How to Train Your Older Dog to Stop Barking

Medium
1-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You love your aging dog, for his protruding grays and those extra few seconds it now takes him to get up. But one thing you probably don’t love is the peace shattering barking he refuses to give up. Does your dog wake you up from every nap with deafening barking as soon as someone walks past your house? Are you fed up of shouting your ‘hellos’ to anyone that comes to visit over persistent barking?

First and foremost, solving this problem will grant you some well-deserved peace and quiet. It will also make having guests over a much more relaxing affair. If your dog scares other dogs and people with his barking then it will also rid you of that. If you’re looking to end the sound of the kennels coming from your house, then tackling your old dog’s barking is definitely advisable.

Defining Tasks

There are a number of techniques used to stop barking in dogs. Some rely on treats, others use technology, and ironically, some tackle barking with silence, but more on that later. All of these methods have seen significant success, but applying them to old dogs is never straightforward. The older your dog is, the more stuck in their bad habits they are, and barking probably feels like part of their personality by now.

Fortunately, with perseverance you could end your dog’s barking campaign in just a few weeks, finally granting you a relaxing and peaceful day at home. If your dog’s barking aggravates the neighbors too, then getting it sorted might also make you more popular the next time you step out of the front door. So don’t be deterred by the challenge ahead, it won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it!

Getting Started

Before you start tackling the noisy problem at hand, you need to get together a few things. Firstly, get your hands on some treats so you can reward your dog when he makes progress. Also invest in some food puzzles to keep him distracted.

If you’re going to use the ‘Gadgets’ method, you need to get your hands on any number of bark collars and deterrents. They can be bought from a range of online stores and plenty of local pet stores.

Apart from that you just need a positive attitude, a good degree of patience and maybe some ear plugs!

Now you’re prepared, it’s time to tackle that noise pollution…

The Tackle the Cause Method

ribbon-method-2
Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Food puzzles
Your dog may partly be barking because he has got nothing better to do and knows barking will bring some attention. So if there are particular times of the day your dog barks, give him food puzzles to distract them. This will not only keep him quiet, but it will tire him out, sapping his energy for barking.
Step
2
Exercise
Your dog may be barking because he is full of energy, so increase the amount of exercise you give to knacker him out. You don’t necessarily have to walk him again, just throw a ball or stick while you’re on your normal walk to keep him constantly running.
Step
3
Take away the motivation to bark
If your dog barks when he sees people walking past the house, then draw the curtains and you’ll be afforded some peace and quiet. Your dog will bark less and less, breaking the constant habit.
Step
4
Turn on the TV or radio
If your dog barks when he hears strangers or other dogs, leave the radio on so your dog can’t hear over the noise. He’ll be none the wiser to the people passing by and you can go back to that early evening nap. This again will break the need for him to constantly bark and will slowly break the habit.
Step
5
Provide toys
You can get your hands on a whole range of dogs toys online and from local pet shops. All can keep your dog preoccupied for hours at a time. If he’s dead set on ripping the ear off a toy monkey, then he won’t even have time to bark! By doing all of the above, your dog will bark less and less as he is more distracted and the motivation to bark will be taken away, until eventually he breaks the habit entirely.
Recommend training method?

The Gadgets Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Deterrent collars
Consider fitting your dog with a deterrent collar that provides a negative consequence when he barks. Be cautious if you are in a densely populated canine area, as other dogs' barking may set them off.
Step
2
Noise collar
Fit your dog with a special bark collar that slowly trains your dog not to bark. When your dog barks, the collar transmits a high frequency sound that dogs don’t like. This will see to it your dog associates barking with an unpleasant sound.
Step
3
Citronella collar
If noise collars don’t reduce your dog’s barking, then try a citronella collar. When your dog barks, an unpleasant burst of citronella will be released.
Step
4
Spray collar
Many dogs love jumping in ponds, but hate being hosed down after. Inspired by that, you can now get collars that spray a short burst of water towards your dog’s face when he barks. He will soon realize if he wants to keep dry, he’d better keep quiet.
Step
5
Head halter
If collars aren’t doing the job, you can try a head halter. They slip over your dog's mouth and when your dog barks you gently pull on the leash, closing their mouth. This will quickly signal to them that barking will have consequences.
Step
6
Muzzle
Once your dog starts to bark, put a muzzle over its mouth. Dogs dislike the feeling of muzzles and he will quickly learn not to bark. You will soon get to the point where even getting the muzzle out will silence the barking and eventually they’ll give the barking game up all together.
Recommend training method?

