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 Incentivize Silence Method

Effective
0 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?

The Tackle the Cause Method

Effective
0 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

Effective
0 Votes
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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
max
Boston Terrier
13 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
max
Boston Terrier
13 Years

constantly barks at me when wife and i are together. also barks at any visitorormotion, such as autos moving by. it is a non stop bark

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
394 Dog owners recommended

Hello Edward, Has the barking been going all of his life (assuming he is not a recent rescue) or is it more recent? If it's recent, then a trip to your vet's is needed because that could be a sign of early mental decline. If this has been going on for a while and it is not a medical issue, then it sounds like attention seeking barking and simply being overly stimulated by everything. Barking is a self-rewarding behavior. The more your dog barks, the more certain chemicals are released into his brain, encouraging him to bark even more. This is why dogs will get into states of constant barking even after what originally triggered the barking goes away. For that reason, it's important to interrupt the barking right when he starts it, before he gets into a hyper vigilant worked-up state. There are three things that need to happen: 1. Teach him the "Quiet" command by using the "Quiet" method from the article that I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark 2. When he sees or hears something that normally triggers him to bark, tell him "Quiet" in a soft and soothing tone of voice (after you have spent time teaching him the command from the article above - so he understands it). If he does not bark, or barks but then stops right away, then reward him with his favorite treats or something he loves if he does not like food. Look for opportunities to reward him for being quiet - even though you will feel like you should leave him alone since he is being good (rewarding it will train him to do it more often). If he disobeys your "Quiet" command, then you are going to correct him. 3. When he disobeys your "Quiet" command and starts to bark or does not stop barking, then purchase a "Pet Convincer", which is a small canister of pressurized air. Tell him "Ah-Ah" calmly but firmly, and at the same time spray a puff of air at his side near his chest (do not spray him in the face). The puff of air is to interrupt his barking and help him calm back down. When he gets quiet again and stays quiet for a couple of minutes, then praise him softly and reward him with a treat. Repeat this to help with the barking: tell him "Quiet" when he is about to bark or barking, correct him if he barks, and reward him if he gets quiet or remains quiet for a couple of minutes. As he gets better, you can wait until he has been quiet for a little bit longer before you reward him for it. If he is afraid of you and barking out of fear, then you will need to help him get over his fear and your wife should be the one to correct him right now, not you. You however should be the one to reward him when he is quiet. Practice rewarding him for being quiet around you, and whenever you are around him, toss him treats when he is being quiet (even if he is only quiet for a few seconds at first). You are doing this just to help him learn to like and trust you if he is afraid of you. You want to become the treat man - who rewards him whenever he is calm just for being calm around you. For the cars, you will need to start by practicing the training further from the road so that he sees cars but is far enough that he can focus on you when you have treats and stop barking when you tell him to or correct him. If you are too close to the cars at first, then he will likely just fail over and over at first and won't be able to learn - so start further away from the road and get him closer to the cars over time, until he can handle being on the sidewalk and not reacting to them. Also, teach him to "Heel" and when he can handle being on the sidewalk, have him heel and actually focus on you when you walk. This will give him something to do and help him stay focused and relaxed rather than obsessing about the cars. You may find that it's easier to address the car issues with a trainer in person, so that the trainer can help you get a feel for how close to the road you should be, when to reward him timing-wise, how to interrupt him and when. Look for a trainer who will use fair corrections as needed and who will use a lot of positive reinforcement also. You want a trainer who can incorporate both carefully for this issue. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Tilly
Terrier cross
15 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Tilly
Terrier cross
15 Years

Our lovely 15-year-old terrier has developed a new habit of barking at lunchtime and in the evenings. She knows she gets a treat when we eat lunch around 1pm and around 7pm when we eat dinner (and always has done), but starts 'asking' for it at least an hour in advance before we've even started preparing the meal. If we give it to her then, she starts up again within half an hour and just keeps going. We often take her outside in case she needs the toilet, but that doesn't seem to solve the problem. Once she gets the treat (a dental chew which cleans her teeth), she's almost always quiet but she can only have two a day.

