Puppy barking can drive owners and neighbors crazy. It can’t be totally eliminated so don’t expect to fully stop barking, but you can teach your puppy to modify behavior and reduce the noise. Dog barking is one of the most common behavior complaints. This normal form of puppy communication only becomes a problem if puppies aren’t taught proper limits.
Why Puppies Bark
Puppy barking serves many purposes.
Puppies bark when they play, to greet you (or another animal), or defend against scary or intimidating interlopers. Consider your puppy’s bark as a doggy fire alarm. It serves as a warning about anything unusual, interesting, or exciting like a friend or stranger’s arrival, a sudden sound, or an unexpected sight. Rather than trying to fully eliminate the barks, figure out why the pup barks and teach him the difference between appropriate barks and problem barks using these ten tips.
Tips for Curbing Puppy Barks
- Don’t bark back. When speaking with your puppy, the tone of voice and body language are just as important as the words you use. For some dogs, barking is a joyful expression. Use a calm voice when addressing your dog. Yelling can make him think you’re joining the chorus and your dog may bark even louder.
- Remove the audience. If she barks and you come running every time, you reward the behavior. Instead, thank her, then say, “HUSH.” When she stops barking, praise her and give her a treat. If she keeps barking, turn your back and leave the room. Most dogs want company, so leaving tells her she’s doing something wrong. She’ll learn to be quiet if she wants you to stay and give her attention.
- Give your puppy a “bark limit.” Designate a set amount of barks you will allow. For example, he’s allowed to bark three or five times until you acknowledge his warning. Now your dog knows you can take over for him. After the designated number of barks, praise your puppy: “GOOD bark, GOOD dog, now HUSH,” and give him a treat as you praise. It’s hard for dogs to bark while chewing so the treat serves a dual purpose.
- Pay attention to the circumstances. Barking at the mailman teaches pups to repeat the behavior over and over again. You may want to enlist your mail carrier’s help to eliminate the barking. Ask him or her to feed your pup a treat once he is quiet and praise him for being silent.
- Provide door drills. Ringing the bell, knocking on the door, and arrivals or departures can excite or scare shy pups. Create an association of the door and door sounds with good things for the puppy. Stage arrivals at the front door with an accomplice “visitor” loaded up with treats to toss. This helps her to stop seeing visitors as threats.
- Relieve the boredom. Many pups bark because they’re lonely or bored. Even if the dog has nothing to bark about, talking to himself may be better than silence. Chew toys that reward the puppy’s attention with tasty treats also fill up the mouth—he can’t bark and chew at the same time. Puzzles toys like the Kong Wobbler can be stuffed with peanut butter or kibble treats and must be manipulated to reach the edible prize.
- Block scary sounds. Inexperienced dogs hear lots of “new” sounds that may inspire barking. When barking arises from fear, the pheromone product Comfort Zone with D.A.P. may help relieve the angst. White noise machines are available to mask sounds, or simply turn the radio to a normal volume and tune it to static.
- Train with head halters. Tools such as Gentle Leader and Halti can work wonders for training dogs. Pulling on the lead gently presses the pup’s mouth shut for the few seconds of pressure and signals her to be quiet; you don’t have to say a word. The halters are available from pet products stores and veterinarians.
- Try a new tone. Tone collars emit a loud, short tone at the first “woof.” That’s often enough to make the pup stop and search for what caused the tone. It eliminates boredom and the barking, often within minutes. However, the collar must be adjusted properly or it can “punish” the wrong dog if a canine friend is barking nearby.
- Curb barks with scent. Researchers found citronella collars to be effective in bark training. Citronella collars give a warning tone first; additional barking prompts a squirt of scent that stops the barking. Some of these collars even have remote control activators.
Because every pup is different, not all the techniques listed above work for all dogs. Most training techniques require an investment of time and consistency. If you haven’t seen improvement in three to five days using one of the anti-bark techniques, try a different approach.