How To Train Your Dog To Stop Barking

One of the most common questions asked by dog owners is how to get their dog to stop barking. Follow our step-by-step guide to train your dog not to bark.

How To Train Your Dog To Stop Barking
Here's a step by step guide for how to train your dog to stop barking.
Why Dogs Bark What To Do Training Guide Summary

One of the most common questions asked by dog owners is how to get their dog to stop barking. Unwanted barking can quickly grow into a major problem, especially when it’s not addressed early on. The type of barking we are addressing isn’t the occasional bark to alert you to a stranger, it’s the persistent barking for seemingly no reason. I’m sure you know the kind. The type that drives you insane while you’re trying to work, watch TV, or just enjoy some time alone.

It’s important to note that most dogs are likely to bark if something is out of the ordinary. It’s totally natural behavior and is to be expected. While this article will teach you steps to mitigate any type of barking, you should still expect your dog to alert you by barking when there’s an urgent or unusual situation. It’s the prolonged barking which you should train against.

Why dogs bark at the door

Barking is a form of communication for dogs. Dogs bark to greet people, when they get excited, and when they desire your attention. They also bark when they are worried or afraid. Dogs are aware of their surroundings in a way that humans are not, so they are able to alert us of things we cannot hear or see. We break the reasons for barking into two groups: excitement and fear.

To tell if your dog is excited, look for these signs:

  • To tell if your dog is excited, look for these signs:
  • Running straight for the door when the doorbell rings/someone knocks
  • Running back and forth between you and the door in anticipation
  • Your dogs tail is wagging or even fully body wagging (a sign they’re really happy)
  • Your dog is barking so hard that they begin panting

To tell if the excessive barking is because of fear, look for these stress signals in dogs:

  • Ears pulled back
  • Tail hung low and/or between the legs
  • Shaking, pacing, or spinning
  • Head lowering or turning away

If you find your dog exhibiting any of the above behaviors when the doorbell rings or someone knocks on the door, it’s most likely that she’s afraid of the sound.

The primary reason behind unwanted barking is due to your dog not having enough of a mental or physical outlet. Thus it’s found most commonly with dogs that are bored and aren’t getting enough exercise. Without sufficient exercise, your dog doesn’t know where to direct all their pent-up energy. If you have one of the high-energy dog breeds, it’s especially important that they are getting enough exercise.

The most frustrating reason that dogs bark is related to a dogs anxiety around being left alone–regardless of whether it’s for a few minutes or a few hours. This is especially common with puppies who are still learning and haven’t yet figured out the routine to life. To a puppy, they can’t imagine why you’d ever leave them alone in the first place. Over time they will learn that it’s okay to be alone.

To tackle behavioral issues such as barking, we have to address the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.

What to do about barking

Similar to any other sort of behavioral dog training, the best time to address unwanted barking is not when your dog is already having in a barking fit. As an example, if your dog often barks when the mailman drops of the mail and you try to train your dog to stop barking right then, you’re unlikely to succeed. Dogs prefer to have your undivided attention. To get your dog to stop barking, you need to create predefined training sessions which will collectively work to minimize barking.

How To Stop Barking When Someone Knocks At The Door

Estimated Training Time: 14 days.

How To Stop Barking When Someone Knocks At The Door

  1. Start with the basics

    Before you begin the training exercises for barking, your dog must first be taught the basic “sit”, “stay”, and “leave it” commands. It’s critical that you’re able to reliably get your dogs attention so you can override their impulse to bark at something. It’s also important that you have exercised your dog before each training session.

  2. Set up training “simulation” sessions

    Depending on what you’re training your dog to stop barking at, you want to simulate the event that causes the barking. For example, maybe your dog barks when he hears a knock at the door. So, you could ask a friend or neighbor to knock at your door to simulate the event that triggers the barking. 

    First, ask your dog to sit and then stay to make sure you have his undivided attention. It’s recommended that you use treats as a reward for good behavior.

  3. Have the person lightly knock once

    Since you know that the knock is coming, you are in an ideal position to immediately request that your dogs attention stays fixed on you. Tell him, “Look at me.” And when he does, give him a a treat. Since we are starting out with only one knock, this part of the training should go smoothly fairly early in your training.