We've tried teaching her the commands 'speak' and 'quiet' but she seems to forget the commands quite quickly (we suspect she has some cognitive degeneration). Should we continue to work on it and hope that eventually she will remember them? We've also tried ignoring her until she's quiet and then rewarding her with the treat and giving her lots of praise, but she gets very distressed and confused so we've struggled to continue with that as we don't like to see her so upset. Should we persevere a little longer with it?

The barking is giving us all a massive headache and we don't know what to do. We'd be very grateful for any suggestions!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
394 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rosie, I suggest looking into an AutoTrainer or Pet Tutor. You can feed her her entire meals using these devices. They can be programmed to detect when she barks and reward her for quietness throughout the day or just at certain times I believe. The food as a reward for being quiet encourages quietness and calmness but it also gives her something to focus on. I would stop the other treats at meal times and do this instead, so that she is focused on the device and not barking for your attention. With a younger dog, you could teach "Quiet", and reward quietness and gently discipline the barking to deal with the issue, but if she does have some mental decline (which is likely at her age), then doing that might lead to confusion and more anxiety. The automatic treat dispensing devices essentially train her for you while also keeping her distracted for a long period of time - so that she is not focused on receiving a treat from you and barking for it. If she is struggling with anxiety due to mental decline, the device may also help her feel happier and calmer during the day because it creates a sense of routine for her. If you still want to give her the dental chew for the teeth cleaning benefit, I suggest giving them to her randomly while she is being quiet, so that they are not her focus and she is not being rewarded for barking. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Thank you Caitlin. We’ve experimented a bit and have had most success with treat-dispensing toys which she seems to enjoy as well as keeping her quiet whilst she’s playing! The treats at mealtimes have been part of her routine for a number of years and she got confused when we tried to stop them, but putting them in the toys seems to have helped. We give them to her before she starts barking, so we’re rewarding quiet rather than barking. It’s probably not a perfect solution, but it’s a lot better than it was! Thank you for your help.

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Question
Chubby
German Shepherd and Austrailian Heeler mix
14 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Chubby
German Shepherd and Austrailian Heeler mix
14 Years

Hi, I recently moved from the country into a small town. I believe my dog is having separation anxiety when I leave for work. He doesn't bark at any noises when I'm at home and the people downstairs have complained about him barking. What can I do to help him? I've tried a bone filled with peanut butter, I have a fan and air conditioner on to decrease noise as well as the curtains closed to decrease sight. I've also laid blankets and clothes that I've worn on the floor.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
394 Dog owners recommended

