How to Understand Your Dog’s Barking and Get It Under Control

Getting a new dog is incredibly exciting. But bringing your new friend home and learning you’ve got a barker on your hands means you’re going to need to put in some work. Read on for a closer look at why dogs bark, and then some tips and tricks you can try to get your furry friend to bark less.

1. They want something

Happy Dog Standing Up and Smiling

He just wants attention. | Citysqwirl/iStock/Getty Images

The first reason your dog may bark is because they want something. Whether it be your attention, food, toys, or to go outside, its not uncommon for dogs to let their owners know vocally that they’re in need of something.

Next: Everyone’s favorite type of barking

2. Excited barking

Woman Greeting Irish Terriers at Front Door

They may just be excited to see you. | Ryan McVay/iStock/Getty Images

The sweet little yelps your dog makes when they’re excited should be music to your ears (no need to stop a bark like this unless it’s getting out of hand). Your dog may bark excitedly when they’re playing with you outside, on a car ride, when they realize they’re going on a walk, or when they see you preparing their next meal.

Next: This bark may sound viscous, but it really means your dog is scared. 

3. Fear

Cute barking dog not aggressive on leash

They’re trying to scare of whatever is making them afraid. | alexei_tm/iStock/Getty Images

This is a good bark to be keyed into because you should know when your dog is scared. “While fear-barking sounds menacing, it’s a result of a dog trying to put distance between itself and something frightening,” says PetMd.

Next: When your dog misses you

4. Separation anxiety

Howling Beagle

It will be more whimper-y than normal. | LivingThroughTheLens/iStock/Getty Images

Some dogs experience more separation anxiety than others, but, for the most part, all dogs miss their owners when they leave. A separation distress bark sounds more like a whimper than a bark, and there’s no real way to know if your dog does it when you leave unless you get complaints from your neighbors or you set up a doggy cam.

Next: When your dog thinks they own the place

5. Territorial barking

Aggressive dog is barking

They can get aggressive with their bark. | Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

Territorial barking can occur when someone or something enters an area that your dog feels ownership over. Keep an eye out for a territorial body posture that typically accompanies this type of bark.

“Dogs who are alert or who are feeling dominant and territorial will look really stiff,” says Good Doggies. “They establish eye contact, tails remain upright and still, and ears are perked up Their hackles can also be raised.”

Next: Ways to get your dog to start barking less

6. Desensitize your dog to the stimulus

Two curious dogs trying to meet

Get your dog used to other dogs. | DjelicS/iStock/Getty Images

The Humane Society recommends the desensitization method for getting dogs to bark less. Say your dog barks when they see other dogs. Have your friend with a dog stand far away from you and your dog and slowly have them move closer to you. As they move closer and closer, give your dog treats. Stop giving your dog treats as soon as they disappear from view again. Take your time and repeat as needed (the process could take multiple days or weeks).

Next: How to get your dog to quit barking at things outside the window

7. Block their view

Shaggy terrier dog looking out window with sad expression

Block their view so they don’t see people going by. | Adogslifephoto/iStock/Getty Images

If your dog is a territorial barker and just sits at the window waiting to bark at people and things that go by your house, simply obstruct their view. Start by closing your blinds or installing a temporary privacy window film. Pet Md says to place the film a few inches above your dog’s sight line and then gradually lower it inch by inch over the course of several weeks to make your dog less interested in staring out the window and barking.

Next: First you teach them to “speak,” then you team them “quiet”

8. The “quiet” command

Training a dog

You can train your dog to be quiet on command. | Kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

To teach the “quiet” command, first you need to teach your dog to bark on command. Once you teach your dog to “speak,” you can teach them how to be quiet.

“In a calm environment with no distractions, tell him to ‘speak.’ When he starts barking, say ‘quiet’ and stick a treat in front of his nose. Praise him for being quiet and give him the treat,” says the Humane Society. Practice in increasingly distracting situations, starting in a quiet room and working your way up to when someone’s at the door.

Next: Why it’s important to socialize your dog

9. Make sure your dog is properly socialized

Three dogs running at dog park with a stick outside in the dirt.

Make sure they get plenty of time with other dogs and people. | studio-laska/iStock/Getty Images

If your dog gets anxious or aggressive towards people they don’t know, the best thing you can do is socialize them. Good Doggies says dogs who are socialized adjust easier to unknown situations and people, and are better are greeting both guests and strangers alike.

Next: This one may test your patience, but it can be very effective.  

10. Ignore the barking

domestic dog waiting for biscuit in the garden

Give them a treat when they stop barking. | Pakornkrit/iStock/Getty Images

Another anti-barking technique the Humane Society teaches is to ignore your dog’s barking. Many times when a dog barks, they’re looking for attention or a reaction. Don’t acknowledge your dog’s barking at all. When they finally stop, reward them with a treat.

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