for almost as many reasons as humans do. Your dog may bark
to ask you or another dog to play; to get your attention;
to relieve boredom or stress; to express excitement; to (not
very politely) request something he wants; or to warn off
a perceived threat.
You can generally tell fairly easily from context and behavior
which of these reasons your dog has for barking.
If your neighbors complain that the dog
barks all day while youre away, your dog is probably
barking as a source of recreation. If she barks around dinnertime
or when you have something desirable, shes probably
making a loud request.
If your dog is barking at other people or dogs, watch his
body language. If he lifting his front legs off the ground
or bowing so that his shoulders and head are low and his rear
is up? Or are his front legs stiff and rigid? Is her tongue
hanging out or licking at the person or other dog? Or is her
tongue drawn back and not visible from the front?
If your dogs front legs are stiff and his tongue is
drawn back, he is probably not happy about the presence of
that person or dog. Hold the highest-value item you have in
front of your dogs nose and lure him away from the situation.
See our section on Socialization
for help in making your dog more comfortable around dogs or
people. If his tongue is hanging out and he is bending his
front elbows by lifting them up or bowing, he is making playful,
appeasing gestures and you just want to turn the volume down
If your dog barks a lot when youre
not at home, or when youre not paying attention to her,
she is probably barking for recreation. There are several
easy steps you can take to give her other, more enjoyable
activities, and cut down quickly on the barking.
1. If you keep your dog outside when youre away or when
youre not playing with him, the first step should be
to bring him inside. Things are much more stimulating outside
and so theres more going on that will activate your
dogs barking. Moreover, its much more disturbing
to your neighbors. Set up a quiet room indoors and put a radio
on quietly so that you eliminate or cover up many of the noises
that are stimulating your dog to bark. See our section on
Housetraining if youre afraid your dog will have accidents
or chew inappropriate items if hes left alone inside.
Also be sure to:
2. Provide appropriate entertainment. Dogs need to have activities
just as much as we do but they cant read the
newspaper or watch television. They need doggy things to do,
and its easy to provide them! The quickest and easiest
way is to stuff several hollow chew toys with your dogs
daily food ration. That way, not only do breakfast and dinnertime
become fun game time, but your dog develops a strong preference
for chewing on those toys when shes bored or stressed.
Heres how to Learn How to Stuff
a Chew Toy.
Barking from Excitement or Demand
Sometimes a dogs barking is his equivalent
of a little kids whining they do it for attention
or because they want something. Sometimes your dog may bark
out of sheer excitement, either because people or dogs are
visiting, or because hes about to get something else
that he wants.
The most simple way to gradually phase out this kind of barking
is to ignore your dog when she does it, and not pay attention
to her or give her the desired food item or toy (if shes
allowed to have it) until she shushes.
This can be difficult sometimes, especially at first, because
(1) the barking is just plain irritating thats
why it has probably worked in the past to get your dog attention
or other desired objects, and (2) if barking has worked in
the past for your dog, shes not going to give up right
away. At first, shell probably escalate the barking.
Since its always worked before, she wont be convinced
right away that it suddenly doesnt work; shell
think that she just needs to try harder, with more barking!
Only after a while and some repetition will she give up on
Be sure that you do also pay attention to her and reward her
when hes quietly sitting or lying down. You want him
to learn simultaneously that (1) barking does not work to
get what he wants, and (2) quietly standing, sitting, or lying
down does work to get what he wants.
Actively Shush Training
Another very important thing you can do
is to actively train the dogs to shush. First, put the barking
on command, so that you can initially work with on this at
easier times, such as when she doesnt particularly want
to bark. To do this, ask the dog to speak and
then make a noise (knocking on a piece of wood is usually
an effective noise) that will set her off barking. Ask her
to shush and waggle a very good treat under her nose. Once
she settles down and shushes, praise her and give her the
treat. Repeat until she begins to bark immediately upon hearing
the request to speak.
After she is barking reliably upon request, ask the dog to
bark when she is fairly calm and praise her for doing so;
then ask her to shush and waggle a treat in front
of her nose. When she stops to sniff, offer the treat and
praise the dog. Soon you will not need to present the treat
to get her to shush, she will learn that the word shush
is a precursor to a food reward if she is quiet.
Repeat this sequence many times no matter how long
it took him to shush the first time, it will get shorter and
shorter with repetition! Once your dog gets very good at shushing
when he doesnt particularly want to bark, it becomes
much easier for him to shush upon request when he is actively
barking at something. Gradually increase the difficulty level
(distraction and intensity) until you are able to shush
your dog at anytime, even when the mail carrier comes to the
Really? Ask my dog to bark?
We ask dogs to bark at first (and even
actively engage in getting them to bark by ringing a doorbell,
knocking on wood, etc.) so that they learn to bark upon request.
Once a dog will bark upon request, you can ask him to bark
when there are few bark-inducing stimuli around,
and thus he doesnt feel very much like barking. Consequently,
it is easier for him to shush when you request it, and easier
to repeat the sequence (speak, shush
with waggling treat, dog actually quiets down) until the dog
will reliably shush upon request in a relatively calm setting.
Once this foundation is set, it will be easier for him to
learn to shush when there are exciting stimuli in the area.
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