Hello Yvette, First, check out Pet Tutor and AutoTrainer. These devices can be programmed to automatically dispense a treat whenever it detects he is quiet. This can give him something to focus on throughout the day. If he is bored, a bit nervous, or barking because he is unsure of the new place, then that device may be enough. If it truly is separation anxiety, then he probably won't be interested in food until the behavior is interrupted. I suggest setting up a camera to spy on him and see why he is barking. Does it only happen when a neighbor makes a noise and you aren't there for him to relax about it? Is he showing other signs of separation anxiety like panting, trying to escape, not eating, having accidents, or generally panicking - a lot of barking is due to boredom or other reasons and mistaken for separation anxiety, and that effects how you treat it sometime. Does he bark the whole time or just a few minutes? If you have two tablets or smart phones you can Skype or Facetime each other on mute and use that to Spy. You can also use a GoPro with the Liveapp, Security monitor, video baby monitor, or any other camera with viewing you have. Spy on him and get an idea of what's going on when you leave. Leave like normal when you do this and then return to spy from outside - where he can't hear or see you. If it is separation anxiety, the first step is to work on building his independence and his confidence by adding a lot of structure and predictability into his routine. Things such as making him work for rewards like meals, walks, and pets. Working on "Stay" and "Place," commands while you move away or leave the room, and teaching him to remain inside a crate when the door is open. Change your routine surrounding leaving so that he does not anticipate alone time and build up his anxiety before you leave - which is hard for him to deescalate from, and be sure to continue to give him something to do in the crate during the day (such as a food stuffed Kong to chew on); this is the general protocol for separation anxiety. It is gentle but can take a very long time for some dogs. Another protocol involves teaching the dog to cope with their own anxiety by making their current anxious go-to behaviors unpleasant, giving them an opportunity to stop those behaviors long enough to learn something new, then rewarding the correct, calmer behavior instead. This protocol can feel harsh because it involves careful correction, but it tends to work much quicker for many dogs. If you go this route, I suggest hiring a trainer who is very experienced using both positive reinforcement and fair correction. Who is extremely knowledgeable about e-collar training, and can follow the protocol listed below, to help you implement the training. Building his independence and structure in his life will still be an important part of this protocol too. First, check out this video from SolidK9Training on treating anxiety. It will give a brief over-view of treating separation anxiety more firmly. This trainer can be a bit abrupt with his teaching style with people but is very experienced working with highly aggressive, anxious, and reactive dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GqzeLzysk Make sure you are implementing what he teaches there in other areas of his life too. Second, purchase a remote electronic collar, e-collar, with a wide range of levels. I recommend purchasing E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator for this. If you are not comfortable with an e-collar then you can use a vibration collar (the Mini Educator is also a vibration mode) or unscented air remote controlled air spray collar. DO NOT use a citronella collar, buy the additional unscented air canister if the collar comes with the citronella and make sure that you use the unscented air. (Citronella collars are actually very harsh). The vibration or spray collars are less likely to work though, so you may end up spending more money by not purchasing an e-collar first. The Mini Educator has very low levels of stimulation, that can be tailored specifically to your dog. It also has vibration and beep tones that you can try using first, without having to buy additional tools. Next, set up a camera to spy on him again. Next, put the e-collar on him while he is outside of the crate, standing, and relaxed. To learn how to put the collar on him, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Turn it to it's lowest level and push the stimulation button twice. See if he responds to the collar at all. Look for subtle signs such as turning his head, moving his ears, biting his fur, moving away from where he was, or changing his expression. If he does not respond at all, then go up one level on the collar and when he is standing and relaxed, push the stimulation button again twice. Look for a reaction again. Repeat going up one level at a time and then testing his reaction at that level until he indicates a little bit that he can feel the collar. Here is a video showing how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Once you have found the right stimulation level for him and have it correctly fitted on him, have him wear the collar around with it turned off or not being stimulated for several hours. Next, set up your camera to spy on him while he is in the crate. Put him into the crate while he is wearing the collar and leave the room. Spy on him from outside. Leave however you normally would. As soon as you hear him barking or see him start to try to escape or destroy the crate from the camera, push the stimulation button once. Every time he barks or tries to get out of the crate, stimulate him again. If he does not decrease his barking or escape attempts at least a little bit after being stimulated seven times in a row, then increase the stimulation level by one level. He may not feel the stimulation while excited so might need it just slightly higher. Do not go higher than three more levels on the mini-educator or one level on another collar with less levels right now though because he has not learned what he is supposed to be doing yet. The level you end up using on him on the mini educator collar should be low to medium, within the first forty levels of the one-hundred to one-hundred-and-twenty-five levels, depending on the model you purchase. If it is not, then have a professional evaluate whether you have the correct "working level" for her. If he continues to ignore the collar, then go up one more stimulation level and if that does not work, make sure that the collar is turned on, fitted correctly, and working. After five minutes to ten minutes, as soon as your dog stays quiet and is not trying to escape for five seconds straight, go back inside to the dog. Do not speak to him or pay attention to him for ten minutes while you walk around inside. When he is being calm, then you can let him out of the crate. When you let him out, do it the way Jeff does is in this video below. Opening and closing the door until your dog is not rushing out. You want him to be calm when he comes out of the crate and to stay calm when you get home. That is why you need to ignore him when you get home right away. Also, keep your good byes extremely boring and calm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GqzeLzysk Continue to put a food stuffed Kong into the crate with him. Once he is less anxious he will likely enjoy it and that will help him to enjoy the crate more. First, he needs her anxious state of mind interrupted so that he is open to learning other ways to behave. Once it's interrupted, give him a food stuffed Kong in the crate for him to relieve his boredom instead, since he will need something other than barking to do at that point. If he isn't destructive outside of the crate when you leave, then after he has been in the habit of staying calm and quiet in the crate for at least three months, you can try leaving the crate door open if you want to, and spying on him with the camera. If he starts to bark or get anxious, correct that behavior again the way you did at first with the e-collar - but this time he should understand the correction well enough that the crate won't be as important - at first the crate is needed to help him learn to be calm instead. Keep him away from windows where he can look out and practice being protective and suspicious though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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