We all know barking is a part of a puppy’s language; however, sounds like howling, whining, barking and crying can drive us, and our neighbors, crazy. If you live out in the country with few and distant neighbors, you might have a more relaxed view on puppy barking. Since most of us do not live in a rural area, puppy sounds are not funny.
Barking is as natural to dogs as talking is to humans. A dog barks to communicate with you but also with other puppies or dogs. Of course, barking is not the only way your puppy communicates with you. Your puppy uses all her body from the happy wagging tail to her beautiful eyes. However barking is your puppy’s immediate way to tell you about what she sees, smell, hears, feels and fears.
Here are some tips to help you decipher the different sounds your puppy makes and figure out what she means. In addition to that, here are the tools necessary to stop unwanted puppy barking, regardless of the reason.
If you’d like a visual presentation that goes even more in-depth I’d also recommend this workshop by Dr. Alexa Diaz (PHD).
The Science of Barking: Variations in Puppy Language
Most of us recognize the sounds a puppy makes when she’s excited because you come home. It’s not exactly barking, but a message your puppy sends by making powerful sounds. She may even start whining in anticipation when she hears you outside the door.
This sound will often turn into yelping as you come inside. A puppy is a pack animal and she will use whimpering or yelping to communicate distress to another pack member, including you. She’s basically telling you that it has been so awful being without you. Most animals want to please their family, other household pets like cats, and pack group members who react positively to this display of submissiveness and love.
Puppies and dogs make other sounds, too. It can be growling, which is often a warning you should stop what you are doing right now. Instead, back off and find out how you can make your puppy feel at ease again. But, it can also be the soundstage for a game of tug. It could also mean nothing more than a sign to let you know they are having fun.
Some dogs also howl, like the Siberian husky, for example. Certain breeds howl for several minutes when a police car, fire truck or an ambulance drives by with their sirens turned on. The dog is answering the sirens as they would answer a pack member howling far away to let them know they are not alone. Imagine how frustrating it must be that the police car just passes by (hopefully it passes by!)
Why You Should Not Shut Your Puppy Up Completely
All the above goes to show that your puppy has a voice. She tries to communicate with you all the time. In terms of communicating, barking is often the preferred voice for dogs. Because of this, you must neither expect to eliminate your puppy’s bark completely nor should it be your goal. So, how should you control the barking while reassuring your puppy by taking the responsibility away from her?
There is a way to train your puppy giving yourself, your neighbors and last, but not least, your puppy calm and tranquility. Keep reading and I’ll share my best training advice.
The Real Reasons Your Puppy Barks
In general, you can divide the reasons for a puppy’s barking into two categories:
First, to control the barking, figure out why your puppy is barking each time. If your puppy is barking because of worries, calm her down by reassuring her. By taking this step to let your puppy know you care and are in control, she’ll let go of her need to alert you and eventually she’ll be more calm and stop barking.
So watch your dog. If your puppy is barking because of excitement, you don’t want to talk to her. This will only get her even more excited and happy, prolonging the barking. Instead, you must ignore her to calm your puppy down, so you can communicate properly with her.
Of course, there are other reasons for barking, but these are the main categories so let’s take a closer look at the two – worry and excitement.
When Worries Make Your Puppy Bark
A puppy barks when she is frightened or worried because she wants to alarm you. A puppy will bark to let you know someone is coming, going or passing, whether it is on foot, on a bicycle or in a car. Some dogs will bark because they need food or water. Others make noises to let you know they need some human contact and want to start playing.
No matter what, your puppy is telling you something is going on and you should know about it. Even though one bark is enough, some puppies have trouble stopping themselves. Your main goal here is to reassure your puppy calmly, and she’ll respond by quieting down.
How to Train Your Dog to Be Calm and Stop Barking Because of Worries
How do you make your puppy understand you heard her the first time, so she can stop barking? Acknowledge her worrying first, and then tell your puppy to be quiet and, at the same time, lure her with the favorite treat.
