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 At least then you have withdrawn attention, which sends the dog a powerful message and doesn't unwittingly reward him.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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Scooby
Border Collie
5 Years
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Question
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Scooby
Border Collie
5 Years

How can I stop Scooby from lunging at passing cars, lorries and motorbike's when I'm out walking him?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Andrea, First, I suggest teaching a solid Leave It command to pup. Teach the Leave It command using the Leave It method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Second, teach pup a structured heel - practice away from cars at first. Check out the article and video linked below Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Third, check out the video I have linked below on implementing commands to teach pup to leave cars alone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buaZctWLWR0 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Paislee
Miniature Goldendoodle
3 Years
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Paislee
Miniature Goldendoodle
3 Years

Paislee seems to startle very easily.She will bark at any noise, like if our our dog jumps off the bed or if we drop something, bump a wall, or all the other common noises dogs bark at. A lot of which we don't even hear. The difficult thing when it comes to any training method we've come across is she only let's out 1 piercing bark and she's done. It's enough to give us a heart attack and it's usually so unexpected. Most training methods evolve a dog that continuously barks, but that's not what she does. We can't set up scenarios, because we don't exactly know what sets her off. Its extremely random.It even happens in the middle of the night sometimes. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, I would make a list of things pup may bark at (even though it won't be everything since she barks at unexpected things too, make a list anyway). I would then practice doing something that pup normally barks at from further away from pup - like dropping something in the other room, knocking on the door. Start with the sound very quiet if you can, or further away so its not as surprising. When pup barks, redirect their attention to something else or ignore if the barking stops on its own (which it sounds like it usually does after one loud yelp), but don't give a lot of attention, comfort, or emotional response to the barking. When pup doesn't bark, calmly place a treat between their paws and softly praise them. Practice this often to help desensitize pup to the surprising noises and help them associate those noises with good things. Again, only reward calmness, don't make a big deal out of poor responses. Know that this will take some time since pup is doing the behavior more randomly, so I suggest implementing some practice into each day when pup isn't expecting it, and doing a little each day over a longer period of time. I would also keep a snack size ziplock of a few small treats in your pocket each day, or in convenient spots out of pup's reach in the house. Begin to notice when noises happen that would trigger the barking sometimes. When those just happen throughout the day and pup DOESN'T bark, then calmly praise and give a treat for the non-reaction from them. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Titan
Basset Hound
6 Years
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Titan
Basset Hound
6 Years

He is constantly barking at every little noise he hears.
He is also always stealing food out of our hands and trying to get on the table.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jordan, For the barking, I recommend desensitizing pup to noises. Make a list of common things he barks at, even if its a long list. Check out the videos linked below. Barking at noises video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp_l9C1yT1g&list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a&index=1&t=37s Barking video series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Quiet method and Desensitization method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For stealing food out of your hand, I recommend teaching Leave It. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite For the counter food theft that is happening while you are out of the room, I recommend creating an aversion to jumping on the counter itself. There are a few ways to do this. You can place something like a scat mat on the counter and put a food temptation further back on the counter just out of reach - when pup jumps up the mat gives a static shock - nothing harsh but its uncomfortable and surprising. You can also set up Snap Traps covered lightly with unfolded napkins. When pup touches them on the edge of the counter, they will jump up and make a snapping sound - startling pup. These are designed for this type of purpose so won't actually close on pup like real mouse traps would - don't use real mouse traps because of the risk of injury. You can also stack metal pot lids and pans precariously on the counter. Tie a strong string like twine through all of them and back tie the whole contraption to something secure so that when they fall they can't fall all the way off the counter, then tie another string to the lip or pan that's supporting the precarious set up and tie the other end of that string to a safe food booby trap, like a whole bagel sitting on the counter. The idea is that when pup jumps up and grabs the food, they will pull the objects over and create a loud crashing noise that will surprise them. Because of the back tie string the objects should not fall on pup though. With all of these setups, you will need to set up a camera to spy on pup from the other room and be ready to run in and remove any food left on the counter or floor, so that pup doesn't return to the scene of the crime once things are calm and eat the food anyway - otherwise they may decide that its still worth it to jump up. You will need to practice this setup often with pup in different parts of the counter and with different foods. Don't use any food that could harm pup if they were to eat it - like chicken bones, grapes, chocolate, xylitol, nuts, garlic, or onion. When not practicing the trap, keep counters clean and pup confined away from the area or tethered to you with a hands free leash until pup has thoroughly learned the lesson - jumping up and not being surprised and potentially grabbing food, will negate your training efforts - you want pup to think that the counter is always suspicious now so they give up on jumping up. Finally, if pup seems more hungry than normal and the food behaviors are new, I do recommend a trip to your vet. Something like malabsorption, not feeding enough, or a tape worm can cause a dog to be unusually hungry. I am not a vet though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Indiana
Border Collie
8 Months
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Indiana
Border Collie
8 Months

He is very vocal and we are working on it in different situations. But he howls a lot when alone even with his food or treats and us trying to calm and quiet him via the dog camera we bought. But his worst trait is how he can be quite aggressive with other dogs, especially bigger dogs. He plays well on a field with long lead and loves to chase a toy, but on a walk almost every dog we see he barks at and seems aggressive when on a walk with lead.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Indiana is still young - you have time to change his issues without too much problem. But I would get started sooner rather than later, as time will pass and then things will get tough. Having a trainer come to the home would be the best way, especially since there is aggression when on the lead. That would be my recommendation. You can try a few things on your own: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs. Try the Passing Approach Method to start. Indiana should also be training in obedience; that will make him a calmer and more confident dog all around: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-dog-basic-obedience. As for the howling, that may change with age but you can work on the Quiet Method here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark. Good luck!

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Beau
Labrador Retriever
18 Months
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Question
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Beau
Labrador Retriever
18 Months

My dog, Beau, loves to bark. Unfortunately, we are in an apartment and so it is really disturbing the neighbors. He doesn't do it constantly, but if someone in a different apartment shuts their doors, if he sees someone walk by, or even if he hears people getting in their car, he barks (it's actually more of a howl). We have taught him "speak"and he kind of knows "hush" when he is barking, but it hasn't seemed to stop him from that initial bark. I've also tried to talk to him when he starts barking telling him that it's okay, or if I hear the triggers before he does I try to pet and distract him. We also used a vibration collar on him, but he still does the initial bark and then will stop once he has the vibration. He even will be asleep and randomly start barking. We take him on walks, he has TONS of toys, etc. He is well trained in every other area, but this is something we can't break him of. Any advice?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashley, It sounds like pup needs to be desensitized to the noises that trigger the barking in the first place. Check out the video series I have linked below. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Desensitize method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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