The Incentivize Silence Method

ribbon-method-1
Least Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Bark on command
It might sound crazy, but before you can command your dog to be quiet, you need to teach him to bark. So say ‘speak’, wait for him to bark two or three times, then reward them with a treat.
Step
2
Practice
It might be more noise than you can bear, but keep repeating this training until you can command your dog to bark without the promise of treats every time.
Step
3
Time for 'quiet'
Firstly command your dog to ‘speak’. Then when they’ve barked two or three times, say ‘quiet’ in a firm voice and hold the treat in front of their nose. When they go quiet to sniff the treat, give them the treat and verbally praise them. Repeat this process until they don’t need a treat to successfully respond.
Step
4
Practice in a loud environment
Time to practice your ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’ commands when there are other distractions around, such as friends, family and other dogs.
Step
5
Ditch the 'speak'
Your dog should now distinguish between rewards for barking and rewards for silence. So gradually decrease your use of ‘speak’ and instead only command them to be ‘quiet’. It may take weeks of practice, but your old dog will eventually get the message and bark less and less, until he’s so quiet you actually miss the odd bark!
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 01/02/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Minnie
Jack Russell Terrier
13 Years
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Question
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Minnie
Jack Russell Terrier
13 Years

Whenever a dog walks past our lawn, my little dog goes crazy with barking and running to the edge of the lawn. My husband want to spank her but I say no. Usually
she responds to No Bark but not when she is barking at another dog. She does not bark at other dogs when I walk her.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1127 Dog owners recommended

Hello Stella, With pup on a long training leash so you can enforce commands calmly, I would work on desensitizing her to other dogs passing. I would recruit help from people you know who have friendly dogs. Check out the video I have linked below. In that video, the dog is the one outside the yard. For your training, you will practice having both dogs pass each other, walking your dog in your yard and rewarding pup whenever they ignore the other dog, focus on you instead, or generally stay calm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n_fPKPLA2g https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY7JrteQBOQ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Madison
Chihuahua
13 Years
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Question
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Madison
Chihuahua
13 Years

My dog is howling alot due to separation anxiety which developed at a huge rate due to her loss of her brother 5 months ago. She's known him since 10 weeks old. Its still very raw our loss & she isn't taken to all of the treat puzzles, tv/radio, games etc. I am away for 2.5 hours at the most on any given day or moment in the day. I have now started to use (which i did not want to do) a collar that beeps & vibrates. When i return within 1.5/2.5 hours shes panting in anxiety and i can only imagine she is stopped from howling as she knows it beeps and shes not liking it. But i dont know what else to do. She is currently on Fluoxetine for her induced anxiety due to her loss and she has grade 4 heart murmur for past 2 years now. I have tried the leaving & entering training but it doesnt seem to get to her that i be back. She leaves all her treats and toys until i arrive home then she will play with her kong etc.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1127 Dog owners recommended

Hello Marie, I would try a thunder shirt next. If you can afford it, I would also see if there is a daycare like environment, but instead of something hectic with a bunch of young dogs, perhaps someone you know who is home during the day and has a dog your dog enjoys who you could pay for pup to stay over there. With the rewards and corrections, I would combine those together too. So pup learns to be quiet but also learns that if they are quiet you return. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3j882MAYDU Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Charlie
Blue Heeler
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Charlie
Blue Heeler
4 Years

My dog has a minor neurological disorder and he barks uncontrollably in the car. Bought a Barxbuddy but it didn't work

