Why won't my dog stop barking?

May 6, 2024 - 8 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Dog Barking

Dogs excessively barking can wreak havoc both inside and outside the home.

But why do some dogs bark so much? And what can pet parents do to help?

Read on to find out.

Reasons for dogs excessively barking

A playful illustration of a dog stretching with its tongue out on a transparent background.

They want your attention

Sometimes, barking is simply your dog's way of saying, "Spend time with me." But if you always grant their wish, you're likely to reinforce this behavior. 

They’re being territorial

Many dog breeds were created to protect owners and property—even smaller breeds. Your pup may be protective of their home or family. 

They’re frightened or anxious

Some dogs become alarmed or anxious in response to a specific stimulus—a stranger or another dog, for instance. And longer-term issues, like extensive periods left at home alone, can cause anxiety. Fear and anxiety aren’t the same, but they can both cause excessive barking. 

They're sick

If your dog is barking differently or excessively and you suspect they may be sick, it's important to observe other symptoms and behaviors to determine the underlying cause. Excessive barking can sometimes be a sign of pain, discomfort, or distress in dogs.

Look for other signs, such as changes in appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing. If you notice any concerning symptoms or if your dog's behavior persists, it's best to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

They can assess your dog's overall health and provide appropriate care to address any underlying medical issues causing the barking. Early detection and intervention can help ensure the well-being and comfort of your furry friend.

CTA _17

Top-ranked* dog insurance

We've got your dog's back (even if it's in a brace).

ManyPets offers nose-to-tail dog insurance for accidents and illnesses at competitive prices with no hidden fees. *According to Forbes Advisor’s “Best Pet Insurance of 2023”

CTA _17

They’re excited

Barking can be joyful! A pup might greet their pet parent with excited barking when they get home from work, for instance. The good news is, excited barking will likely subside more quickly than other types of barking — maybe even after a few seconds. 

They want something from you

Your dog may want more than mere attention—to be taken out for a walk, for example. You should never ignore this type of barking, but it’s a good idea to teach your dog other ways to ask for things. 

How can you get your dog to stop barking?

Now you know the “why.” But HOW can you get your pup to bark less?

Train them to ask nicely 

Your dog may be used to barking when they want you to do something, like take them outside so they can go potty. And hey, that's better than simply going in the house. Nonetheless, you can train your pup to make these requests in a less nerve-wracking fashion. 

One popular technique is training your pooch to ring a bell when they need to go outside. It can work: Just leave a bell hanging from the door and make a habit of ringing it (and perhaps giving your pup a treat) whenever you take them outside. Eventually, your dog will make the association between ringing the bell and going outside, then begin ringing it on their own whenever they want to go out.

This is just one example, of course. Training methods that use positive reinforcement can help in any number of situations where you’d rather have your dog ask for things more politely.

Use desensitization and rewards

Illustration of a white dog and human with black hair in a ponytail, a salmon colored shirt, and white pants and shoes sharing a celebratory high five.

With enough treats and praise—and an effective desensitization strategy—you can help your dog become calmer around stressful stimuli.

Let’s say your dog barks at other dogs. (This may be because they’re frightened, because they’re protective of you, or both.) If you want them to stop, you’ll need to help them feel calmer in those situations. 

First, find out how close your dog can get to other dogs before they start barking. You can walk them close to a local dog park or meet up with a fellow dog owner. 

Now you'll need to start getting your dog gradually closer to the other dog, as little as a step or two further each day. When you do get your dog closer, shower them with praise and treats. This process can take a while—weeks or more. But after enough time, your dog may no longer feel threatened and may no longer bark when they're close to other dogs.

The same basic techniques can be used to desensitize your dog to other perceived threats, like strangers or even indoor menaces like vacuum cleaners and hair dryers. 

Ignore "demand barking" and reward better behaviors

There are times when it’s wise to flat-out ignore your barking dog. Certain types of “demand” barking — barking designed to get you to do something—shouldn't be rewarded with your attention. Dogs are smart. They quickly learn that if barking produces the desired outcome, they can keep barking, and they'll get what they want every time. So if they get that belly rub or tennis ball every time they make noise, they’re never going to stop. 

Dogs are smart. They quickly learn that if barking produces the desired outcome, they can keep barking, and they'll get what they want every time.

When your dog engages in this sort of demanding barking, it may be wise to ignore them altogether. Don’t even say “no” or “stop”; just don’t respond. You can even turn your back or walk into another room. Eventually, your dog will realize that demand barking achieves the exact opposite of what they want.

Just be sure not to ignore your pup in literally every situation where they bark. It's one thing if they just want to play with you. But if they want to go potty or be kept away from another dog that scares them, you need to take them seriously (and work on other ways to modify their behavior).

Illustration of a white Poodle speaking into microphones held by three different reporters, against a light pink background.

There are some other important things to keep in mind, as well. First of all, it’ll be much harder to reverse this type of barking behavior if you’ve been rewarding it for a long time, so try to start ignoring this type of demand barking as soon as your dog starts doing it. 

If your dog is very used to getting what they want in these situations, then beginning to ignore their barking can actually make their barking worse before they finally cease the behavior. There’s actually a term for this: It’s called an “extinction burst"—a final flare-up of bad behavior before it comes to an end. Hopefully, you’ll have the patience and fortitude to get through this phase. 

One way to make this process easier is to handle everything proactively rather than reactively. So in addition to ignoring unwanted barking, you can reward the correct behaviors. 

Pay attention to those moments when your dog gets your attention in other, preferable ways.

For instance, if your pup ever tries to get your attention with a nudge of the nose or by sitting in front of you, reward these moments with enthusiastic praise and copious treats. You can even encourage this type of behavior by commanding them to sit and then rewarding them.

