How to stop your dog barking

Barking is an important way for dogs to communicate – whether that’s to express themselves or to ward off strangers. The trick is to understand why your dog is barking so that you can know the best way to train them to stop.

Why is my dog barking?

There are lots of different reasons why your dog is barking. The most common reasons for barking include excitement, fear aggression, territorial aggression, frustration or trying to communicate with other dogs. While barking is perfectly natural behaviour, excessive barking can be a nuisance. Sometimes your dog’s barking should be allowed and encouraged, other times — like if your dog is scared — you may want to step in and improve the situation.

When someone comes to the door

If your dog barks when someone comes to the door, it’s a form of territorial aggression. Your dog is barking to mark or guard their territory and ward off strangers – even if that ‘stranger’ is actually an invited guest or simply someone like the postman. Your dog’s behaviour is reinforced when visitors like the postman walk away again – he’s just doing his job, but your dog thinks they’ve succeeded in theirs.

When they’re out and about

Your dog barking at strangers or other dogs when you’re out for a walk could be due to fear aggression, either through unfamiliarity or having had bad experiences with strange people or dogs before. This is especially true if they’re on the lead as that stops them from fleeing or hiding. Fear aggression is your dog’s way of keeping others at a distance, so you need to be careful that you don’t appear to be rewarding their behaviour when they bark like this – for example, picking them up and reassuring them it’s okay, or taking them away from the situation without allowing them to realise there’s nothing to be afraid of. Importantly, don’t shout at your dog – they’ll think you’re encouraging the barking by joining in.

However, your dog could be barking simply out of excitement at seeing another dog and wanting to communicate with them. They just want to be let off the lead and play so will bark quite eagerly. This can develop into negative interactions with other dogs if not managed well.

When they’ve been left alone

Dogs can suffer separation anxiety, and they’ll bark while left alone to try to communicate with their ‘pack’ – you or other members of their new family. If they’re still barking when you return home, don’t make a fuss over them as this will reinforce this behaviour.

Related blog: Separation anxiety in dogs.

Top tips to stop your dog barking

There’s no single or simple way to stop your dog barking – again, it depends on the reason your dog is barking in the first place. Generally speaking, you need to show them that being calm and quiet is the appropriate response by encouraging and rewarding non-barking behaviour. These methods may take a little time, your dog will gradually learn to stop barking at strangers both at home and while out for walkies.

To stop your dog barking every time someone comes to the door, set up visits from people who won’t just walk away again. You need to introduce response substitution – teaching your dog alternative behaviours like sitting, going to their bed or performing a short trick instead of barking – or ignoring their barking and rewarding them only when they quieten down.

Meeting other dogs and people while out needs to be a positive, social interaction so don’t try to stop them barking by avoiding the situation with late-night walks in remote places. Instead, find a way to prevent the problem before it happens – learn to recognise the triggers and start using distraction techniques or training commands before your dog can start barking. Reward your dog for focussing on you and the desired, calm response. You can set this up with other dog owners in the park, starting from a distance and gradually getting your dog closer and closer until they’re largely unphased by meeting strangers while out and about.

Related blog: training your puppy to not bark at strangers.

Related blog: socialisation of your dog outdoors.

Should I use an anti-barking collar?

There are many anti-barking collars and aids on the market which employ aversion therapy – using a negative response to discipline your dog. We always recommend reward-based techniques that encourage positive behaviour, rather than aversion methods.

If you’re thinking about using an anti-barking collar, there are a few things you need to consider. Some anti-barking collars simply spray citronella, dispersing an unpleasant smell for every bark. But at the other end of the spectrum are shock collars that give the dog electric shocks, and we really can’t condone such treatment of any dog.

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  1. Last year around this time my Reggie (Beagle) started barking at me. He would sit and bark by the door – ok maybe to go out – more often than not he did not want that. He would consistently bark at me and when told to stop would look away and then continue. Sometimes it was at time of day he would be near his dinner time or in the morning his treat time. My friends and neighbours found it amusing as for 5 years you never heard a peep out of him. It is not the baying bark he makes at other dogs, it is a deepish bark and he shakes his ears after he does it. Any clues please?

  2. My sisters dog dose exactly the same , urly moning 5am and he gets a bonio, and again at 4 when its teatime.

    It’s a form of controll, he is demanding and she is rewarding him at 5am with a treat and so it continues.
    I said if it was me i would get up see if he wants a wee , no treat go back to bead.
    And at tea time he would get fed when i say not the dog.

    My terrier trys to controll me by leading me to the bath or door to go out and sits at the treat cupboard i say no he grumbles at me but gets nothing till i say.

    You have to be in charge of the pack not him. X

  3. I am SO pleased to hear that you don’t condone the use of the electric collars. I met a lady with a Setter who used one and the poor dog ended up being timid and nervous whereas before the use of the collar the dog was bouncy and happy. It was so sad to see the change. I meet a lot of dog walker’s when I’m out with our big, soft lump of a Retriever and find more and more that people don’t spend time training their dog’s when they are puppies. They get a cute little pup and think that the pup will be instantly biddable and don’t realise how much time it takes to train them. I have never had to smack any dog’s that we have had but taught them by tone of voice or treats and they need to know who is the Alpha but not with awful electric shock collars and I don’t care if they only give a short shock, they are cruel! I have cancer and my dog knows when I’m having a bad day and waits for me when we are out walking and is the most amazing friend I could have and it hurts me when people think that it’s all right to hurt these incredible animals.
    As for Reggie, he doesn’t have an ear infection does he? I know that might sound daft but Shadow woke me because he had an ear infection and he makes a noise and shakes his head. If not then maybe try turning your back on him or speak to a dog behaviour expert. Good luck and a cuddle to Reggie!

  4. My two pugs (10 months and 8 years) seems to bark at everything especially the TV, it’s driving us to a point where we purposely won’t watch a programme with other animals in it as we can’t dnjoy it anyway. My 8 year old barks and runs at people when we’re out walking and this is teaching the pup bad habits. It’s worse when I’m home but they do tend to bark and run at the tv the moment it’s on. I have collars that make a bib or vibrate but don’t really want to use them as the younger one pulls the older one around so neither have collars on anymore, any advice?

  5. My dog barks when excited normally when my husband gets home from work. He can also be noisy in the car when we are taking him out for a run. We would be grateful for any help.

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