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1127 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tracey, First, if you aren't already doing so, pup needs to be physically restrained while in the car to help pup learn calmness, keep arousal lower by avoiding her looking out the windows so much, and keep you safer while driving. I would either crate pup in the car or use a padded car harness that can be clipped to where pup rides, either on the floorboard of the car if there is space for pup there, or if not, the middle row seats. I would avoid pup riding in the front for your safety. The back can be used, but the middle row is less likely to make pup car sick. Second, I would work on desensitizing pup to the car in general, and working on a Down-Stay and Quiet command in the car. Start by simply feeding beside the car while its off, then feeding treats along the runner with the door open, then inside the car with it still. For at least a couple of weeks practice the Down Stay and Quiet commands on the middle seats' floorboard or seats (if a row seat). Gradually move to practicing with the car in the driveway but still while on - don't turn on in the garage for gas breathing reasons. When pup is completely relaxed in the car and can do a solid down-stay, recruit a second person to drive or train, so the driver can only focus on driving. Have the person training enforce Down and Quiet, while the driver simply pulls out of the driveway and back in When pup can stay relaxed during that (which will require a lot of repetition before pup relaxes then too - once pup sees that the driving is boring through repetition), then drive down the block and back. Gradually increase the distance and level of excitement as pup improves, only moving onto further distances or more exciting locations once pup can stay relaxed at the current level of training. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ For most dogs who are simply overly excited, this protocol alone is enough. If your dog may also be reacting to the passing of other cars due to their prey or herding drive, you may find that you need professional help to go a step further with the training. For a dog who is reacting out of instinct like prey or herding, you may also need to do some low level e-collar training to interrupt the fixation on other vehicles. I would probably use a stimulation based collar instead of sound or vibration based. I find that vibration and sound are less effective and a high quality stimulation based collar when combined with counter conditioning first, should be able to be adjusted in level to be a very low level stimulation, called a "working level". To do the low level e-collar training, pup would wear the e-collar around with it turned off for a few days to get them used to it, and avoid them becoming "collar wise". You would find pup's "working level" on the collar, which is the lowest stimulation or vibration level pup response to when calm. You would then practice a down stay in the car, but start using the e-collar to briefly correct pup when they tried to stand up, guiding them back into the down position with a leash, and using treats to reward pup for lying down or staying in the down position. This should be practiced calmly with the car off. As pup improves, you would gradually move through your desensitizing/down/Quiet training again, this time with the e-collar for interrupting as needed. In order for any form of interruption to be really effective, training to help pup understand the rules and how to obey needs to be done first - like the Quiet command and Down practice and counter conditioning - so pup knows they are supposed to be quiet and when corrected associates the correction with their disobedience and are able to choose a different response, instead of just thinking they are randomly being punished without knowing how to stop that punishment. The training should be gradual also, progressing from next to the car, in the car, car on and still, car driving in driveway, in neighborhood, to a calm location, to a more exciting location, to longer trips, ect... At all points pup would be physically restrained, probably with a car harness that allowed a little movement from sitting to down position but not walking around, be required to stay Down, and be calmly rewarded for staying in a calm mindset and in the down position. This would all need to be done very gradually and often to keep pup calm enough for them to be able to learn and not get overly aroused. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
felicity
Mix
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
felicity
Mix
2 Years

My dog doesn't listen to me no matter what i do to her. She keeps barking, peeing in the house, trying to attack other dogs/people. What should i do with this dog?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1127 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kayla, It sounds like it's time to hire a professional trainer to work with you in person. I would look for a trainer who will come to your home, and who has access to other dogs and at least one other trainer they work with, so the reactivity can be addressed with those resources. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Polo
Chihuahua
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Polo
Chihuahua
4 Years

How do I get my dog to listen without giving him a treat

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1127 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jovana, In the early days of teaching Obedience pup tends to only listen while a treat is present. In order to help pup transition to intermediate obedience - where pup can listen around distractions even when you don't have a treat, you will need to incorporate obedience more into pup's daily life, working on gently building pup's respect for you, "proofing" commands, and phasing out treats. First, check out the Working method from the article I have linked below, for a strict version of what it looks like to incorporate obedience into pup's day. This method can also help with respect, so it might be worth doing a strict version for a month, then a more relaxed version as the norm. Working method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you To proof commands, you often need to intentionally practice obedience commands in settings that are slightly more distracting than pup has learned in before. When you intentionally set up those practice sessions, you can be ready to enforce the commands. For example, the following methods are some ways of proofing commands. Reel In method for Come: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Turns method for Heel: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel The Leash Pressure method for down: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-lay-down Another component is phasing out the treats. To do this, give pup a couple of commands, praising pup each time they obey, but only rewarding for every 2-3 times pup does something. This keeps pup guessing on when the treat will be delivered. Don't let pup ever see treats that you have. The different in a bribe and a reward is the visual often. The reward comes after pup obeys - with pup being asked to obey regardless of whether you have a treat. A bride happens when you show pup the treat first to bribe them into obeying with the knowledge of the treat being offered. You want to keep pup guessing on whether a treat will be delivered after obeying. Praise however, should always be enthusiastically offered after obeying to communicate to pup that they got something correct and you appreciate it. As pup improves, give that treat less and less often, like every 3rd time, every 5th time, every 8th time, every 10th time. You can also only give a treat for better than average performances. For example, when you tell pup Come and they slowly meander over, don't give a treat. When you tell pup Come and they run over immediately, give the treat then. An intermediate obedience class is a good place to practice these things too, just ask them if they practice some of the above to transition away from treats, to ensure it's the type of class you are looking for. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Success
Sasha
German Shepherd
11 Years

Hi! My girl is 11 years this summer and she always barks when I let her outside. I've had her since I was a kid and she always barked when she went out. When me and my husband moved she was perfectly fine, she would only bark if someone rang the doorbell and she would spend hours outside without barking. However, a few months ago the neighbors got a new dog, and they bark at each other constantly. It's got to the point now where she will bark and pace the fence even if the other dog isn't out. If my husband is home she will pace the fence but won't bark. Is there anything I can do? My husband is leaving for 6 months and I don't want to have to give her back to my parents because her barking is a nuisance

2 years, 3 months ago
Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
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