Most puppies can’t bark and smell or chew something at the same time.
When your puppy keeps quiet, reward her. Because her mouth is busy she’ll not be able to bark again. You have interrupted her and now you just need to ask her for something, a sit or down to keep her mind of whatever made her bark.
Prolong the time she must be quiet before you reward her, bit by bit. Here’s how to make sure you wait long enough between barks the first time, so you don’t reward the barking:
- The first time, reward your puppy for being silent for just five seconds.
- The second time, withhold the treat for 10 seconds.
- Every time your puppy succeeds, wait a little longer before giving a treat.
- Eventually, you will simply train the behavior away.
Simple Steps for Staging an Unwanted Behavior
In some instances, to train a behavior away, you first have to stage it. And to stage it, you need to know what sets your puppy off. Next, stage the setting that makes her bark. If your puppy barks when strangers come over, ask a friend to come over a lot, so you can train her behavior away. If your puppy barks because your guests are outside, keep them there! Make them come and go a couple of times every day, for as long as it takes. It will take a few friends several days, but if you persist, your puppy’s behavior will change.
Don’t start your training at the door, because this is probably your puppy’s main concern. Instead, start away from the door, such as in the living room or kitchen. When your friend walks towards the house and your puppy barks, tell her to be quiet and give her a treat for obeying. When your pup succeeds, move closer to the door. Remember the closer your puppy is to the problem, the bigger it may seem to her.
Stop Barking inside the House: Why Variation is the Key
If your puppy barks when someone comes into the house, you can also train this behavior away. Be sure to involve more friends so your puppy does not get used to just one “stranger.” In this case, let your friends bring some tasty treats. When your friend arrives, your puppy will bark. Your friend must ignore her and not approach her until she is quiet.
When this happens your friend can pay her attention. However, he should not walk toward your puppy as this can frighten her even more. So he stays put, but offers her the tasty treats and praises her for being quiet. If she overcomes her fright and approaches him, he’ll feed her and talk calmly to her. If she starts barking again, he just ignores her.
As long as your puppy is quiet, your friends can feed her treats to show her someone coming through the door is a positive thing. Generally, you want your puppy to see strangers outside or inside as a possibility to get praise and treats, and not as a threat.
The Right Dose of Distraction
Your puppy might not be so worried that you need to lure her to stop paying attention to what is happening outside. Instead, you can divert her attention. Try it when you see your puppy picking up that someone is coming. The sure signs of this are when the ears rise and she lifts her head to look at the door or window. This is when you immediately ask your puppy to focus on you. Make her do some attention exercises. For inspiration, look at this helpful article, here.
When your puppy’s focus is on you, your friend can come all the way into your home without any barking at all. If this is the case, be sure to reward your puppy for being quiet and allow her to say hello to your friend in a calm manner. Remember, if your puppy is hard to divert, add a little distance to what troubles her. Distance makes the problem seems smaller to a puppy. So adding distance will enable you to divert your puppy’s attention more easily.
When Your Puppy is Alone in the House
What if someone passes by your home and you’re not there to calm, correct or distract your puppy? Over time, if you practice the training tips previously mentioned, your puppy will learn there is no danger. She’ll relax, even with people outside your home. But in the meantime, draw the curtains to keep your puppy from looking out into the street and to muffle the sounds. Also, leave your radio or television on to make it harder for your puppy to pick up on other sounds. This will help them relax and they’ll have a better time when they are alone in the house.
Barking Due to Excitement: All About Atlas
A puppy that barks out of excitement is a common experience. It can be cute; nevertheless, too much of it can become annoying, so you want to control this. Some dogs bark when you put on clothes or shoes that indicate an activity that normally includes them. As a dog owner myself, and for my pup, Atlas, it is when I take on my hunting clothes.
Atlas gets excited and may bark if I pick up my keys or I’m not wearing my everyday working clothes when I head for the door. He simply wants to make sure I remember to bring him along. He also wants to tell me how excited he is about us going out together.
