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Help For Dogs Who Bark Excessively

Long before the invention of electronic security systems, dogs were used to literally sounding the alarm in the form of barking. With their acute sense of hearing, they could easily detect noises from long distances and were and still are a great deterrent to avert burglaries and other crime.


But some dogs take this too far and bark at almost everything, from something as innocuous as a falling leaf to a squirrel running across the yard. In other words, they are overreacting to virtually all stimuli. How do we humans teach them not to bark so much?

Let me preface this by saying that as a single woman, I was grateful when my dog barked if someone she did not know stepped onto our property. So I advocate what I think of as selective barking: it is perfectly OK for a dog to act in a protective manner – what we want to eliminate is inappropriate, excessive barking.

Many dog trainers and behaviorists encourage humans to ignore all unwanted behavior from a dog, but I disagree! That’s not unlike ignoring your child’s bullying – I say address it and nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand.

For excessive barking, start by letting your dog know that you do not want him to bark. How? When the behavior starts, gently but firmly grab your dog’s muzzle, look her in the eyes and quietly but firmly say, “No bark.” It is important to do this when your dog is barking and as soon as possible after it starts. I have even pulled over to the side of the road when driving to do this with a dog in my backseat who was careening around, yammering like crazy when she spotted another dog out walking!

If your dog wants to please you and most of them do, she will immediately start to try and understand what you are asking of her. Continue to reinforce this as long as it takes and when she stops barking, immediately pet her, praise her, smile broadly and say, “Good girl, good no bark!”, repeating your command so she associates the praise with what you asked.

But what if your dog barks when you’re not at home? Remember that dogs are pack animals and, like us, sociable creatures – most of them don’t like being left alone for long periods of time. Simply put, they get lonely and bored. Please don’t even get a dog if you are gone all day unless you are able and willing to have someone come and walk your dog and play with him for a good hour or so!

I suggest having an inside crate for your dog too – this is her place, her den and it provides comfort and security when you are gone. Leave toys inside and something that you have left your scent on – a blanket or an old T-shirt.

But if you still get a tense call from a neighbor about barking, and you have someone coming by to walk your dog every day, then it’s time to go to the next level, an anti-bark collar. These come in a variety of forms but the first and least aggressive type is a citronella spray collar which spritzes a harmless, but annoying spray of citronella that is meant to stop the barking. Your dog will learn to avoid this unpleasant experience by being quiet.

If that does not work, (but please give it time – at least a few days – and let your neighbors know that you are actively working on the barking problem) you can ramp it up another notch by using an electronic anti-bark collar. Generally, these collars come in 2 types: those that emit tones and those that shock. I always recommend using the tone type first and as a very last resort, the shock collar. Never, ever have your dog’s vocal cords surgically removed!!

All of these collars work well for dogs who are barking outside too.

Over the years of spending hundreds of hours working with dogs, I have noticed that young dogs who are still in the learning curve about the big wide world can overreact to it and that once they mature, they mellow out. Another thing that helps adult dogs is a minimum of one hour of what I think of as exercise and exposure. Take your dog out, go for walks! They love it, it helps you stay trim and by exposing them in a positive way to their world on a daily basis, they learn that it’s fun, exciting and safe – a perfect antidote for boredom!

Exercising and playing with your dog is also a wonderful way to bond with him and having that close, loving bond will only increase his desire to please you, which in turn will make changing any undesirable behavior so much easier.


About the Author: Deborah Dobson is the author of many articles about her favorite species – dogs! A strong advocate of the human-animal bond as the basis for behavioral work and training for dogs, she recommends spending as much quality time with your canine friends as possible. You’ll reap immeasurable rewards and have a true friend for life.

She has developed an Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) program for at-risk teens and homeless dogs called C.A.R.E., Canine Advocates for Rehabilitation and Education which can be visited online at

Deborah is looking forward to working on a series of books about dogs and the people who work closely with them called “By the Grace of Dog”.