How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking at Noises

Hard
2-12 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Is the quiet of a relaxed evening at home frequently shattered by loud volleys of dog barking? 

From fireworks to the doorbell or people talking in the street, there are many common sounds that will have a reactive dog up on his paws to defend his patch with ferocious barking. 

This is all very well, but in the modern city noises outside your dog's core territory (the home!) are a fact of life. It may be things have got to the point where settling down to watch the latest boxed set is simply not possible. You've no sooner got comfy on the sofa when a shout in the street has the dog giving a deafening bark that has you spilling the popcorn. While this is a good tactic form the dog's point of view for scrounging an illicit snack, it's not so great for your nerves (or his waistline.)

Unfortunately, most people's reaction is to yell at the dog to be quiet. At which point, the dog misinterprets your cries as a poor imitation of barking and thinks you're joining in. Instead, what the clever pet parent does is to either teach the dog to be quiet on command or issues an instruction for the dog to carry out which is incompatible with barking. 

If this all sounds like wishful thinking, here's how to make it happen. 

Defining Tasks

Teaching a dog to stop barking at noises, is just that. This near-miracle is achieved either through teaching the dog the "Quiet" command or by giving him an alternative action to undertake which is incompatible with barking. The latter could be picking up a ball and holding it in his mouth or going to a mat to lie down.

However, be aware that barking is often deeply ingrained behavior, so things aren't going to change quickly. Don't be discouraged, but instead channel your energy into regular daily training sessions which will help to retrain the dog. 

Also, it's important not to accidentally reinforce bad behavior by giving the dog attention when he barks. If necessary, be prepared to leave the room and let the dog get on with barking if that's the only option. At least then you have withdrawn attention, which sends the dog a powerful message and doesn't unwittingly reward him. 

Getting Started

Teaching a dog not to bark at noises requires a great deal of time, persistence, and patience. It's crucial that you dedicate a few minutes every day to teaching this command. In addition, take care to avoid accidentally reinforcing the undesired behavior by shouting at the dog in between times when he barks. 

The basics you need to teach the dog to lead a quieter life include: 

  • Treats
  • A treat pouch you can wear on your belt
  • A mat
  • A rubber ball or toy
  • Peanut butter or a tasty food you can rub on the rubber ball or toy. 

The Teach 'Quiet' Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
When a behavior is placed on cue, such as barking, it's then easier to teach the opposite command, such as quiet. Once the dog has learned "Quiet" you can use it to silence unwanted barking.
Step
2
Have the dog bark
Bizarre as it sounds, the first step is to put barking on cue. Make a noise that will trigger the dog to bark. For example, sit in front of a wall and knock on it behind your back.
Step
3
Label the barking as "speak"
When the dog barks in response to you knocking, say "Speak" and allow him to bark another couple of times.
Step
4
Use a treat to teach "quiet"
Now hold a tasty treat in front of his nose, to interrupt the barking. As he stops to sniff the treat, say "Quiet" and let him have the treat.
Step
5
Practice, practice, practice
Repeat the above steps in a room with few distractions. The dog will start to anticipate "Quiet" means a reward and stops barking ahead of being shown the treat. Now you are ready to practice with distractions. Have a friend knock on the front door, allow the dog to bark then give the 'quiet' command. When the dog stops barking, give him lots of praise and a treat.
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The Incompatible Behavior Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
Some actions, such as carrying an object in the mouth or going to a mat, make it more difficult for the dog to bark. For example, picking up a ball means his mouth is being used for something else, while the dog that is concentrating on going to his bed is not listening to noises outside.
Step
2
Introduce an object
Choose an object, such as a rubber ball, that won't be damaged if you coat it in peanut butter. Smear a tasty treat, such as peanut butter, on the ball and offer it to the dog. As he licks the ball, place it gently against his lips and say "Take it".
Step
3
Hold the object
Once the dog opens his mouth and holds the ball, stroke the underside of his chin and repeat "Take It". When the dog learns to happily hold the object in his mouth, start offering the ball on the flat of your hand for him to take voluntarily. Finally, place the object a short distance away and have him pick it up on the 'take it' command.
Step
4
Go to your mat
Here the dog learns an alternative action (going to his mat) instead of barking when he hears a noise. Set up a mat in a convenient corner of a room. Hide treats on the mat. Now toss a treat onto the mat and as the dog runs after it say "Go to your mat." Not only does he get the treat you threw there, but he discovers other delicious treats, which makes it a special place to be.
Step
5
Command only
Instead of tossing a treat, say "Go to the mat". Let the dog discover that when he goes there he'll find hidden treats. Slowly phase out the concealed goodies, so that he's responding just to the words. Now have a friend make noises outside, and when the dog barks tell him in a firm but happy voice, "Go to your mat", then praise and reward him when he does just that.
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The What NOT to Do Method

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Step
1
Don't yell at the dog when he barks
To a dog, yelling sounds a lot like barking. He may think you are trying to join in and it encourages, rather than discourages, the bad barking behavior. Also, giving the dog attention in the form of telling him off is accidentally rewarding him, which again is an encouragement. So know that your safest default position is to ignore the noise (unsatisfying as that might be!) and leave the room if need be.
Step
2
Do NOT be inconsistent
Don't confuse the dog by yelling at him or encouraging him to bark some days or at some people, but wanting him to be quiet for others. Also, make sure all family members react in a similar way to his barking, and they use the same commands to get him to stop
Step
3
Don't forget to practice
It's no good only issuing the cue words when you're in a real-life situation that causes the dog to bark. Be sure to practice for short periods of time, each and every day so that the commands are embedded in his psyche for the times they are required.
Step
4
Don't think he'll learn overnight
Barking is a self-rewarding activity for dogs. The more ingrained his barking habit, the more difficult it will be to retrain. It may even take weeks or months of consistent training in order to teach him a new and better way to respond. Be prepared for this and stick with it.
Step
5
Don't make life more difficult than it has to be
Take a look at ways you can reduce the stimulus for the dog to bark. For example, if he barks at fireworks going off, then generally decreasing the stimulus by closing the curtains and playing soft music to disguise the bangs is going to help. Likewise, if you know the dog barks wildly when the front doorbell rings, when you are expecting visitors, pop the dog into a rear room where he's less likely to hear the bell.
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Written by Pippa Elliott

