker
training is not meant to completely
replace the use of treats. The sound
of the click instantly tells the dog
that what he has done will earn him
a reward. To emphasize this, clicks
should frequently be followed by
treats. Otherwise, the clicker will
lose its effectiveness. "While some
clicker trainers may not give a
reward every time they click, pretty
much all clicker trainers continue
to follow the click with a reward,"
says Alyssa. "It's very important to
use strong rewards a lot during
initial training stages, and treats
are often the strongest reward for a
Here’s how to you can easily
train your dog to respond to the
clicker before moving on to basic
and advanced training. The following
steps are often referred to as
“loading” the clicker.
- Begin with your dog in a
- Have a handful of your dog’s
favorite treats ready. Ideally,
this should be done when your
dog is hungry.
- Press the clicker and
immediately give your dog a
treat. Repeat 5-10 times.
- You can test your success by
clicking when your dog is not
paying attention to you. If your
dog responds to the click by
suddenly looking at you, then
looking for a treat, you are
ready to move on.
- Next, begin teaching your
dog basic commands. At the
exact moment your dog
performs the desired action,
press the clicker. Follow with a
treat and praise.
One of the best things about the
clicker is the accuracy. "It's like
taking a photo of the exact behavior
you're rewarding", Alyssa explains.
The dog associates his action with
the click and, subsequently, the
reward. Not only does he better
understand what he is doing, this
also makes him more likely to repeat
the action when asked in the future.
Clicker training can also be very
effective for advanced training.
"You simply click for small steps
toward the behavior and work the dog
toward the final, completed
behavior," says Alyssa. "This allows
you to be totally hands-off (except
for delivering the reward, of
course). You don't need to
manipulate the dog into position,
which can often slow the process."
Overall, the clicker is a very
valuable tool in the training
process. When creating an obedience
and training program for your dog,
consider using the clicker and see
for yourself how well the method