How to stop your dog's out-of-control barking
Why dogs bark and how you can prevent this bad habit.
Fish swim, birds fly, and dogs bark. Barking is part of a dog's nature and intrinsic to how he communicates, just as we humans express ourselves by talking.
Admittedly, sometimes barking is really useful — like when your dog barks to let you know that a stranger is trying to scale your back fence. But, if your dog's barking is out of control — continuing for minutes (or hours) on end until he wears himself out — then you've got a problem. Because, even if your dog's barking doesn't bother you, it likely bothers your neighbors.
Realistically, if your dog is a "barker," you won't be able to stop him from ever barking again. So, if that's your goal, your best bet is probably to find your dog a new (and more tolerant) home. If, however, you're simply looking for a way to prevent your dog from engaging in excessive nuisance barking, you've come to the right place. This article offers tips to help subdue even the most obnoxious barker.
TIP #1: Give your dog something else to do.
Many dogs who bark excessively do so out of boredom. Fortunately, the solution to this problem is pretty simple... Give your dog something to else to do!
Extreme KONG Dog Toy
If your dog spends much of his time by himself, then he's probably turned to barking for entertainment. So, make it a point to play a 10-minute game of fetch or tug with your dog, or take him for a walk every single day. Even better, teach him how to play a sport, like agility, disc, or scootering. Remember, a tired dog is a happy (and quiet) dog!
Also, consider giving your dog food puzzles to keep his mind occupied when you're not around. My favorite trick is to smear about one teaspoon of peanut butter inside a Extreme KONG Dog Toy dog toy — I've yet to meet a dog who wouldn't expend a LOT of energy getting that yummy, yummy PB out of the toy. Even better, to keep your dog occupied for hours, you can actually feed your dog from a KONG (multiple KONGs if your dog is a large breed). Simply:
- Mix your dog's daily serving of food with a little water.
- Let the food/water mixture sit until it's soft.
- Stuff the moistened food inside a KONG.
- Freeze the KONG overnight.
Your dog will spend hours getting the food out of his KONG — hours that, in the past, he would have spent barking! Be prepared that it may take a few days for your dog to get used to this new feeding process. If your dog doesn't eat the food that's inside of the KONG, just put the toy away and offer it to him again tomorrow; within a couple of days he'll get it figured out.
TIP #2: Teach your dog a "Quiet" command
If, for some reason, you can't distract your dog from barking with exercise or food, you can work on teaching him a "quiet" command. Personally, though, I'd rather go the food/exercise route, as it's easier and faster!
- STEP 1: When your dog is on a barking binge, wait quietly by his side. When he stops barking for a moment (1 - 2 seconds), say "Quiet," then give him a treat and praise him("Good dog!"). Repeat this scenario consistently with your dog for about a week to familiarize him with what the word "Quiet" means. You'll know that he recognizes the command when you say it and he immediately gives you his attention in anticipation of a treat.
- STEP 2: Once your dog is familiar with the Quiet command, you can use it to quiet him when he barks. When your dog begins a round of excessive barking, say "Quiet" in a firm voice . If he stops barking, give him a treat and praise him. If he does not stop barking, sharply say, "No, Quiet!" If he stops barking after your verbal correction, give him a treat and praise him; but, if he still does not stop barking when you verbally correct him, calmly clip a leash to his collar and lead him away from the area to help him calm down. If your dog is crate trained, you may decide to put him in his crate for a few minutes while he settles down.
TIP #3: Buy a bark collar
Bark collars are a very effective way to curb excessive barking. They work by consistently correcting your dog every time he barks. While a bark collar is generally not the first course of action to try (I highly recommend at least trying Tip #1 first), it may be necessary if your dog's barking draws complaints from neighbors or if your dog barks non-stop to a point that is unhealthy for him.
SportDOG Deluxe Bark Control Collar
Some bark collars — like the SportDOG Deluxe Bark Control Collar — use a static correction that's similar to the sensation of rubbing your stocking feet on carpet and touching metal. These are the most effective type of bark collar, and what I recommend that you buy. I particularly like the SportDOG Deluxe model because it has 18 different correction levels that automatically adjust based on your dog's behavior. Also, SportDOG bark collars are trigger only from a combination of both the sound of your dog's bark AND the vibration from his vocal chords — that means your dog won't get accidentally corrected by a random sound or when another dog barks (a very important feature, in my opinion!). Other static correction-based models to consider are the and the .
Other bark collars use a spray of citronella aimed at your dog's face to correct him. In my experience, these collars aren't particularly effective and are more aversive to your dog than static correction. That's because, while static correction stops the moment your dog stops barking, the puff of citronella lingers around your dog's sensitive nose for minutes, correcting him even when he's already quiet. That's potentially confusing and, in my opinion, unfair.
To learn more about using a bark collar to control excessive barking, read my article Bark Collars: Are they safe? Do they really work?