Published: 10/23/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Kodou
Husky
1 Year
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Question
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Kodou
Husky
1 Year

His breed is husky/German shepherd.. My dog is very timid and has a wild streak in him. He has trouble listening to others but will listen to me. Though he is very fearful and skidish towards others, he does show submission. He barks at everything he is unsure about or scared of and that’s what I would like him to improve upon.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
944 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kiana, Check out this YouTube channel on reactivity, barking and fear. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Also, check out this article on shy dogs: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ Desensitize method and Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark I recommend making a list of the things pup is afraid of, such as men, kids, dogs, balloons, ect...Even if the list is long. I would work on desensitizing and counter conditioning pup to those things one at a time using treats like liver paste or pup's daily kibble if they are very food motivated. If pup is more play motivated you can also use toys and play as a reward. Keep your attitude confident, upbeat, and neither angry toward pup nor soothing and acting sorry for pup. You want to mirror to pup how you want them to feel with your own confidence and happy attitude around things pup is unsure of. For general confidence building activities like agility and certain types of trick training - where pup is learning new things and overcoming physical obstacles, can help with some general confidence in pup, if that's lacking too. It can be a class but you can also set up some obstacles you purchase or build out of pvc and boards in your own yard or area. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Lucky
Sheltie
1 Year
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Question
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Lucky
Sheltie
1 Year

We recently adopted him. He old owners seemed to not have treated him well at all sadly. He is loving caring and a great dog, but he reacts too loud noises so badly. Any simple noise he starts barking and barking and growling. Some of the things he reacts too are, Lawn mower, blender, vacuum, pencil sharpener, oven opening, washing dishes(The clatter of the plates and pans and utensils), as well as putting dishes away. I don't know what to do. We have already taken him home before and we had to give him back because of his such bad reactions. He then was put on medication to try and help calm him down. We are giving him a second chance and he seems so so so much better than he was before but is still reacting to loud noises horribly. I need help on what to do otherwise we are going to have to give him back and i do not want to do that. My other family member's are sick of tip toeing around the house and trying not to make any noise. When needed to make noise we keep him in my room with me while completing the task or taking him outside until it's done. I personally i'm willing to make time and effort to train him, but my family members thinks its too much work for me too do for a dog and they think this dog is just not going to work. I want to prove them wrong but i have no idea how. He is a great dog and i want to help because otherwise he might not get adopted and just will have to stay as the humane society owners personal pet unadoptable by others. And they are not willing to pay for a trainer so i will have to do it myself. PLEASE HELP

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
944 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rachael, Check out this video channel on barking and reactivity. You will find several videos there on desensitizing a dog to specific things. I would start with the barking at noises video and go from there. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a I would also teach the Quiet command from the article I have linked below. That command alone won't be enough but it's important for pup to understand that command also so pup can more easily stop when told to. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Bimba
Miniature Bull Terrier
5 Years
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Question
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Bimba
Miniature Bull Terrier
5 Years

She's a very good girl. Submissive with othe dogs, good with children, loves people. The only time Bimba barks is when she can hear someone outside the front door or come into the house. When anyone enters she barks aggressively but she never does anything more than harass visitors a little as she does tend to jump up with her overpowering friendliness. I know I should train her not to jump up and have just been letting it go as she would never harm anyone (unless it was under extreme circumstances). I have always been aware that barking upon hearing someone approach the home, my room (in a shared home) is a matter of instinct. But it is becoming a problem, now Bimba barks more and more when either myself or my mother enter. My mother has just moved in with me with another little old dog. Both dogs already knew each other from spending Xmas holidays together and basically ignore each other. They're doing very well. I just need to learn how to get Bimba to stop barking more and more.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
944 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chanel, Check out the video I have linked below for desensitizing a dog to people coming to the door. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzvqN9JNUA For the jumping, check out the article I have linked below, especially the Leash method and Sit method for those who don't know pup super well. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Remi
Miniature dachsh
4 Months
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Question
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Remi
Miniature dachsh
4 Months

Really struggling with Remi barking at noises. We are trying these techniques on walks but really difficult to consistently be on guard before she barks inside as we live above kids who she likes to bark at - assume because they’re very loud. Even music won’t drown it out she has very good hearing!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
944 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emily, In addition to desensitizing pup to the noises, which it sounds like you have been working on, I also recommend teaching the Quiet command. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Check out this trainer's youtube channel and the videos she has on barking as well to see more details on how to train. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a If pup tends to bark a lot in general, you may also want to look into an automatic treat dispensing device that can be programmed to reward pup for being quiet, to help train develop a habit of being quiet. AutoTrainer and Pet Tutor make such devices. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Phoenix
Goldendoodle
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Phoenix
Goldendoodle
8 Months

Phoenix barks at every single noise in the house i say no which is a word he knows cos thats how hes learnt what not to do and has learned fine about from his barking thats one thing he won't learn and keeps doing but he doesn't bark outside only in house

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
944 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the article I have linked below. I recommend teaching Quiet using the Quiet method. I also recommend using the desensitization method found in that article. Quiet method and Desensitize method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Check out the video I have linked below for an example and further details on desensitizing to things like noises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp_l9C1yT1g Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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