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How to stop your dog from barking

It is completely normal for dogs to bark in different situations. It is one of many ways for the dog to communicate. If you find that your dog barks very often and a lot, it may be a sign that it is stressed. Here are some tips on how to deal with the problem.

How do I get my dog to stop barking?

  • Find out why the dog is barking
  • Adapt the solution to the problem
  • Be patient - stick to the plan

Barking is a normal behaviour

Before you begin, it's important to know that barking is normal for the vast majority of dogs. It is only if the barking has developed into a problem for you or your dog that you can try to train it away. It could be that the dog barks uncontrollably, seems stressed or barks in unwanted situations.

Barking can be, to an extent, hereditary and varies between both breeds and individuals, so comparing what is normal with other dogs can be difficult. For example, dog breeds that have been bred to alert or guard may naturally bark more.

Why does your dog bark?

The first step is to figure out why your dog is barking.

Common reasons for dogs to bark include:

  • Stress
  • Fear or insecurity - the dog is trying to scare away something they believe is scary
  • Warning or alarm
  • Learned behaviour - you dog has learnt that barking pays off in certain situations

This is how you train your dog to stop barking

If your dog is barking due to stress:

A common cause of excessive barking is stress. Dog can experience stress just like people. For a dog to be calm and harmonious, it needs an appropriate balance of rest, exercise, work and social interaction. A dog that does not have a balanced everyday life but is constantly under stimulated or overstimulated walks around with constantly high levels of stress hormones. A typical effect of this is exaggerated reactions – for example, starting to bark uncontrollably.

If you have a dog that you suspect is barking because it is stressed, it is best to start training by reviewing the dog's everyday life. Does it get enough physical exercise and does it get to use its brain by practicing tricks, tracking or the like a couple of times a week? Does it get enough rest and socialising? If you get the balance right, the dog's stress barking will decrease and you will also notice that the dog becomes more at ease.

If your dog barks because it is afraid or insecure:

If your dog barks mainly at specific things or in specific situations, it may be frightened. Many dogs who are afraid or unsure of other dogs bark at dog meetings, for example. Here you need to focus the training on changing the dog's feeling and simply making the dog more comfortable in the situation. When the feeling changes, the barking often goes away on its own. For many dogs, in this type of situation, working with counter-conditioning works well - simply changing the dog's feeling by giving it something good to eat. It can be good to contact a dog trainer or other expert who can help you and your dog to define what is causing the feeling in the dog and work with the problem.

If your dog is barking as a warning or alert:

There are many dogs, especially of smaller breeds, that are bred precisely to alert the family by barking if something happens in the surroundings. That such a dog barks when there is a knock on the door or when a stranger walks past the house. They're only doing what they were bred for. But you can train the dog to alert in a more discreet way - perhaps by barking just once or twice and then calm down again. A simple way to do this is to teach the dog to "Thank you!" means the dog should be quiet. This can be learned by practicing in the following way:

  • Start at a time when the dog is calm. Say "thank you!" and throw a bunch of treats on the ground for the dog to eat. Repeat this on a number of occasions so that the dog understands that when you says "thank you!" they're in for treats.
  • When the dog understands that "thank you!" means that now treats will be thrown on the ground, so you can try saying "thank you!" when the dog barks. Does it quiet down and look expectantly at you for treats? Then you can praise it and throw treats out.
  • When it works, you can slowly reduce the amount of treats until you just say "thank you!" and the dog falls silent. Then you praise it with your voice.

The dog has learned that it pays to bark in certain situations

A dog can also bark in certain situations because it has learned that it pays off. For example, does your dog stand up and bark at you when it is bored? Then it's probably learned this gives them attention.

Then a solution might be to ignore your dog when it barks and instead make sure to reward when the dog is calm. This takes patience as you'll need to sit and pretend the dog isn't there if it barks, then find something fun to do with the dog when it has quieted down and laid down to rest.

Other tricks to make the dog bark less

Learn on command

It is also possible to train your dog to stop barking on command. You can do this by rewarding the dog when it quiets down. It can also be done with clicks. Add the command "quiet" or "sh" in a calm voice when the dog stops barking.

It may sound strange, but sometimes it can be easier to train them to bark before you train them to be quiet. Assign a command, such as 'speak' and use it as soon as your dog barks, quickly followed by a treat. Once they've learned this, you can move on to teaching them to be quiet.

Teach an incompatible behaviour

You can also teach your dog a behaviour that cannot be performed while barking and thus make the dog quiet in certain situations. It could be, for example, that you teach your dog to hold a toy in it's mouth when they meet other dogs. Then the dog simply cannot bark because it is busy with something else. However, this is not preferable when it comes to dogs that are stressed or fearful - then it is better to address the underlying problem.

It can take a while to get over excessive barking. For many dogs, it has become a normal and ingrained behaviour. Therefore, it is important to keep patience and be consistent in learning. Make sure to include training in your routines and don't forget to praise when the dog does the right thing.

Never punish a barking dog. If the problem persists, you may need to seek help from a reliable dog trainer.

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