Barking Dog: Getty Images
In most cases, a dog that won’t stop barking isn’t doing it because he’s aggressive—it’s because he’s anxious. Here, experts weigh in on the best way to calm your dog and cut down on the excessive barking.
1. Don’t punish a dog for excessive barking.
Shouting at your dog when he barks or using a bark-activated citronella collar not only aren’t effective—they may make the barking worse.
“Punishment can increase the anxiety, frustration, or aggression that is causing the barking in the first place, leading to even more barking, not to mention it may put the owner at risk of being bitten,” says Carlo Siracusa, DVM and lecturer in small animal behavior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
2. Keep him busy.
The best way to stop a dog's excessive barking is to prevent it from happening in the first place by keeping him busy with a Kong (a hollow rubber toy that’s nearly indestructible). Instead of feeding the dog from a bowl, pack his food into a Kong and then freeze it, which will take the dog a few hours to empty at breakfast and dinnertime—and during that time, he won’t be barking.
“The calming effect of having the dog concentrate on getting his food out of the Kong will last all day and typically reduces barking by 90 percent,” says Nicholas Dodman, the Director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.
3. Teach a “quiet” command.
Though the idea of saying “quiet” and having your dog's barking hush up may seem like a dream sequence, it can actually be taught fairly easily.
Start with mild barking situations (it’s easier to teach a cue then than when he’s going full-on bananas), and when he stops barking, even for a few seconds, say “quiet” and reward him with a treat.
“Of course, inviting the dog to be calm and quiet should be done in a calm and quiet voice, not yelling,” reminds Siracusa. Once the dog learns that he gets a treat only if he stops barking, you can have him anticipate the treat just with you saying the command “quiet.”