Most dogs are born to bark, but some breeds are louder or quieter than others. The chances are good that as a dog owner, barking is a part of your life. Of course you love them, but let’s be honest, their barking can sometimes drive you bananas. Thankfully, there are a few ways to control it, so if you have a dog who barks excessively, you’ll want to try these four strategies—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 recognise why they bark. Barking is a dog’s most useful form of vocal communication and it serves a variety of functions.
According to the RSPCA, 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, bored, or separated from other dogs or people
Chances are, you recognise 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 garden is to manage the environment. Block your dog’s sight line to potential barking triggers.
In the garden, use privacy fencing to cut off views to neighbouring gardens or the street. Commercial-grade privacy screening can be installed over your existing fence and may be allowed if you rent. 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 sight line 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 food-dispensing toy or puzzle feeder to keep them busy (and keep their mouth occupied with something other than barking!)
- A white noise machine, whether a stand-alone device or a free app or website, can help to block those external sounds better than television or radio.
If you live in a smaller home and can’t isolate your dog in a room, consider crate-training and using a crate cover that allows plenty of airflow while limiting sight lines.
3. Bark control and anti-stress devices
Thanks to advances in technology and a wider understanding of dog behaviour, there are some products on the market that effectively control barking in a gentle, humane way.
Ultrasonic anti-bark system
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.
Citronella spray collar
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 pheromones, these collars can help stressed dogs calm down, and reduce anxious barking. Not all dogs will respond, however.
ThunderShirt pressure wrap
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 neighbour’s dog outside)
- “Speak.” Yep, 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 when she’s on the lead, have her practice being still and quiet.
You can also work with a trainer to practice desensitisation techniques that help your dog become accustomed to barking triggers and ultimately stop responding. Training is about consistency and takes 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.