    If your dog isn’t responding to the training, take a step back by having the other person only approach the door without knocking or ask them to just stay on the sidewalk outside your house–whatever it takes to achieve the first success.

  4. Have the person lightly knock once

    Since you know that the knock is coming, you are in an ideal position to immediately request that your dogs attention stays fixed on you. Tell him, “Look at me.” And when he does, give him a a treat. Since we are starting out with only one knock, this part of the training should go smoothly fairly early in your training.

    If your dog isn’t responding to the training, take a step back by having the other person only approach the door without knocking or ask them to just stay on the sidewalk outside your house–whatever it takes to achieve the first success.

  5. Increase to two knocks on the door

    It’s time to take things up a notch. Ask your helper to knock twice on the door this time. Continue doing this until your dog is consistently giving you attention as the knocking occurs. Your goal is to gradually work your way up to a steady knock that is more likely to resemble real-life. Depending on how persistent your neighbors are, that could be anywhere from five or six raps on the door followed by a “Hello? Are you home? I can see your car in the driveway and your lights are on,” in a loud voice. Training works best when administered nice and slow, with no step ever being considerably more hard than the previous one. You’ll want to repeat this exercise as often as possible, ideally twice a day for two to four weeks.

  6. Add some variety

    Now that your dog understands the basics, it’s time to add some variety. For example, if your dog barks at the vacuum cleaner, using the same logic as before don’t wait until it’s time to vacuum. Rather, turn on the vacuum for a half a second and reward for quiet behavior before your dog has a chance to bark, gradually increasing the time that the vacuum is on to two seconds, ten seconds, one minute, three minutes, and so on. The underlying theme of these exercises is that you must be in a position to control and manipulate the things which cause your dog to bark.

  7. Begin training for spontaneous situations

    So far, we’ve put our dog in a position of anticipating the knock in a simulated situation which we controlled. It’s time to apply the lessons learned from the primary lessons to situations which seem even more spontaneous from your dogs perspective to catch him completely off guard. In the first five steps, your dog and you both knew a training session was underway, but now only you do. You’re still in full control of the knocking and prepared to either reinforce good behavior or redirect undesired behavior.

  8. Start the first surprise lesson

    When your dog isn’t paying attention, grab a treat and knock on the door, kitchen counter, or coffee table one or two times. Then instantly request your dogs attention before he even has the chance to bark. Vigorously reward the early achievements. Even if you have to hold the treat directly to your dog’s nose and reward for a fraction of a second of silence, then consider this an early success. If your dog continues to struggle with this surprise exercise, then take a step back and master the previous steps more thoroughly.

  9. Find new ways to catch your dog off guard

    Over the next few weeks, find new, creative ways to catch your dog off guard. Maybe you know that a delivery person is coming to the door. Rather than prematurely opening the door, allow him to knock. When he does, get your dog’s full attention on you by asking for a “look at me.” Reward accordingly. At first, you might experience some setbacks. Remember, we are teaching our dogs to override their natural instincts to bark when something has their attention. This is no small feat. Don’t be deterred, stay the course, and most importantly keep things fun and positive for both of you! Like us, dogs have their good days and their not-so-good days. Be prepared to reduce or increase the difficulty as needed during any given training session.

Final Thoughts

So far, we’ve gone over how to teach your dog not to bark at all. While that’s a good way to gain traction on this issue, it’s not recommended that you remain tolerant to minor barking. For example, one or two barks might be okay when someone knocks at your door or gets close to your property. If so, let those barks go as if to say, “Thank you for letting me know something is out there.” However, if the barking continues after one or two barks, then escort your dog away and apply all of the steps that have been outlined in this section. Remember to be patient and stay consistent and within time your dog will learn that it’s okay to bark just a few times when he wants to alert you to something.

To tackle behavioral issues such as barking, we have to address the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms. If you follow the steps outline above, you will have your dogs barking under control and the framework which can be applied to a number of other behaviors.

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