I have people write to me all the time about how much their dogs bark.
They bark at postal workers. They bark at birds. They bark at parked cars. They bark at corners of the room with nothing in them. Excessive barking is a real problem for many pet parents.
And I get it. When I was a kid we had a dog that barked from the time we left the house until the time we came home. We didn’t believe our neighbor until we tape recorded her (I’m dating myself with THAT technology) and she ran through a full 120 minutes worth of tape with incessant barking the entire time.
It was crazy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact I wish I had known these techniques for training dogs not to bark back then.
(Speaking of training dogs, if you are interested in a career or side hustle with dogs check out these 12 part time jobs working with dogs)
If you have a dog that barks a lot and it’s causing you problems – I have help! Here’s how to train your dog not to bark.
There are many reasons that dogs bark. Most dogs that bark excessively do so out of fear or anxiety or because they want attention. Just like anxiety can cause people to have real physical symptoms that change behavior, dogs experience the same thing.
Dogs bark to:
Incessant barking can be a headache causing nuisance. But worse it can damage the relationship that you have with your dog.
Sure, there are times when you want your dog to bark. If someone is coming into your home, you want them to alert you.
But overall, we would really rather if our dogs didn’t bark so much and we could control barking more easily.
A few notes before we begin.
Regardless of why your dog barks, there are a few critical pieces of the training.
When you yell, your dog thinks you’re just barking with them. Instead of barking training, your dog thinks the two of you are having a conversation.
They will just bark more… and probably louder.
If you are trying to figure out how to get your dog to stop barking at you, yelling at them will probably have the opposite effect that you intended.
It’s important to be upbeat and not negative while you’re dog training to stop excessive barking. Every session needs to end on a high note.
Possibly the most important step is this one:
You need to be consistent. In order to successfully train your dog not to bark, every member of the family must use the same rules with the dog every time.
For them, every time must be the same, or they have no idea what you mean. If you are inconsistent then you will have a very hard time to get your dog to stop barking.
Think of it this way…
If you’re trying to learn a new language, and I say “yes” is the word for “affirmative.”
Then you need “yes” to mean the same thing every time it’s used. You need it to be “affirmative” every time.
If sometimes “yes” actually means “maybe,” then suddenly you don’t know if you understand the language.
It’s the same for your dog.
So, if you’re trying to train your dog to stop barking when you say “hush,” then every time you say “hush” your dog needs to stop.
It can’t be okay if you say it playfully, or if you don’t feel like following through.
Even if it looks like it, dog behavior is rarely random. He’s receiving a reward somehow when he barks.
This is where it’s helpful to know why he’s barking. For more help on that see our post on why dogs bark.
An example is if your dog barks at animals passing by the window. Your dog receives your attention as a reward when he barks at the outside animals.
Remove the motivation by closing the blinds or curtains to stop excessive barking at things outside the window. Don’t worry – you won’t have to keep the blinds closed forever. You just have to remove the motivation long enough to train your dog not to bark.
Let’s start with an easy one.
Does your dog go crazy with barking when you come home?
He so excited to see you, so you make a big fuss because it’s wonderful to be greeted with so much excitement.
Your attention is a reward for this dog excessive barking.
But if you don’t WANT your dog to bark when you come in, you can’t pay attention to them if your dog barks when the door
Don’t pay attention as long as they bark. Don’t talk, don’t touch, don’t even look at your dog — and don’t interact with them at all.
Once your dog quiets, you can reward him with some love and attention… and you can sigh with relief.
But it’s important to not acknowledge him while he’s barking at all. It’s hard, but if you want to know how to make a dog quit barking – this is a really good way.
If he barks for 15 minutes, you ignore him for 15 minutes. If he barks for an hour, you must ignore him for that entire hour. If you give in, it will undo all the training you’ve done so far.
Otherwise, he learns that if he barks long enough, you’ll finally pay attention.
Instead, by not interacting with him until he’s quiet, you reward his quiet behavior. You may only get a few seconds of quiet in the beginning. Then you have to go back to ignoring him until he’s quiet.
This technique for how to stop excessive barking really works. But it’s important to note that it takes a GREAT deal of patience and discipline to get there. Remember – YOU are in charge, not your dog.
