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 At least then you have withdrawn attention, which sends the dog a powerful message and doesn't unwittingly reward him.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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0 Votes
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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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Baileigh
Pit bull
6 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Baileigh
Pit bull
6 Years

My sweet girl, Baileigh, attacks the tv any time there is a dog on the tv and is progressively getting worse to the point that she's starting to bark and lunge at all animals and some people.. Just on tv though, she's great with people in person. I've tried getting her attention before she escalates, but she goes from 0 to 100 in nothing flat and once her attention is on the tv, it's almost impossible to break without sending her outside. How can I stop this? It's completely stressful to watch tv in our house right now. Our other dog has no concept of what she is doing and doesn't even pay attention to the tv.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicole, You can treat her aggression toward the TV the same way that you would treat aggression toward an actual dog. Work on gradually desensitizing her to the TV from a distance overtime, turning her view of dogs and people on television from negative to positive by giving her treats, toys and games, and encouragement whenever she sees the tv on. Start by having her in another room, where she can see the tv from a distance. Command her to do lots of commands in a row, rewarding her with lots of treats each time so that she is having fun and focusing on you and not the tv. Whenever she looks at the tv, get her attention back on you by blocking her view, giving her commands to do, staying up beat yourself, and rewarding her for complying. Also reward her anytime that she looks at the tv and remains calm, looks at the tv and then back at you, and generally does not react to something that she normally would react to. As she improves gradually work closer and closer to the tv, until she can be in the same room with the tv without reacting. Also play games where she is very focused on you and the game and having lots of fun in the presence of the tv, so that she will associate the tv with fun and also become accustomed to ignoring the tv. Once she can be in the same room with the tv without reacting negatively continue to reward her by tossing a treat over to her and praising her while you watch tv, whenever something that used to up set her comes on and she remains calm, or before she has the chance to react, so that you are communicating to her how she should react before she fails. You can also give her something to do while you watch tv such as chew a Kong stuffed with food, get food out of a dog puzzle or wobble toy, or look for treats that you have hidden in the room. This might help her fixate on the tv less and get aroused. While you are still working on this, she will need to stay out of the tv room any time that you are watching tv and not able to work with her, until she gets to the point where she can calmly be in the room with the tv. All of her experiences with the tv need to be positive and not negative for the training to work, so work on the training often to get to the point where she can be in the room with the tv, so that she can be with you while you watch again. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Roxie
Mixed - mini sheltie, daschund,
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Roxie
Mixed - mini sheltie, daschund,
5 Years

Rescued at 5 years, never house trained, goes outside great if my idea, but does not communicate to me when she has to go...sneaks off to laundry room to pee & poop... HELP

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Vicki, Check out the article linked below, and one of the methods like the "Peanut Butter" method (which can also be done with soft cheese) to teach Roxie to ring a bell when she needs to go potty. Once she is trained to ring a bell, when she goes potty outside after ringing the bell, reward her with a couple of small treats in a row, to motivate her to let you know when she needs to go outside. https://wagwalking.com/training/ring-a-bell-to-go-out While she is still learning to ring the bell, use the Tethering method from the article linked below when you are home (potty breaks can be less frequent than the method mentions since she is older), and crate her when you cannot supervise. Tethering method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside The inside accidents need to be preventing while she is learning a good outside/alerting you habit for the training to be effective. Also, use a cleaner that contains enzymes to clean up any accidents do that the smell is removed well enough. Other cleaners don't remove it enough for a dog's nose not to smell it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Penny Lane
Bernese Mountain Dog
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Penny Lane
Bernese Mountain Dog
10 Months

I have a 10 month old Bernedoodle and she has recently started barking excessively in the house and backyard. I try to keep her active as much as possible. She attends doggie day care 3x/week and on days she isn't at day care, we go on several long walks and play as much as we can with her. She has the stimulation toys and puzzles as well. With all of this, she still barks all day. Every noise from the tv, the washer / dryer, neighbors walking by or mowing the lawn, cars driving down the street, or event he wind or a bird chirping sets her off and the barking is constant and all day. DO you have any additional tips to stop the barking? I already closed all the curtain and try to limit stimulus but nothing has seemed to work at all.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kaitlin, I suggest combining two things: First, work on teaching her the "Quiet" command. Reward her for obeying your quiet command, for not barking at things that normally set you off, and generally rewarding her when she is calm - make the reward calm and your praise soft though. Second, I suggest using a bark collar. Look for a high quality bark collar, such as Dogtra, Sportdog, or Garmin. Read reviews to find a good one. Do not use a poorly made collar - these can be faulty and harmful. Also, use a stimulation collar or non-scented air collar. Do not use citronella (citronella lingers too long and can be confusing and too harsh for a dog's sensitive nose). I suggest a stimulation collar because unscented air is often less effective. Combine rewards for her quietness with the collar for the barking. Do not skip the rewards part. The rewards for her calmness and quietness will ultimately help her learn how to relax and be quiet around different stimuli, the collar will just interrupt her barking long enough to him you the opportunity to reward her for being calm around something that she would normally bark at, when you are there to do so. Barking is a self-rewarding behavior because of the chemicals that are released in a dog's brain when they bark. It can be habit forming and satisfying so many dogs learn to bark obsessively. The collar helps interrupt that cycle before the dog escalates and the rewards for quietness help the dog learn how to be in a different state of mind around exciting things. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Noodle
Goldendoodle
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Noodle
Goldendoodle
9 Months

My dog likes to bark when there is someone near or close to the front door. She especially barks when the door bell rings or when there's a knock on the door. Another reason she barks is if our guest bedroom is being used and the guest makes her way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I believe it scares her because she's not using having a guest. We have taught her the quiet command and she listens half the time but would continue barking if you stop saying "quiet."