Remember, for dogs barking, howling and whining are how they communicate.
I think it’s sweet when Atlas gets excited at the prospect of being with me. I live in the country and my neighbors don’t live close by. This is a good thing because Atlas has a terrible voice when he is excited. When he is worried, it’s a completely different and frightening bark, but that is okay – strangers must know I have dogs. However, Atlas has a bark of excitement that is terrible. It is loud and stridently and you much be his mum to endure it.
For this reason, I see the benefits of being able to control Atlas when he barks out of excitement. I will explain some of the lessons I’ve used below, so keep reading.
How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking Because of Excitement
First, the main key to train a puppy not to bark out of excitement is to know the trigger. Every dog has different triggers they react to, so it is important to recognize them to effectively train them away.
Ignore Your Puppy to Get Them to Relax
Once you have found out the main trigger, seek it out. When your puppy starts barking, try to ignore her. Remember, your puppy barks at you to show you her joy and excitement. So, if you resist the urge to react, your puppy will lose her motivation to bark.
This kind of training takes patience and consistency, just like all puppy training. If your puppy barks every time you head for the door, don’t try to train when you are actually going out. It’s important that you are not in a hurry. If you really just need to get out of the door, crate your puppy before you leave – this is not the time to train.
This is because once you start training, you must not allow your puppy to get out of the door when she barks at it – ever. Instead, train her when you are not going out and have more time. If you want to be calm and relaxed with your puppy, you must have a lot of time on your hands and no other place to be. Your puppy will pick up on your calmness when you don’t feel the need to rush, which will relax her, too.
Turn Away When They Bark, Then Rinse and Repeat
It is necessary to ignore your puppy when she barks in excitement. If she barks when you head for the door, you must turn around and go back. This will make her go quiet (and disappointed!) Leave your puppy there for a minute or two, and then try again. If she starts barking again, turn around again.
Sit down, pick up a magazine and relax. This may confuse your puppy, but it’ll be quiet. Repeat until your puppy understands barking will not get her any closer to what she desires, and in fact to the contrary.
Cue Your Puppy to Be Quiet
Another way to control the barking is to cue your puppy to be quiet. Just as mentioned above, tell her to be quiet while holding out a great treat. As your puppy smells it instead of barking, praise and reward her. This type of positive reinforcement is a powerful training tool. Be consistent and you’ll see results over time.
Train to Go Fetch Instead of Barking
Many dogs like to carry things. You can teach your puppy to carry things instead of barking when she gets excited. Start by teaching your puppy to take something in her mouth when she gets excited. This must be something your puppy doesn’t have the opportunity to play with unless you give it to her. It must also be a real treat for your puppy to have. If your puppy is not a natural “carrier”, you might have to train this behavior before your “go fetch” training will work and for this a tug-toy works the best. The immediate reward for putting in the hours of training is the fact that your puppy can’t bark with something in the mouth.
However, for your puppy, this is also a big reward because she likes to carry this thing. You may allow your puppy to play a bit with you and the tug-toy. In time, your puppy will pick up anything lying on the floor when she gets excited instead of barking. This is how you know you’ve reached your goal.
Startle the Bark Out of Your Puppy
Finally, you can interrupt your puppy’s barking with a loud sound or sudden action. The sound must appear as if it has nothing to do with you. Make something fall to the ground with a noise to startle your puppy. This will make her quiet, even if it’s just for seconds. In this window of silence, praise and reward your puppy. Always remember when your puppy stops barking, reward her for this good behavior to help her make the connection.
For this to work, it’s important that your puppy doesn’t think you are the cause of the interruption. She must think it is because she barks that this happens. So, if you “drop” something to make the barking stop, don’t pick it up right away, and don’t drop it beside you. It’ll be best if it drops near your puppy, but be careful not to hit her.
