Tips for handling a barking dog (yours, not your neighbors)

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Tips for handling a barking dog (yours, not your neighbors)

Just like you train a dog to “sit,” “come” when called, or “heel” on a leash, dogs must learn how to relax and stop barking. Photo by Ralph Fotos.

Dealing with a barking dog can sometimes feel like conducting your very own canine choir – with unexpected solos and encore performances included. But fret not, because here are a few solutions to help you and your furry friend get in some much-needed harmony.

First, let’s tune into the fact that barking is just your pup’s way of expressing themselves – it’s their version of joining in on the neighborhood gossip or letting you know there’s a squirrel in the yard. However, when their vocal talents steal the show all day long, it can strain your relationship with your neighbors. No one wants to listen to a dog bark all day, not even other dog owners. So, addressing this issue before it escalates into a bigger problem is important.

One trick is to grab your dog’s attention whenever they start barking. Call their name, toss a favorite toy, clap your hands, or break into a funky dance – anything to interrupt the barking and get them to pause and look at you. When they respond with a moment of silence, say a reward word, like “bingo,” and give them a treat to celebrate their newfound tranquility. Just like you train a dog to “sit,” “come” when called, or “heel” on a leash, dogs must learn how to relax and stop barking.

Once your dog starts to grasp the concept, create a word associated with the behavior so you don’t always have to break into your funky dance. Say your dog’s name, followed by “quiet.” For example, “Buster, quiet.” Keep those treats coming whenever he complies with your wishes.

But what if your dog is as quiet as a mouse when you’re around and only obnoxious when you are away, making it hard to train him? You have two options. First, when your dog appears relaxed and quiet, again say your dog’s name and the word “quiet” to reward that tranquil behavior. Believe it or not, dogs must be trained to stay quiet and relaxed, and naturally. These are not things they are born knowing to do. So, the best time to do that is when they actually are relaxed and quiet.

But you will still need to train them when triggered because that is when it’s most difficult to stop their barking. So your next option is to call for some backup. Ask friends, family, or neighbors to be within your dog’s view to trigger their inner watchdog. Then, when they bark, you can swoop in, interrupt the barking, and reward them with a job well done.

Of course, consistent training and reinforcement are key, but let’s not forget to add some fun to the mix. Engage your pup with games, puzzles, and interactive toys to keep their minds and mouths occupied, leaving them too entertained to bark up a storm from boredom or frustration.

And here’s a bonus tip for when your dog is barking a lot inside the home: create a cozy den or safe space where they can retreat when they need some downtime. Fill it with their favorite toys, blankets, and comforting scents to create a calming oasis. Pair this space with the command “kennel,” (after teaching them what “kennel” means and that they get delicious treats for going to the kennel), and soon you’ll have the doggie version of “go to your room” down pat. 

Remember, don’t leave your dog outside all day, and don’t expect them to stop barking on their own. Keep working on those manners until they’re fully trained. It’s all about finding that perfect harmony between you, your pup, and the rest of the world.
With over 35 years of experience advocating for animals in the field of animal welfare, Cathy Rosenthal is a seasoned expert dedicated to improving the lives of our furry friends. Explore her books and programs by visiting

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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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