How to stop your dog from barking

How to stop your dog from barking



Barking is a natural behaviour for dogs as it is their way of communicating with those around them. However, we often see it as an embarrassing or nuisance behaviour when it crops up at less than ideal times. Check out these great tips on how to stop your dog from barking. Dogs are extremely smart and try to communicate their needs and emotions with us using body language, gestures and noises. Amazingly, despite not speaking the same language, for the most part we are able to have successful conversations that form the foundations of our relationships. Therefore, it is really important that we attempt to understand why our dogs are performing behaviours such as barking, whining and howling.

• What is it that they are trying to tell us?
• How can we encourage them to adopt a better method of communication that isn't so loud but still as effective at getting their message across? 


So why is your dog barking?

Barking in a lot of situations is your dog telling the scary person, thing or animal to keep away. What is interesting about barking is that it is quite an intense behaviour and usually dogs only resort to it as they become increasingly agitated. They will often, a lot of the time, use body language first to communicate if they are unsure, worried or struggling in a situation.

These can include, but not exclusively:
• Licking of their lips
• Head turns & moving away
• Showing the whites of their eyes
• Lifting one paw in the air
• Tucked tail

When your dog begins barking it means that the scary thing didn't listen to their body language. So what happens if they also don't listen to barking? Your dog will have to escalate to growling, showing their teeth, snapping and sometimes biting. All of these behaviours are distressing to our dogs as they mean the dog feels threatened and needs to defend themselves. It is our responsibility as their dogs needing to bark (growl, snarl, snap or bite).

Barking equally can of course be due to excitement, like when you come home after a couple of hours! 

That's why it is essential to look at both your dogs body language and the situation to ensure you are reading them properly and ultimately setting yourself and your dog up to succeed!

Common situations for barking:

When left alone
With our busy lives we usually all have to leave our dogs alone more often than we would like. If you are concerned your dog is barking when you are out or you plan to increase the amount of time you are leaving them perhaps chat to your neighbours or set up a camera to record your dog. This will allow you to get an update and ensure your dog is not barking or becoming distressed.

If your dog is struggling being alone perhaps look at getting a dog walker or ask a neighbour to pop in to break up the day. Sometimes leaving access to the whole house can be overwhelming for dogs, as they will wander looking for people. Restricting access and keeping them in a nice familiar spot in the house where they have relaxing time with the family may help settle them. Leaving a radio or TV on will have some background noise, as it may be uncomfortably quiet when they are alone. Finally entertain them! Grab some Kong’s and stuff them with some liver paste and treats, hide novel toys and treats around the room for them to find and play with and ensure you are leaving them with something that has your scent on it such as an old blanket or towel.

If your dog is still struggling we suggest seeking behavioural support, as separation anxiety is a complex behaviour to deal with alone. Speak to our staff in store for help on choosing a trainer.

The doorbell
An extremely common behaviour is barking at the doorbell as it is a loud noise,that makes the people in the house jump up and sometimes results in a scary stranger or an exciting guest. Either way barking at the front door can be a nuisance as we first have to try and quietening the dog down and get them away from the door before we can answer it.

So how do we show our dogs a better way to react?

If you know it is when the doorbell rings, try temporarily disconnecting the doorbell & changing the tone.

Often by simply changing to a different tone will give you a window of opportunity to teach your dog a new reaction to a novel sound.

Record your new doorbell tone on your phone and play it at a low level

• Instantly jump up and walk away from the front door calling your dog

• As soon as they follow give them some high value treats
• Repeat this several times gradually increasing the volume level of the recording
• Eventually progress to popping a few treats around on the floor and leave your dog in a separate room for a second or two before letting them out
• Gradually increase the time they are left in the room so you can build up to a real person ringing the doorbell and you opening the front door


    The aim of the exercise is your dog associating the new tone & the absence of barking with yummy treats!

    Note: It is essential that every time the tone plays you work through the steps otherwise your dog may revert back to barking. Once your dog isn't barking (& you are confident they are safe to say hi) you can start introducing them to your visitors by allowing your dog to say hello for a few seconds and then calling them back to you for a treat. Teaching them short, positive and appropriate interactions end with treats will make visitor’s fun and rewarding. It will also keep them nice and calm and quiet!

    If your dog is worried by strangers, we would suggest seeking behavioural support, before introducing visitors to them. Speak to a member of staff in store on help choosing the right trainer.

    Other dogs on walks
    A lot of dogs can bark at other dogs out of excitement but it can equally be fear based. How do you tell the difference? By looking at the entire picture i.e. not only the barking but also your dog’s body language you can identify what your dog is likely feeling.

    If your dog is barking at other dogs and also lunging, growling, showing teeth, then it is likely he is trying to tell that other dog to stay away. It is important that we do not do the opposite to what your dog is asking and force them to interact with the other dog. Give your dog more space from the other dog. You will know what distance they need as they will stop reacting and be able to focus on you when you reach it.

    This distance that you create is your dogs critical distance and the distance they feel safe at. It is at this distance you can work on how your dog reacts to other dogs by asking them to preform easy behaviours such as sit or offering eye contact. Slowly when your dog is happy performing these behaviours, with dogs in the distance, you can work on gradually moving closer.

    When working on teaching your dog how best to react to scary items we advise not to use any equipment that may tighten or prevent your dog preform behaviours they feel they need to do when worried. These include tightening harness, tightening collars, head collars or nylon muzzles. We want our dogs to feel safe enough so they do not need to bark and not that they cannot bark, as this will simply compound the problem behaviour.

    If your dog is worried around other dogs or strangers out on walk it is advisable to muzzle train your dog. Remember they must be able to pant, take treats, drink and if they feel they need to, bark in the muzzle. The muzzle will not only ensure your dog can not hurt another dog or person if in a difficult situation but also will show strangers that your dog isn't suitable to approach or allow their dog to approach.

    This will make helping your dog feel safer on his walk much easier! Grab our muzzle training factsheet and speak to a member of staff about the right size and style for your dog.

    Here at Petstop we advise all of our customers with dogs who are worried by strangers or dogs to the point that they might snap or bite to seek out behavioural support to ensure a safe and successful training plan. Speak to a member of our staff for help finding the right trainer.