As mentioned I trained Atlas to be more quiet and here you can see some of my training with quieting Atlas, [embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vIBFKo-s98[/embedyt] This will also help you understand why we needed to do the training 🙂
As you see, dogs all join in when just one starts barking. To stop this, you need to train every dog in your home on her own, just as I did with Atlas. Of course it would be best if the until now “untrained” dogs are so far away they do not spoil the training. However, even when it was still possible to hear them, Atlas did not bark, so it can work even with o ther dogs near by.
Boredom or a Call to Action: When Barking Happens for Other Reasons
Of course, your puppy will also bark for other reasons. Once in a while, puppies bark because they are bored or because they want you to do something. This may sound simple, but it is true. My other pup, Luca, sometimes barks to get the other dogs in motion. She often does this is to get their beds or their toys, but sometimes it seems as if it is simply because she is bored.
This typically happens when we have been trapped inside because of the weather or something else. It can also happen because I have not done enough to activate her. When you have a puppy that barks out of boredom, you must divert her attention. When she stops barking you should then activate her. Remember that mind games to a puppy are much more exhausting than being let out in the yard or garden. Buy an intelligent toy for your pup to play with or you can make one yourself (It is also healthy for humans to use our minds)
Luca also barks at me if she gets frustrated, such as while training. But, it’s easy to see and hear her frustration, either because she can’t understand what I want her to do, or she doesn’t want to do it. Her barking simply tells me she needs to know more, like how to do what I ask for or even if there will be praise or a treat – so, I tell her.
Your puppy probably barks at you for other reasons not covered here. If it is a single bark, that’s not too bad, but if it is more, try some of the solutions and training methods in this article.
If you’d like a visual presentation that goes even more in-depth I’d also recommend this workshop by Dr. Alexa Diaz (PHD).
To Sum It All Up
Barking is as natural to a dog as talking is to humans. And, as it is the case with humans, some dogs talk more than others, but few are completely silent. It can be easy to accept this when you imagine having to be quiet your entire life. That would not only be impossible, it would be unhealthy, too. So don’t shut your puppy up completely.
Try training your dog to be calm using the methods above, one by one. You may just need to do one of them, or you might have to use all of them before you reach your goal. Go for controlling the barking instead of shutting your puppy completely up. It’s a policy to get you more success, friendlier neighbors, tranquility, and a happy, content dog.
Remember, to teach a puppy, your best tools are calmness, persistence, patience and consistency. I hope my tips will help you learn how to create a relationship in almost silent harmony 🙂
If you’ve found value in this blog post, please let me know and please share it. If you have other tips, please share, so this blog post can be so helpful as possible – Thank you!
Q & A
Is there a tool that can make training easier?
There might be. If you prefer, you can use a head halter, which is also called a gentle leader. This way you can make your puppy be quiet by briefly lifting her head and bringing her to a sit, giving you the opportunity to praise her. Also, with this, you can hold it so your pup doesn’t open her mouth.
Also, you can search for an E-collar with sounds or scent, disrupting your puppy when she barks.
I have no personal experience with these tools. If you have, please comment, so we can all learn.
My puppy barks in her crate, so what can I do?
First, establish why your puppy barks. Is it out of fear, because she is excited or because she is bored? If your puppy is bored, activate her and make her feel tired before you try crate training.
If she is frightened, you should not crate her! To use the crate it is important that your puppy likes and feels safe in the crate. So if your puppy is afraid, you must stay with her until she feels safe. Cover the crate to shut out any distractions and to calm her down. This makes the crate feel more like a quiet, secure den, which may put your puppy at ease. This will also do the trick if your puppy is overly excited. Before you do anything, be aware that your puppy might bark because she needs to go outside to pee.
Please look here to learn more about correct crate training.
Can you calm a puppy down using medicine?
Of course, you can, and there might be a good reason to do so, in some cases. If you think your puppy may have troubles and training isn’t working for you, be sure to ask your veterinarian for advice. It could be a health problem or a dog behavior issue like separation anxiety,