top of page

Help, My Dog Won't Stop Barking!

Solve Barking Behavior Problems Quickly & Kindly.

Imagine Your Barking Dog Quieting When You Ask!

Dogs bark for many reasons. In this article I will focus on the ones that I see most often with my clients dogs: attention / demand barking and alert barking. Another major category of barking is “stranger danger” barking at either people/guests or dogs. I will address this fear barking in another article as it is a bit more complicated to work with.


Attention barking is when your dog barks at you or at something else as a request / demand. She may do it from her crate in order to be let out or maybe at a ball under the couch. She may bark at you while you are on the phone because she wants your attention. She may bark to go out to potty (which in this case, we may appreciate!).


Alert barking on the other hand, is generally at a noise or something your dog sees. Oftentimes, alert barking is a bit territorial in nature - your dog is protecting its home by letting everyone know something is out there. While their humans often appreciate an alert bark, many of our dogs take it a bit too far!


Working with attention barking:


Attention barking is fairly simple to deal with because in this case, we often have control over what the dog is requesting with her bark. Let’s say your dog is barking at you to throw her ball while you are relaxing on the couch. Whatever you do - do not touch that ball after she barks! Instead, when your dog barks at you, I suggest you say “eh eh” and get up and walk out of the room, closing a door behind you if possible. Then return after a few seconds and repeat. Then decide what you would like the dog to do in order to politely ask you for a ball toss (if you are open to that). Maybe you would toss the ball if she just lays down and looks at you calmly. In that case, (before she barks), you would ask her to lie down, and then toss the ball when she does. You would then work on having her to wait a bit longer lying down without barking in order to get the ball thrown or you could try and see if she will lie down on her own and then you could toss the ball. If she barks at any point you repeat your communication as described above: saying “eh eh” and leaving the room.


Working with alert barking:


Alert barking is an emotionally-driven behavior, so we can deal with it a little differently than with attention barking. Instead of teaching her not to bark, we are going to teach her to do something instead of barking and get rewarded for that - to come to us.


Management and prevention: I like to start with cutting down on the amount of alert barking even before we start training because it can be stressful for dogs to be providing “security monitoring” by watching out of the window all day and perhaps that stress is not so healthy for them. You may consider using privacy window films to block your dog's view or a fan to block noises.


The way I work with training your dog to alert bark less and to stop when we need her to, is to first teach your dog to come when called. If you have a great recall already, then this will be quicker for you. If not, it is a great reason to train this very useful behavior.


Teaching the beginning of the recall: If you have tried to teach your dog to come to you in the past and did not have great success, start with a new word, like “here”. Begin by saying “here” while you have your dog's attention and then praise her while she comes a few steps to you to get a treat. Make it fun by tossing some on the floor sometimes for her to chase. After you’ve done this 10 or so times and your dog seems to be getting it, try tossing a treat on the ground to get her attention off of you and then after she is finished eating, say “here”. Praise and reward her for coming to you a few steps. Once she is doing well with this you can begin to increase the distance she needs to go to get to you for the treat and you can also stop showing her the treat first and instead just make a motion (“hand signal”) that looks similar to holding out a treat. Once your dog is coming to you reliably and enthusiastically even when you are out of sight in different situations, you are ready to move on to the next step.


Using the recall to interrupt the barking: Now you are going to get your tastiest treats (fresh meat or cheese is generally best) and wait until your dog sees something that she would like to bark at, but is fairly mild for her. Say “here” and if your dog comes to you, great - feed a few treats and also throw some on the floor for her to find. If not, try putting the treat to her nose and luring her towards you and away from what she is barking at and reward. Once you’ve gotten her to come to you in the presence of something she would like to bark at (trigger), it is simply a matter of gradually increasing both the closeness / intensity of the trigger and your distance from your dog (working on one at a time). Keep building so that you have about 90% success. If your dog is not responding to the “here” cue, that simply means you need to either make it less difficult for her or more rewarding by using better treats for a while.


Bonus: Your dog may start to anticipate the reward by cutting her own barking short or looking at you before barking to see if you are going to call her. Definitely reward this! You can also have her come to you and lie down on a bed to increase her calmness and if you think she may just go right back to barking. You can do this by practicing calling her, feeding a treat and then having her lie down and feeding a treat. And slowly extend the time that she is lying down before feeding the next treat. (Hey, we are now teaching a “stay”!)


Tip: In order to make sure you don’t create a barking for attention problem, make sure your dog is actually barking at something you can see or hear. However, you can usually tell if dogs start to figure this game out and bark for attention as it has a different feel and sound.

Contact Us Today for a Free Phone Consult!

Quick & kind dog training help. Private, in-home sessions in NEPA and Zoom sessions worldwide.

bottom of page