Barking Problems

Learn why dogs bark and teach them to be quiet and polite instead.

Introduction - Read This First!

The simple answer is: dogs don’t speak “Human” so the bark instead! Barking might be annoying to us, but a lot of times it’s just a dog’s way of communicating, getting attention, or having fun. In this lesson we’ll go over the different situations where dogs bark, and especially the ones that are inappropriate that we should stop. We’ll also go over how to avoid puppy barking before it starts, and how to stop barking that’s already started. 

Overview: Dog Bark Meanings

Reason 1: Barking is Dogs Talking!

The first thing to understand about barking is that with other dogs, it can be totally normal and appropriate communication. Think about how dogs don’t speak like we do, they only bark, growl, and make other noises. Go check out our lesson on FRIENDLY DOG PLAY to see all the different things that dogs do when they play with each other. Barking is one of them! Here’s some examples of dogs playing nicely and barking – nothing to be concerned about!: 

Reason 2: Dogs Can Bark Out Of Frustration

Sometimes dogs can get frustrated  when they can’t go say hello to a person or dog because there’s something in the way, like windows, doors, gates, or they’re on a leash.

IMPORTANT: This does not mean that your dog is aggressive or violent, it just means that you might want to teach them how to be calm when they can’t go say hi immediately. The lessons on JUMPING FOR ATTENTION can help with this, but it’s best to work on these issues with an experienced trainer. 

Reason 3: Barking Can Make Fun Things Happen!

Remember from HOW DOGS THINK that your dog is just like a 3-4 year old toddler who wants to get good things like food, treats, toys, and attention. They really aren’t trying to annoy you with their barking!

The problem is that dogs are really good at making connections – like when you look at them every time they bark. So if “bark at humans” means that “humans look at me and maybe give me attention”, then your dog will do it more!

Here are some examples of what NOT to do when your dog barks. Then we’ll show you how to stop and avoid it. 

Practice: Don't Accidentally "Teach" Your Dog To Bark For Attention

Part 1: Just Walk Away!

It’s very important to understand that puppies are a lot like babies. They need a lot of attention, a lot of naps, and they sometimes cry for no reason at all! But instead of crying, puppies will bark. So the best thing to do when they bark is to avoid giving them any attention at all. Remember HOW DOGS THINK – if you do something good after the barking, they’ll just do it more!: 

Now you have to keep in mind that all of these things can be considered a “reward” for dogs when they’re barking:

So when you have a puppy, make sure to do this:

Part 2: Recognize What Caused The Barking

Now you have to keep in mind that all of these things can be considered a “reward” for dogs when they’re barking:

So when you have a puppy, make sure to do this:

Part 3: Learn To Completely Ignore a Barking Puppy

So the best thing to do when you get a puppy is to first make sure they like going into their crate. Review how to do this in ALL ABOUT CRATES and when they are spending some time in the crate, DO NOT do anything that could be rewarding, like walking in the room or even talking to them. 

This is how you don’t let your puppy learn to start barking. But what if they already are doing it for attention? That’s covered in the next section…

Exercise: Teach Your Barking Dog To Be Quiet For Attention


Finally! Now what do we do with a dog that has already learned to bark at us to get attention, get food, throw the ball, or anything else? Simple: we need to teach them that the opposite is true instead. They won’t get any attention when they’re barking, and they’ll actually get lots of attention and toys and treats when they’re quiet. There’s always 2 parts to changing bad behavior: POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT and ignoring bad behavior, which is actually a kind of PUNISHMENT.

Pro Trainer Principles:
Never Use Punishment As The First Option For Training

Step 1: Ignore Barking

The first thing to do when teaching your dog to be more polite when they want something is to teach yourself not to give them any attention when they bark at you. Turn around immediately, stop playing, and maybe even walk away if they are being really bad. This is actually a type of PUNISHMENT, like time out. You are taking away all the fun and games! It should look something like this:

Step 2: Reward a Short Quiet Moment

Your dog will never learn to stop barking if you only ignore it. So the next thing to do after you’ve turned around a few times for barking is to start rewarding them for short periods of being quiet, even just a second or two! The easiest way to do this is to show your dog some reward, like a toy or a treat, as a “promise” for what they get if they’re quiet. It should look something like this:

If they understood the promise correctly, they might be quiet for a few seconds. Then you can give them the toy or treat. It should look like this: 

Step 3: Wait Quietly Longer and Longer

Now that your dog is understanding that the quiet is getting them rewards and the barking is getting you to turn away and ignore them, it’s time to make this tougher! After repeating the quiet exercise, add another second to how long your dog has to wait to get their reward. Don’t progress too fast though, because they might get too frustrated! Hopefully you can progress like this:

Still Have Questions?

Still Have Questions?

Ask About Anything Not Covered In This Lesson

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