How To Stop a Dog From Barking

Teresa Manucy, DVM
By Teresa Manucy, DVM. Reviewed by

Erika Lessa, CBST, CDBT, CDBC, CPDT-KA, Fear-Free Certified

Updated Apr. 29, 2024
brown border collie barking

smrm1977/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

In This Article

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Barking is a common way for dogs to express their feelings, but excessive dog barking can be frustrating and alarming—and possibly a sign of an underlying behavioral issue. It’s important to determine the reason why your dog is barking so the behavior can be quickly addressed.

So, how do you stop a dog from barking? Here’s some insight on why dogs bark and tips for how to train a dog to stop barking.

Key Takeaways

  • Barking is a natural, normal behavior that dogs do for many different reasons.
  • The key to stopping or reducing barking is to understand why your dog is barking.
  • Never punish your dog for barking or use an anti-barking device.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

There are many reasons why dogs bark, including when they’re:

  • Alert: Making pet parents aware that someone or something is approaching

  • Social: When greeting people or other pets

  • Excitement: During play or other fun activities the dog enjoys

  • In need or bored: To get your attention when they need something like food, water, attention, be let out, or play (also called “attention-seeking”)

  • Emotional distress and anxiety: Separation, isolation, and/or confinement anxiety

  • Guarding: To protect their possessions or property

  • Defensive: To warn or defend against a perceived threat or danger

  • Frustrated: They can’t access what they want fast enough (for example, wanting to greet a guest but are confined to their crate)

  • Startled: When they’re surprised

Some dogs may be experiencing a psychological issue, such as separation anxiety, that causes them to bark or howl excessively. Medical conditions, such as hearing loss with advancing age, can also contribute to dog barking. These conditions require a visit to their veterinarian, behavior vet, or a certified applied animal behaviorist to diagnose and treat.

How To Stop a Dog From Barking

Barking is a natural, normal behavior that most breeds are born knowing how to do. To train a dog to stop barking or to bark less, there are a few methods you can try. 


Managing the environment is the first step. Once you understand which types of barking your dog is likely to display, you can work on changing the ways your dog is exposed to barking triggers.

For alert barking inside the home, privacy film on windows can reduce barking without any training at all. If your dog barks at a sound, playing soothing music or using a white noise machine can help your dog relax and reduce the alert barking.

Another example is meeting the daily needs of your dog. Once the dog is content, the need for attention-seeking barking will disappear.

A satisfied, content dog will not need to use barking to get attention.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Training is another way to stop some forms of excessive dog barking. The most successful method is positive reinforcement, which strengthens or increases behavior by delivering something the dog wants right after they perform the desired behavior.

To reduce barking, you can teach your dog to bark a certain number of times and then cue them to a second behavior, like running to a mat, and deliver a treat there. With enough practice, your dog will bark a set number of times before going to their mat and waiting quietly for their treat.

Whenever your dog is quiet and well-behaved around a stimulus (such as a new person), offer them a treat. Over time, your dog will learn that good things come to them when they’re not barking.

One note of caution: If your dog is already excited around guests, adding delicious food may lead to an increase in “excitement” barking. Contacting a certified trainer or behavior consultant may be helpful.

Teach a ‘Quiet’ (Calm) Verbal Cue

Begin using a calm verbal cue such as “quiet” to let your dog know that it is time to stop barking.

Start with training sessions where you reinforce quiet behavior. For example, if your dog barks while playing, stop the game, wait for three full seconds of quiet, then mark and feed the dog a treat or resume playing to reinforce quiet. Repeat this step until the dog stops barking as soon as you stop playing. Next, add the cue, “quiet,” count for three seconds of quiet, then mark and feed a treat.

Once your dog learns the calm verbal cue, “quiet,” you can use it during times of unwanted barking, such as the ring of a doorbell or the sound of other dogs barking, to prompt the quiet response (aka to stop the barking). When your dog stops barking when they hear the cue, toss them a treat or two as reinforcement.

If you are having any trouble with your barking dog, reach out to a certified professional can help with meeting your training goals.

What You Shouldn’t Do

It’s also important to know what you shouldn’t do to stop a dog from barking. Remember that barking is a behavior that serves a communicative function. The pet parent’s first step is always to assess the underlying motivation for the barking before deciding how to handle it.

Don’t Reinforce Attention-Seeking Barking

If your dog barks for attention or to get something from you, it’s important that you don’t reinforce their barking by attending to them at that moment. Instead, identify what they need and use positive reinforcement to teach a replacement behavior. For example, if a dog learns that sitting by the door is what gets you to open it and that barking doesn’t, they will be more likely to sit by the door instead of bark.

More importantly, pet parents must assess their dog’s daily routine to ensure that all physical, mental, and emotional needs are met. A satisfied, content dog will not need to use barking to get attention.

If your dog continues to bark even after you provide what they need, consult with a veterinary behaviorist, a certified applied animal behaviorist, or a certified behavior consultant.  

Remember that barking is a behavior that serves a communicative function. The pet parent’s first step is always to assess the underlying motivation for the barking before deciding how to handle it.

Never Punish Your Dog

You should never use punishment for dog barking. Examples of punishment would be:

  • Yelling or making loud noises

  • Throwing objects

  • Spraying water at your dog

  • Using anti-barking devices, such as citronella-spraying collars or shock collars

Scaring or threatening a dog may temporarily interrupt the barking behavior, but in the long run it can make the problem worse. Using aversive stimulation may cause aggression and phobias, and they will lead to high levels of stress that block your dog’s ability to learn. They may even associate the distress with you, leading to your dog avoiding you in certain situations. Or worse: They may begin to display defensively aggressive behaviors directed at you.

Should I Use an Anti-Dog Barking Device?

Barking is a natural behavior that dogs are born knowing how to do. Because there are many causes for barking and all of them involve some emotional piece, using anti-barking devices such as shock collars is a short-term fix that causes long-term problems.

When a dog is shocked or sprayed with something, they may stop barking for the moment—though, they might not. They may also become increasingly frustrated, scared, and anxious about having a primary source of communication shut down. This is emotionally unhealthy for dogs and leaves us at a disadvantage because we will no longer be aware of our dog’s physical or emotional state.

How To Prevent Dog Barking

You can also reduce your dog’s barking by:

  • Increasing your dog’s amount of exercise and playtime

  • Keeping a consistent daily schedule

  • Ensuring your dog’s food and water needs are met

  • Providing mental stimulation with puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys

  • Use positive reinforcement to teach your dog to ask for what they need quietly

  • Buffer the outside by using privacy film and leaving on music or the TV to create white noise

These steps will go a long way toward preventing the habit of excessive barking from developing in the first place. A content dog is a quiet dog.

Teresa Manucy, DVM


Teresa Manucy, DVM


Dr. Teresa Manucy is a 1997 graduate of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed an internship in small...

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