If you employ positive reinforcement methods while ignoring demand barking, your dog will soon learn that polite greetings earn your attention while yelling gets them the cold shoulder. 

If you employ positive reinforcement methods while ignoring demand barking, your dog will soon learn that polite greetings earn your attention while yelling gets them the cold shoulder.

How to get your dog to stop barking at people

  • Positive reinforcement: Reward your dog for calm behavior around people with treats or praise.

  • Desensitization: Gradually expose your dog to different people in controlled settings to reduce their reaction.

  • Training commands: Teach commands like "quiet" or "leave it" and use them consistently when your dog barks.

  • Provide distractions: Offer toys or engage your dog in activities to redirect their focus away from barking.

  • Consult a professional: Consider seeking advice from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for personalized guidance.

How to stop a dog from barking in a crate

  • Ensure proper crate training: Introduce the crate gradually and make it a positive space with treats and toys.

  • Establish a routine: Create a consistent schedule for crate time, including meal times, potty breaks, and quiet periods.

  • Provide mental stimulation: Offer puzzle toys or chew treats to keep your dog occupied and mentally stimulated while in the crate.

  • Ignore barking: Avoid rewarding barking with attention or letting your dog out of the crate. Wait for a break in barking before releasing them.

  • Use calming aids: Consider using calming aids such as calming pheromone sprays or soothing music to help relax your dog in the crate.

Erase their motivation for barking

This can be especially helpful for territorial barking around the homestead. If your pet gets especially anxious at home—for instance, when they see people or cars go by outside the window or when the mail carrier approaches your door—it may be helpful to obstruct their view.

So if your dog regularly barks at people and cars that pass by your window, closing your blinds might do the trick. And if you don’t want your blinds closed all day, you can cover your window with things like plastic film or spray coatings made for glass. 

If your dog regularly barks at people and cars that pass by your window, closing your blinds might do the trick.

And if your dog has access to areas outside your home, it may be a good idea to corral them with an opaque fence. 

You might also want to make sure your dog doesn't regularly greet people who come to the door. This is even something you can train your dog to avoid—for instance, by using treats and praise to get them used to heading toward a crate or toward a different area of your home whenever someone approaches. 

Teach the “quiet” command

It may be possible to teach your dog to quiet down on command. You can achieve this over time by intentionally doing something to trigger their barking—like ringing the doorbell—then silencing them with a well-timed treat while saying the word “quiet.” This teaches your dog to become responsive to that word.

Interestingly enough, one thing that makes it even easier to teach your dog the “quiet” command is to teach them the “speak” command first. That way you won’t need to ring any doorbells; you can simply instruct them to bark with a verbal command or hand signal before teaching them to be quiet on command. 

Illustration of a white bulldog with black spots wearing a pink collar, with its tongue out, on a transparent background.

Employ more exercise and stress relief

Lack of exercise and mental stimulation can cause both stress and anxiety, which in turn can lead to barking. So just make sure you’re giving your dog enough to do during the day, and that you’re letting them work out their excess energy. (And keep in mind that larger dogs generally require more vigorous exercise than smaller dogs.)

A quick walk or two per day might not be enough. Rather, you may need to get your dog running through fields and chasing balls. And you may need to keep them active at home with lots of stimulation and interactive play. (Puzzle toys are always a great choice.)

A quick walk or two per day might not be enough. Rather, you may need to get your dog running through fields and chasing balls.

Quashing pent up energy can be especially important in moments when your dog needs to be confined (say, in a crate or behind a gate). In those cases, you should provide them with as many toys as possible. You should also consider timing their exercise or play to take place right before they’re confined. 

Finally, be aware that separation anxiety can be a huge driver of stress-related barking. If possible, try to limit the amount of time your pup spends at home alone.  

Dog barking: What NOT to do

Some techniques simply don't work.

Punishing your dog

Yelling, swatting, or forcefully pushing them into a crate or another room—all of these behaviors are likely to INCREASE the kinds of stress and anxiety that cause barking.

Being inconsistent

And you should always be consistent. It’s unwise to encourage dogs to bark in certain situations if you’re trying to prevent barking in other situations.

For instance, if you encourage your dog to bark excitedly whenever a friend visits, then don't expect your dog to know that they shouldn't bark in other situations. Your pup will just get confused, and training will be that much more difficult. 

Do muzzles keep dogs from barking?

Finally, using a muzzle to stop barking is inhumane. You'll need to shut the dog's mouth very tightly, likely with something painful (like a cord or rubber band). Muzzles CAN be used humanely in certain situations—just not this one.

If all else fails, consult a behaviorist

If nothing you’ve tried has helped, a certified behavioral specialist may be able to help you control your dog’s barking. Just make sure you find one that uses only positive reinforcement methods. 

Understanding the reasons behind your dog's incessant barking is key to addressing and managing this behavior effectively. Whether it's due to boredom, anxiety, or territorial instincts, patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement training are essential in helping your dog learn appropriate barking habits.

By identifying triggers, providing mental stimulation, and seeking professional guidance if needed, you can work towards creating a peaceful and harmonious environment for both you and your furry companion. Remember, with time and dedication, you can help your dog overcome excessive barking and foster a stronger bond based on mutual trust and understanding.

David Teich
Lead Editor

David oversees content strategy and development at ManyPets. As Lead Editor, he focuses on delivering accurate information related to pet care and insurance. David’s editorial background spans more than a decade, including a pivotal role at Digiday, where he wrote content and managed relationships with media and tech companies. As an Associate Editor at Cynopsis Media, David wrote the Cynopsis Digital newsletter and interviewed executives and digital marketing experts in the TV industry. His background also includes film journalism. His diverse experiences in journalism and marketing underpins his role in shaping content within the pet care industry.