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Training an Older Dog
Small dog barking at home

Top 5 Strategies to Stop a Dog Barking Excessively

6 min read

Dogs don’t rely on vocal communication in the same way humans do, but it still forms a major part of the way they express themselves and their emotions to other dogs – and to their human family.

There’s more to a dog’s vocal repertoire than a simple ‘woof’ – our canine companions make use of whines, yips, yelps, whimpers, grumbles, howls and growls in their communication. Some are even fond of a big hearty sigh!

Top 5 reasons your dog won’t stop barking

There are lots of reasons why dogs bark, but remember, barking may only seem excessive to us – barking in any form is all part of a dog’s nature!

White dog running in the park with other dogs while barking

1. They’re suffering from separation anxiety

Seemingly excessive barking might be due to a separation-related issue. If your pup is anxious to be left alone, make sure you read our easy guide about the symptoms and solutions to separation anxiety in dogs.

2. They’re trying to let you know you’ve got visitors

They might be trying to tell you there’s someone at the door.

3. They’re just having fun

If you’re in the middle of a game they might bark to show that they’re having a good time.

4. They’re mimicking behaviour of another dog

Household with multiple pets can get noisy very quickly. If you’ve got more than one dog, it doesn’t always take much for one to set another off.

5. They’re too excited all the time

Some dogs, however, can become over-excited, and might continue to bark long after the postman has left, for example, or you’ve finished playing fetch, even once you’ve told them to be quiet. This can be troublesome, especially if you have neighbours close by.

How to stop your dog barking in the house

Add more exercise to your dog’s routine

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise – after all, a tired dog is usually a quiet dog! You can make dog walks more exciting by adding games such as fetch or tug-of-war. There are plenty of dog sports you can enjoy with your pet and going for a swim together every once in a while is a great exercise that helps both of you blow out some steam and create a stronger bond. If you want to stop your dog barking by making sure your pet is getting enough physical exercise, read our top tips for dog exercise.

Limit access to windows and fences

Pet owners might not even notice cars driving by, small animals in the garden or every passer-by. But chances are your dog is fully aware of everything that’s going on outside their home and excited to let everyone in the family know as well. This is why removing outside stimuli might help stop your dog from barking excessively. Try closing the curtains, putting the pet in a room that doesn’t have a view to the main road or limiting their access to windows, fences and glass doors, so that they can’t get het up over anything they see outside, even if it’s just a car driving past.

Teach your dog the ‘speak and shush’ technique

Otherwise, training dogs not to bark, especially in the house, usually involves the ‘speak and shush’ technique, which, perhaps confusingly, is best done by first training them to bark on command.

Yellow labrador at home with mouth open

Here’s how:

  • Enlist the help of a training partner, and ask them to stand outside the front door, while you and your dog are inside the house.
  • Ask your dog to ‘speak’, at which point your friend should ring the doorbell or knock on the door.
  • This should prompt your dog to bark, and when they do, give them a treat and lots of praise.
  • Practice this little and often in various locations, and soon your dog should bark when you say ‘speak’, whether there’s someone at the door or not.

Now you’ve taught your furry friend to speak, it’s time to teach them to shush!

  • Start by asking your dog to speak, and reward them verbally when they do.
  • Then, tell them to ‘shush’ and distract them from barking with a yummy treat or a favourite squeaky toy. Your dog can’t bark and investigate the treat at the same time, so they’ll stop barking. When they do, give them lots of praise – and the treat, of course!
  • Repeat the technique little and often and you’ll soon be able to put the brakes on their barking with a simple command.

Ignore the barking

When dogs are looking for attention they will usually start pestering their human family with lots of barking. If this is the case and there’s nothing that needs your intervention, the best way to stop excessive barking is by ignoring it. When dogs get no reward out of their behaviour, they will eventually learn that this is not an effective way to get your attention and give up.

Ask dog behaviourists for help

If nothing seems to stop your dog’s excessive barking and there’s no underlying medical issue, your vet can refer you to a dog behaviourist who may be able to help. Whether this is caused by separation anxiety or your dog is just overly excited and hasn’t found the off switch yet, these professionally-trained experts will figure out a way to get your dog to calm down and reduce excessive barking. For more information on dog behaviourists, contact The Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers or the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

How to stop your dog barking in the car

Vizsla resting head on car dashboard

Barking in cars is a common issue. Dogs will bark to protect their temporary territory (especially if the car is parked and people are walking past), because they’re frustrated at not being able to chase all the fast moving objects whizzing by.

Or it's simply because they know a car journey signifies an exciting trip to the park, or perhaps a less exciting trip to the vet!

If you’ve mastered the ‘speak and shush’ technique at home but your dog is still being boisterous in the car, you might need to take steps to make the car seem more normal and commonplace, so it’s not just associated with excitement. Start by letting your dog sit in the car with a chew toy. Keep the engine off to begin with, then do the same with the engine running. Once your dog can sit quietly in the car with the engine on, go for a very short drive, but stop as soon as they start barking, and only continue once they quieten down.

This will require some time and patience, but persevere! They’ll get the message eventually.

If your dog is particularly excited at the sight of other cars or people, try covering their crate if they’re used to travelling in one or if they’ll fit, encourage them to lie in the rear footwell of the car. But remember, safety first! An excitable dog can be very distracting for the driver, so make sure they’re kept properly secure on car rides.

Common mistakes owners make dealing with excessive dog barking

The go-to response for many owners of barking dogs is to shout a bit louder, telling them to be quiet, but this can make your dog feel threatened, or they might think that you’re simply barking along with them.

There are lots of products on the market designed specifically for excessive dog barking that aim to calm and quieten your dog, such as anti-bark collars that administer a slight electric shock or a nasty spray. We don’t recommend these as they’re unnecessarily aggressive and unpleasant, and suppress your dog’s natural behaviour and need to communicate. Plus, smell spray collars continue to punish your dog long after they stop barking as the smell will linger in their very sensitive nose.

These punishing types of collars won’t deal with the underlying cause of the barking and your dog will take their frustrations out in other ways, such as chewing the furniture, or even themselves. Instead, try to find out why your dog is barking. Is it to warn you about something? Are they barking out of frustration or boredom, or in order to get your attention? Are they barking because they’ve been left alone and they’re trying to call you back? Once you’ve identified the cause, you can get to work on training techniques that will help tackle the problem in the long term.

If the excessive dog barking persists

If you really can’t figure out why your dog is barking so much, or if their vocal habits change suddenly, it’s definitely worth having them checked over by your vet just to make sure there’s no other underlying reason for the barking.

Did you know there are different types of dog barking? Find out more with our handy article. And if you want to understand more about dog behaviour, here is what different types of dog growl mean.