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessica, Check out the videos linked below for how to desensitize to noises. Barking in general: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp_l9C1yT1g Barking when guests arrive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzvqN9JNUA&t=494s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Millie and Mollie
Spaniel
11 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Millie and Mollie
Spaniel
11 Years

Our two elderly springers have suddenly started barking when we're out. I don't think it's separation anxiety as they are quite happy for us to go out and curl up in their beds but I wondered if they may be suffering with dementia. I have been getting complaints from neighbours so have been recording them on the rare occasion when we do both go out - which isn't very often as I work from home. They can be quiet for an hour then something sets them off and they bark and howl until we get back. It is getting so we can never leave them alone. I put them in a room with the curtains closed and music playing and I've just bought a security camera and am going to see if I can find out what noise sets them off. I'm going to try to teach the quiet command and if successful hope the two way function of the camera may work as they can hear you if you speak to them. Any help would be appreciated as we are at our wits end

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Julie, At this age it is very possible there is some form of mental decline. They could also be loosing hearing or eye sight which can make dogs more nervous because it's hard for them to figure out their environment. The camera is a good idea because I would first want to rule out what noise is setting them off - if it's a new noise to them, they may simply be reacting to something they find suspicious and desensitizing them to that noise using rewards when you are home could help them relax around it and not bark so much. If it is mental decline, then you may want to look into Pet Tutor or AutoTrainer - which is a device that rewards a dog for quietness periodically. If there is mental decline it will be less effective than with a young dog, but could help keep them in a more positive mood by periodically rewarding them, which can help with the anxiousness overall. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Roxy
Portuguese Water Dog
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Roxy
Portuguese Water Dog
1 Year

Roxy hears noises outside the apartment and will bark at any time of the night. Even if she is in my bed sleeping. She has a sensitive stomach so she doesn't get treats often and she isn't interested in eating her dog food as a treat. How can I stop her from barking?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ariana, Check out the videos linked below. Find her favorite toys and think of her favorite games, such as tug of war or fetch. Have a little tug or ball toss to her every time she does well, instead of feeding food. You can also use affection and confident sounding praise as rewards. Barking at noises desensitization: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp_l9C1yT1g Barking series of videos if you need additional examples: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Another option is a bark collar that uses stimulation. I find that working on desensitization first is a good ideal, then teaching the quiet command, then having the bark collar be the enforcement if reminders are needed. If you go the bark collar route, do NOT use citronella, and do some research into brands and types - they are not all created equal and you want a good one for safety and effectiveness reasons. Quiet method for teaching the Quiet command: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Try using plain liver paste (like what's used to make the dip pate) as a reward for this command to avoid stomach upset but still motivate her. Freeze dried meat meal toppers without a lot of additional ingredients are also good for some sensitive dogs, such as Nature's variety freeze dried meal toppers or Stella and chewy freeze dried meal toppers. Read ingredients and choose which one based on what you know she currently tolerates well in her dog food. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Leo
Chihuahua
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Leo
Chihuahua
1 Year

Hello! I have two questions;
1. My dog growls at EVERY noise! We don't know why or how to stop him because he knows he's not allowed, so after he growls, he acts like he's sorry and in trouble.

2. He really doesn't like strangers touching him. Or being too close to him. He likes 6 people, which consists of my family and my boyfriend's family. But anyone else than us he doesn't like, including fast children. He was exposed as a puppy, he had an incident where a child cornered him and scared him. But he even started to bite my SO's grandfather,(the pants). He doesn't do that to anyone else.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kimberley, I highly suggest hiring a trainer who specializes in behaviors issues and aggression to help you. Look for a trainer who is very experienced with a variety of types of aggression. You can also work on desensitizing pup to being touched, starting with you touching pup, progressing to family members pup knows, and gradually working up to willing friend's who pup doesn't know - once pup has shown a lot of improvement with those he does know. Use pup's daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of puppy's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold his collar and give a treat. Touch his tail gently and give a treat. Touch his belly, his other paws, his chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. Work on desensitizing pup to the things he is nervous around. Expose him to those things from a distance - close enough that he notices them but far enough that he will still take food while around the thing he would normally growl at. Teach the Quiet command, and use it with growling too until he understands that it means stop barking AND stop growling. Once pup knows Quiet, when he is around something he would normally growl at, tell him "Quiet" before he growls, and reward with treats if he doesn't growl. Tell him "Ah Ah" calmly and interrupt the growling if he disobeys and growls anyway. Practice at a safe distance from things and reward him every time he does well and remains quiet, also reward him whenever he stays quiet without having to be told when he is around something he would normally growl at - pay attention and make a list of common growl triggers. Adding more structure and confidence building exercises can also help anxious and aggressive dogs feel more trusting and secure. Some dogs are simply born more timid or aggressive, despite efforts to socialize well. That doesn't mean that training doesn't offer improvement but sometimes the reason simply comes down to pup's inherited temperament when another reason can't be found - it's possible that's the case with pup, or something else, like a lack of socialization in a certain area, happened. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Working and Consistency methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you For general nervous, some confidence building exercises may also help his overall attitude. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elvtxiDW6g0 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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