This means that you figure out what she’s barking at and get them so used to it that she doesn’t think it’s worth barking about anymore.
For example, if she barks every time she sees another dog, introduce her to other dogs more frequently.
She’ll become so used to seeing other dogs that she won’t find it worth talking about anymore.
A great way to desensitize your dog to other dogs is to work with a friend who has a dog. In a neutral area, have them keep their dog just out of sight of your dog.
Then your friend can bring their dog into view a little bit.
Immediately shower your dog with attention and yummy treats. You’ll keep their focus on you instead of the other dog. This positive reinforcement works much better than yelling or smacking for an excessive barking puppy or dog.
After a moment or two, your friend can take their dog back out of sight.
Repeat the process until you can stop working to keep your dog’s attention without them barking at the other dog.
Complete desensitization can take weeks since it is a natural thing for your dog to bark at other dogs on their territory. Over time, they’ll stop being so worried about other dogs.
Be creative in using this technique of desensitization in order to train your dog to stop barking. It can really work wonders anytime you know their barking trigger.
It doesn’t really matter what this other activity is, so long as it prevents your dog from barking. The idea is to interrupt their intention to bark.
For example, if your dog barks every time they see a cat outside, you can tell them to lay down in their bed.
You can also teach them a routine for when someone comes to the door.
We have our dogs stay just outside the foyer and sit to wait for the guests.
Don’t start the training when the doorbell rings, instead begin by teaching them to “go to your spot.” To teach them their spot, choose a place that is comfortable. Maybe a bed or mat, or maybe you just want them to stay at the door to the room.
Just like teaching them to sit, you’ll treat them every time they successful go to their spot.
Once you’re able to get them to their spot every time you tell them, you can add some coming to your door to the process. Have a friend knock on your door.
When they knock, acknowledge your dog, and then tell them to go to their spot. Once they go to their spot, you can begin to open the door.
If your dog moves from their spot while you’re opening the door, close the door immediately. Repeat this process until they stay in their spot while the door opens.
Eventually, they will react to the doorbell or someone knocking at the door by going to their spot.
Like the other techniques I’ve listed here this particular strategy for how to control excessive barking requires patience and consistency. If you aren’t consistent over time it won’t work.
When you practice this word, reward your dog for behaving for five seconds. Then for 10 seconds, a full minute, etc.
Once he’s got it, begin to vary the time. This prevents their internal clock from determining how long they’re quiet… you want it to be your decision.
I frequently say that a well-behaved dog is a tired dog. In fact, most of my trainer friends see the same thing.
If you know someone is coming over, the best thing to do is to wear your dog out first. Play fetch, roughhouse, dance around the house. Whatever works.
Take your dog for a long walk, too. It will mentally challenge them and help to wear them out.
Then, even if they do bark when your visitor arrives, they will quickly tire of the new situation. Once they know you have the situation under control, they’ll be glad to go lay down.
But with patience and consistency, you can teach any dog to stop barking excessively.
For most dogs solid positive training techniques will work for training your dog not to bark. There are some good resources in both books and courses that can further your knowledge.
In dog training books, I like two:
Both of these books focus heavily on positive reinforcement techniques that are proven to work even on stubborn dogs and things like puppy barking or to stop dog barking at the door.
Of the two books, my preference is the “Training the Best Dog Ever” book, because it focuses more on training and less on introducing the dog to the family.
Zac George also has an extensive You Tube channel on positive dog training, including several videos on how to get your dog to stop barking.
There are two online video based training courses that I recommend.
These two courses serve two very different purposes. The Doggy Dan course is the best behavioral training course that I’ve ever used. It tackles problem behaviors in ways that are innovate and kind and most of all they WORK.
The Brain Training for Dogs course is a course that will help give curious dogs something to do so that they don’t get destructive. The games in this course are fun to play with your dog and they go from easy to very advanced.
All dogs will bark some of the time, but you want it to be when it’s appropriate instead of excessive dog barking.
By using solid positive dog training techniques you can learn how to make a dog stop barking. It will take patience and work, but it is entirely possible to do.
For more information on training your dog, check out How to get your Dog to Quit Jumping!! and Why do dogs bark?