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Most dogs are born to bark, though some breeds are louder or quieter than others (and some are downright chill). However, chances are good that barking is a part of your life as a dog owner. My dog Ralph was my best friend, my favourite companion, and one of the barkiest dogs I’d ever met. I loved her, but I’ll be honest, her barking sometimes drove me bananas. Thankfully, I learned a few ways to control it. If you have a dog who barks excessively, you’ll want to read this. Try these four strategies to help stop dog barking—with more details below.
Stop dog barking: the four approaches
- Sight barriers
- A quiet zone
- Anti-stress and bark control gear
Why dogs bark
Before taking steps to control your dog’s barking, it’s important to recognize why they bark. Barking is dogs’ most useful form of vocal communication and serves a variety of functions.
According to the ASPCA, these are the most common reasons a dog barks:
- Territorial Barking: excessive barking in response to people, dogs, or other animals encroaching on their territory.
- Alarm Barking: barking in response to noises and sights. Alarm barking is not limited to defending territory.
- Attention-Seeking Barking: used to gain attention or rewards, like food or playtime.
- Greeting Barking: a bark to say “hello!” Greeting barking is accompanied by relaxed body language and a wagging tail.
- Compulsive Barking: repetitive barking often accompanied by a repetitive movement, such as pacing
- Socially Facilitated Barking: aka “response barking,” when a dog barks excessively only when they hear another dog bark.
- Frustration-Induced Barking: excessive barking in response to a frustrating situation, such as being confined or being separated from other dogs or people
Chances are, you recognize your dog in one of the above. Once you know your dog’s motivation for barking, you can identify tricks and tools to stop it.
1. Use sight barriers
Territorial and alarm barking happen when dogs see or hear something that arouses their attention (that’s why so many dogs bark at the living room window or along the fence). The quickest trick to stop barking at the window or in the yard is to manage the environment. Block your dog’s sightline to potential barking triggers.
In the yard, use privacy fencing to cut off views to neighboring yards or the street. Commercial grade privacy screening installs over your existing fence and may be allowed in your rental unit. If you own your home and seek a long-term, attractive option, consider planting privacy hedges to both beautify and bark-proof the yard.
Indoors, leave the curtains or blinds closed, or use spray-on glass coating or removable plastic film that makes windows opaque. This affordable static cling window film lets the light in but blurs and blocks sights from outside.
Manage the environment, and block your dog’s sightline to potential barking triggers.
2. Set up a doggy quiet zone
If your dog barks when you leave the house (which can be a sign of separation anxiety), set up a safe and quiet place for them away from the front door. This may be a back bedroom, laundry room, or spare space.
Your doggy quiet zone may include:
- A crate decked out with a comfy bed and privacy cover, or a baby gate to block off other areas
- A stuffed KONG toy or puzzle feeder to keep them busy (and keep their mouth occupied with something other than barking!)
- A white noise machine to mask exterior sounds and produce soothing soundscapes (a fan or radio can also work for this purpose)
3. Bark control and anti-stress devices
Thanks to advances in technology and a wider understanding of dog behavior, there are some products on the market that effectively control barking in a gentle, humane way.
Ultrasonic bark deterrent devices work by emitting an ultrasonic sound that dogs find unpleasant, which startles them out of barking. Reviews of ultrasonic anti-bark devices are mixed; some dogs don’t respond to them, and others are too sensitive for what is essentially a correction. But for some dogs, these are very effective.
A humane alternative to shock collars of yore, the citronella spray bark collar uses a burst of citronella spray to eliminate or reduce excessive barking. Dogs don’t like the taste of citronella, and the “shhh” sound and sensation startles them out of barking.
Loaded with dog-soothing herbs, these collars can help stressed dogs calm down, and reduce anxious barking. Not all dogs will respond, however.
A classic, this wrap helps dogs prone to anxiety, over-stimulation, or compulsive barking. It applies gentle, constant pressure to help dogs feel calmer and more secure. Like all the gear noted in this article, some dogs will respond well to a pressure wrap, while others may simply ignore it (or actively dislike it). When introducing any new gear like this, go slowly, and reward your dog with plenty of praise and treats.
There are lots of tricks and tools you can use to help control your dog’s barking, but all of them are more effective in conjunction with training. A few key commands can help control barking:
- Recall. Useful to call your dog away from barking triggers (like the doorbell ringing, or a neighbor dog outside)
- “Speak.” Yup, training your dog to bark on command can help teach them not to bark at other times, especially when paired with the next command on this list.
- “Settle: or “quiet.” Helps your dog “calm down” on cue. See the above video for an adorable example!
- Sit/stay. Useful for keeping your dog otherwise occupied when a barking trigger is nearby. If your dog tends to bark on-leash, have her practice being still and quiet.
You can also work with a trainer to practice desensitization techniques that help your dog become accustomed to barking triggers and ultimately stop responding. Training takes consistency and patience, but the long-term rewards are worth it!
Barking can be a real pain in the ears, but the right combination of tools and training will help your dog learn when to keep quiet.