Why do puppies bark?
Puppies may bark for lots of reasons, but they are usually trying to tell you something by barking. It may be a warning bark, alerting you to a danger, another animal or someone at the door. It can also be excitement, encouraging you to play with them. It may be that your puppy needs something, such as food or to go to the toilet. They may even be demanding a reaction or attention from you.
Your puppy can also bark out of fear and to drive other animals or people away. Sometimes, they bark out of boredom or frustration…or just for the sake of barking!
Barking is especially common with dogs that are left alone for long periods of time, because barking becomes a habit that nobody is around to stop. As a consequence, they get into the habit of always doing it. That’s why it’s so important to act early to stop a puppy barking.
Tips for success
- Don’t punish barking – it’s a natural way of communicating.
- Don’t yell at your puppy when he barks – it’s like barking along with him and if he thinks you’re joining in, this can make the barking worse.
- Keep the obedience training positive and upbeat.
- Be consistent with the rules. You should stick to your system all the time and get everyone else in the house to join in. It will slow your puppy’s progress if sometimes he is disciplined for barking, and other times not.
How to stop your puppy barking
This list of strategies should help to stop your puppy barking and bring them under control.
1. Work out why your puppy is barking
The most important first step is to try and understand what your puppy is trying to tell you when they are barking. The methods to stop the barking will differ depending on the type of bark. Barking to warn you about someone at the door is different to barking for attention or food.
2. Stop responding
If your puppy is barking for food or to get something from you, don’t respond to the barking. Even telling him off is a kind of reward as it gets your attention. Don’t talk to him, touch him or even look at him while he is barking. Once he stops, it’s okay to reward him with a treat or some attention – positive reinforcement!
3. Thank your puppy
If your pup is trying to warn you there is someone at the door or walking past the house, you can’t stop your puppy barking by ignoring them. Instead, keep calm and shush the dog, and say “thank you” to them. Then go and investigate the cause of the barking by looking out of the window, and return to what you were doing.
This works by acknowledging the bark and reassuring your puppy that you have investigated the threat and it’s nothing to worry about. Once they see that you’re in control, they will bark less to warn you.
You should also allow a fixed number of barks before you shush your pup and say thank you. This will stop your puppy’s barking becoming a problem.
4. Train your puppy to stop barking
You can also try puppy obedience training, using treats as rewards. When he starts barking, hold out a treat without letting him have it – he will have to stop barking to sniff it. Only let him eat the treat when he has been silent for a few seconds.
Once he has got the hang of this, begin extending the time between being quiet and getting a treat. The first time, you should give him a treat once he’s been quiet for a few seconds, then 10 seconds, then 15 seconds and so on. If he barks again during the quiet time, retract the treat, scold him and start again.
5. Use a quiet command
You can also combine the above training method with commands to stop your puppy barking. It’s helpful to start by teaching them to bark on command. It sounds counter-intuitive, but this will give you control over when they bark and help you stop the barking.
Encourage your pup to bark by saying “bark” or “speak” and reward him by giving him praise. Then stop him with the treat method above. Once he’s used to this, try using a verbal command with the treat, such as “quiet”. If he barks after the quiet command, scold him and stop giving the treat. Eventually, you should be able to remove the treat and just use the command to make your puppy stop barking.
6. Train in controlled situations
If your puppy barks when people walk past the house or visit the house, enlist friends and family members to act as triggers. Get them to walk past the window, ring the doorbell or deliver letters while you work through the obedience training. The more you practise with your puppy, the more effective it will be.
7. Change the environment
If your puppy is still barking, try changing the environment. Move him away from windows or close the curtains to stop him barking. You should also bring him inside when he starts barking in the garden – this will act as a deterrent.
You can also try sending him to his bed or a quiet corner of the room when he barks - and give him a treat there. Keep doing this until he can do it even when you open the door to let visitors in. If he gets up and tries to leave the bed, close the door and start again.
8. Get plenty of exercise
It’s a good idea to give your pup lots of exercise if you want him to stop barking. Tired dogs can’t bark and react to every little noise and movement. They also won’t bark from boredom or frustration. Keep him entertained with a variety of interactive toys and games when you’re at home.
Stop your puppy barking at night
It’s very common for a puppy to bark at night, especially if they sleep in a crate. They can feel frightened if they are left alone for long periods of time. And many puppies have small bladders and will need to be let out during the night. Here’s how to stop a puppy barking during the night.
- Don’t go and make a fuss of your puppy when he barks. This just reinforces the barking as a way to get attention.
- Establish a regular toilet schedule and stick to it.
- Get your puppy used to the crate during the day. Encourage them to get in and out and become comfortable with it. You can try putting their favourite chew toys inside for an extra incentive.
- Keep the crate in a secluded corner of the room. It should be somewhere they won’t feel exposed.
- Cover the crate with a sheet or blanket. This can make it feel safer and more like a den, stopping your puppy barking during the night.
- Keep the crate near to you during the night. It helps to place it in a corner of your room and slowly move it further away each night.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to stop your puppy barking before it becomes a problem habit. The key is to remain calm, patient and consistent.