How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking at Noises

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Barking at Noises
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon2-12 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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. 

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 At least then you have withdrawn attention, which sends the dog a powerful message and doesn't unwittingly reward him. 

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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. 

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The Teach 'Quiet' Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Incompatible Behavior Method

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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.

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".

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.

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.

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.

The What NOT to Do Method

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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.

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

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.

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.

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.

By Pippa Elliott

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Bonnie

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cockapoo

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3 Years

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How do I stop my dog from barking in house

June 26, 2022

Bonnie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Margaret, Check out this video series on barking: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a I would also teach pup Quiet - Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Finally, when you are not home, remove access to visual stimuli -like windows pup is looking out and barking, when you aren't there to teach and interrupt that barking. Barking is a self-rewarding behavior, so you need something to either interrupt that barking when you aren't there to teach, like a bark collar, or ideally, prevent pup from practicing it without interruption, like confining pup in a room away from windows when you aren't present to teach. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 27, 2022

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Snickers

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Dachshund

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3 Months

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We've only had my boy Snickers for a couple of days (and he barks at any noise he hasn't heard before (which is alot). We've been introducing him to noises (such as the kids toys) using treats and praise and ignoring the ones we can't control (programmes on the tv). I just want to know there is light at the end of the tunnel and that it will eventually end because I'm worried we will start getting complaints from the neighbours (he's 15 weeks)

May 25, 2022

Snickers's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jenna, Pup could always be a dog who is more talkative than some, but with training this should improve, and pup might be in a fear period where they are extra sensitive right now. If things don't improve with what you are doing right now, there also also other training options that involve interrupting the barking and rewarding the quietness. Some dogs need that additional interruption in the training while continuing rewards. Check out this barking video series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Quiet method - and desensitize method, which is probably what you are already doing: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Make sure you are only rewarding pup while they are quiet and not making noise still. Work on praising as soon as pup gets quiet and while pup remains quiet around something new, even if the treat is delayed a couple of seconds. That timed praise helps pup associate the reward with what they did when they did it. If pup won't stop barking long enough to reward, create a distraction to get pup to pause, then reward when pup pauses. For a puppy the distraction can be clapping hands, shifling feet, making a funny noise with your mouth, playing an odd ring tone on your phone, of spraying a puff of unscented air from a pet convincer - with a puppy I wouldn't blow the air at pup though, just next to them so they hear the noise but it surprises more than scares them. Barking is a self-rewarding activity because of the chemicals released in pup's brain when they get worked up barking, so if pup won't pause on their own or you didn't catch them soon enough before they barked (the main goal with desensitizing), then you might need to interrupt, then be sure to reward once quiet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 25, 2022


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