Barking is a natural reaction for most dogs. It’s excessive barking that’s bothersome. Your neighbours are complaining about the noise because it keeps them up at night. You may even be penalised because of the barking.
You have the right to live with a pet, and you also have the duty to ensure that they do not disturb other people. Sometimes you and your family are disturbed too.
Here are things you can do to stop your dog’s nuisance barking, and let everyone experience a peaceful, positive life with your dog.
How to stop nuisance barking
Provide their basic needs
Your dog might be barking because he needs something! They might want to go outside for a potty break. They might be thirsty or hungry. They might be feeling too hot or too cold. They might feel uncomfortable with their crate. Learn and observe their body language to understand when they’re trying to tell you something.
Make sure that you provide your dog’s basic needs. Give them enough food, and give them access to clean water every time they want to drink. If you're taking care of a growing puppy, remember that the amount of food you’ll give them will change eventually as they grow bigger.
If you’re crate training your dog, make sure their crate is comfortable for them. They have water and toys to keep them entertained. And don’t leave them, whether inside the crate or not, in too hot or too cold places.
Give them physical exercise and mental simulation
Dogs with excessive energy often bark excessively. They need a vent. This is especially true if your dog is a young puppy or a high-energy breed.
Make sure your dog gets enough mental and physical activity. You can take them for a short walk outside or in your backyard, or play fetch inside the house. Obedience training is a good mental exercise as it helps your dog refocus their energy.
Do this everyday before leaving them alone for any period of time. After all, a tired dog is a calm dog, and they won’t have that much energy to bark.
Let them socialise
If your dog barks excessively at other dogs, animals, and people, it might be because they aren’t socialised enough. They are less likely to bark if they have several positive encounters with people of all types and ages, including children, persons in wheelchairs, bicycles, etc.
Let your dog socialise with others. Let them watch the children playing in your street while on leash.
The more exposed your dog gets to new situations, sights, and noises, the less likely it is that they would respond negatively and bark.
Keep them entertained
When your dog is bored, they might bark at everything they see to ease their boredom. In this case, give them something to keep them entertained.
Give them interactive toys
Giving them chew toys might not be enough to keep them occupied, so it’s best to give them interactive toys they can play with. There are several interactive dog toys available that will keep your dog entertained. For instance, you can put food inside your dog's puzzle toy, and they would then have to work to get the treats out.
Also, try to limit the number of toys your dog plays with all at once. Easy access to all their toys may also lead to boredom.
Place treats in different areas around the house they can sniff
You can also place treats around the house that will keep them sniffing around. Place them around the lawn or in a sandpit. It’s also good to hang treats on a rope's end, or inside a treat ball, so they will jump and figure out a way to get it. Let your dog work hard to get the treats.
Manage their surroundings
Your dog might bark because they see something or someone outside, or is feeling anxious whenever you leave. Trainers often advise that when you go outside, leave your dog with some familiar sounds, such as a radio or television show. The idea is that these sounds represent home noises and make your dog feel that you are still around.
Barking at other dogs and people passing by
Close the curtains or move your dog to another room if they start to bark at people or animals passing by the living room window. When you leave the house, draw the curtains to prevent your dog from seeing things that could cause them to bark, be it squirrels or the mailman.
Teach them the ‘Quiet’ command
Teaching the "quiet" command is a common method to minimise excessive barking.
When your dog barks, you can tell him to "speak," and as soon as they stop, tell them "quiet," in a stern but calm voice. This teaches them what the word means.
Encourage their good behaviour with praise and goodies. As time passes by, wait for them to be quiet for longer and longer periods before rewarding them.
Desensitise them to their barking triggers
If your dog barks at particular situations or sounds, slowly get them accustomed to it. Start by placing their triggers far away. They must be far enough away for them to not bark upon seeing it. Give them a good amount of tasty snacks in exchange for maintaining eye contact with you without barking.
Bring the stimulus a bit closer, starting with a few inches or feet, and give them treats again. If they start barking, that means you've gone too near to the stimulus.
Try not to be stingy with treats. For example, when you’re on a dog walk and another dog passes by, give your dog high-value treats constantly as you go past the other dog quickly. Once there is enough space between your dog and the other dog, stop giving treats.
Repeat this process multiple times until your dog is already accustomed to other dogs and isn’t barking anymore when they see them.
Ignore the barking
Not all barking can be hushed by ignoring. But, if your dog is barking for attention or because they want something, like a reward or to play, then refusing to respond to them may help stop the barking.
Remember that consistency is key. If there are times you ignore them, and other times you tell them to "stop it", they’ll most likely continue barking because it worked—they got your attention. Don't reward the barking. Some dogs might still interpret eye contact as a reward when they bark.
Instead, reward them when they stop. Always have your small bag of treats with you and reward them for being quiet.
Use anti-bark collars
There are electronic devices on the market that are made to help you curb your dog's excessive barking habits, especially when you’re not around to stop them. Anti-bark collars are recommended to prevent excessive barking when other methods have failed.
These collars detect when your dog is barking, and prevents them from doing so by either releasing citronella spray or a static correction in a completely painless way. These collars are believed to be safe and effective in limiting nuisance behaviours.
Important: Check if there are underlying medical issues
If the barking appears to be related to any of the following conditions: abrupt behavioural changes, age, or anxiety, it’s best to rule out underlying medical issues and consult your veterinarian.
This change may indicate a health issue if the excessive barking suddenly occurred and is accompanied by other distress signals like panting, pacing, whining, and lip licking.
Taking a video of your pet's behaviour to show the vet makes it easier for them to determine any underlying health issue.
Dogs naturally bark to communicate with humans. But this behaviour becomes inappropriate if your dog develops the habit of barking at even the smallest external trigger.
We hope that this list will guide you in correcting your dog’s nuisance barking behaviour. Just keep in mind that results aren’t going to happen overnight! Keep in mind that the longer your dog has been doing the nuisance barking behaviour, the longer it will take for them to learn how to stop it.
Be patient, trust in the process, and trust your dog!