How to Stop Dog Barking That's Problematic

Small dog barking

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons — seeking attention, alerting an owner, playing, etc. It’s one of the ways that dogs express themselves; each bark has a tone that communicates something specific and significant. Controlling excessive dog barking with training is more than possible. In fact, it can and should be fun.  

Types of dog barks and ways to stop barking

Depending on the reason why your dog is barking, the method to manage it might be a little different. Below, we’ll go through each type of dog bark and describe how best to keep it to a minimum.

Alert barking

Many dogs will bark if they hear or see something that spooks them or is encroaching on their space. One of the best ways to curb this in the home is to put up visual barriers, so they can’t see what triggers their barking outside. Also, playing soft music so they can’t hear what triggers them can help, especially when you aren’t home.  

You can also teach them to bark just once (with a cue like “bark” or “who’s there”) and then leave the door for something more fun. Practice by stationing a training helper outside to knock on the door. After one bark comes out of the dog’s mouth, give another cue (like “enough” or “OK”). Then get the dog involved in fetching a favorite toy, which you can keep near the door. If your dog does not enjoy retrieving, then use food rewards. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Give the cue: “Who’s there?”
  2. Have the person knock on the door.
  3. When the dog barks, give the next cue (“enough” or “OK”), and show the dog the toy or treat.
  4. Start playing with the toy, or give the dog the treat.

Repeat many times until the dog knows the game. The toy you pick should be used exclusively for practicing this behavior. Soon, the dog will bark with the cue “Who’s there?” — no knock needed — and they will stop on the cue “OK” and wait for you to play or offer a treat. If your dog starts to bark again after you use the cue “OK,” do not reward them.  

Practice this routine many times to reinforce the desired behavior. Real-life situations, of course, are the real test. You might want to put a note on your door (e.g., "Dog in training!”), explaining that you will answer after a short delay. You can also place a note requesting someone at your door to text or call rather than knock or ring the doorbell.

If your dog starts barking the minute someone pulls into the driveway, use the same sequence as above, except have your training helper drive up in a car (instead of knocking at the door).

Demand barking

Dogs often bark when they are excited, perhaps when they’re anticipating a walk or meal. If you have a dog who does too much of this “demand” barking, do not reward the dog by fulfilling their request until after the barking has stopped. Ignore all barking as though you can't hear it.

When the dog stops barking, you can fulfill the request. At first, your dog might stop barking for only a second or two, but as your dog improves you will be able to increase the duration of the quiet time. In so doing, you teach your dog that being quiet has its rewards. To reinforce this behavior, you can give your dog praise or something to chew on if they’re lying down quietly.

Spooky barking

This type of barking is provoked by fear, and it normally comes with some body language, such as raised fur, rigid body, or tail between legs.  

A dog training class can be a helpful way to introduce the dog to new people, places, and sounds. Try to make socializing fun. New people can offer treats, and trips to town can include treats for being brave. Remember not to reward your dog while they're barking. Reward only when the dog has relaxed.

If your dog still has difficulty even after basic socialization training, or if the spooky barking is severe, you might also want to teach the “look at that” game. These strategies can take some time, but a happy, well-adjusted dog is a joy to be around.

Boredom barking

This type of barking is common when dogs are not receiving enough interaction with their family. If your dog is alone all day, every day, they will need a significant amount of attention once you come home. To help relieve boredom during the day, you can supply your dog with durable rubber and nylon toys to chew on, such as Kongs or Nylabones, as well as a variety of food puzzles.  

Outside dogs who have very little interaction with their families often bark out of boredom as well. If you have an outside dog, be sure to provide them with mental stimulation as well as some social time with people. They are social creatures, so time with the family can be incredibly beneficial for them.