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How to Stop Unwanted Barking

Excerpted from Click for Joy: Questions and Answers from Clicker Trainers and their Dogs by Melissa Alexander, an unparalleled guide to the concepts of clicker training.

Your barking dog

dog barking

Dogs bark for a number of reasons, some acceptable, some not. Common types of barking include the following:

  • Alert barking. Dog barks to let you know he has seen or heard something out of the ordinary.
  • Defensive barking. Dog barks to make something he is afraid of or doesn't like go away.
  • Attention barking. Dog wants attention.
  • Frustration barking. Dog is confused, frustrated, or stressed.
  • Boredom barking. Dog barks to amuse himself.

Evaluate the situation

When you deal with barking, it's important to look at the whole situation. Barking is sometimes a symptom of another problem—for example, fear, boredom, or stress. If you fix the problem, the symptom will likely go away. However, if you simply treat the symptom, the problem will just manifest itself in a different way—one which may be worse! Treat the problem not the symptom.

Define and train an alternative behavior

Not all barking is symptomatic of an underlying problem. Often it's simple communication: "There's someone outside!" "I want to come in!" "I'm hungry!"

First, listen to your dog. Address the issue. Then determine whether barking was an appropriate response. Perhaps limited barking is all right under certain circumstances. Or perhaps you'd prefer to teach your dog an alternative way to communicate his needs. It's your responsibility to define an appropriate response in each situation.

If the dog continues to bark after being cued to do something else, or if the dog is barking for attention, one of the most effective responses is to remove what he wants.

For example, your dog alert barks when a car pulls into the driveway. First, listen to the dog and address the issue. Check to see what he's barking at, thank him for bringing the situation to your attention, and reassure him you've got it under control. Then decide how you want him to react in the future when strangers drive in. Perhaps he may bark to alert you, but once he's done that you want him to be quiet. If that's the case, interrupt any further barking and cue another, reinforceable behavior.

Train your dog to be silent

By teaching your dog to bark on cue, you can also teach him to be silent on cue. Read Karen's method for teaching bark/be quiet.

Remove the reinforcement for unwanted barking

Barking is, unfortunately, a self-reinforcing behavior, so waiting for the behavior to extinguish—even when another behavior is reinforced—is often futile. Therefore I recommend a combination of positive reinforcement and negative punishment.

If the dog continues to bark after being cued to do something else, or if the dog is barking for attention, one of the most effective responses is to remove what he wants. For example, if he wants to get out of the crate, stop moving or back away when he barks, then walk forward when he quiets down.

Manage the environment

When you're not training, manage the environment so that barking isn't triggered and inadvertently reinforced. For example, if your dog barks when he's alone in the backyard, keep him inside except when you're able to go out with him. If your dog barks at passersby through the front window, either draw the blinds or keep the dog out of the front room except when you're there to address the problem.

When you're training, make sure inappropriate barking isn't rewarded—and that the preferred response is. Be proactive. Cue your preferred response before the barking is triggered.


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littledoginabigworld's picture

Home sick = great training opportunity

I really spent a day home sick with clicker and treats in hands working with my little dog on not barking out the window. I clicked everytime someone walked by (before he barked)Even though I was in a neo-citran haze, just that one session has made a difference in how quickly and how often he reacts to people walking by. Our problem isn't fixed yet, but it's definitely improving. And as a plus I've notived that the less he barks during the day, the less he startles at night. Win-win!

littledoginabigworld's picture

Dog wakes up barking

Hi, we've had our 8lb rescue mutt for just under a year & are doing fairly well with clicker training. He's gotten over leash aggression, jumping around children and learned a few tricks as well. But one thing we can't seem to get a handle on is how easily he startles. He's become used to  the ice machine and a few other regular noises but he often wakes up in the middle of the night barking  over a slammed car door on the street or who knows what. It seems like we would have to clickertrain him in his sleep!  

Laurie Luck's picture

Dog wakes up barking

Some dogs are more vigilant and aware than others. I'm one of those people who startles very easily if I don't hear you coming up behind me - it's just who I am. If you work on training both "speak" and "shhh," you'll at least have an easy way to communicate to the dog to start being quiet (another way of saying "to stop the barking.").



Laurie Luck, KPA-CTP

Smart Dog University, LLC  

Faculty, Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior

Window Barking~4yr old adopted shelter dog

I need help ~ I brought home a sweet black lab because black dogs are supposedly hard to adopt out.   I have a 3 yr old border collie mix from a shelter already.  We live on a lake with a trail right behind my backyard.  My new dog barks ferociously at every person or dog that goes by my yard. 


Both my dogs are exercised 3 times a day ~ first thing in the morning we walk 30 minutes.  We play outside for an hour, and we walk later in the day for 45 minutes. 


I can not get him to settle down and understand that these people/dogs are no threat to us.  I've had to close my blinds throughout the whole house.  I can not live like that.  I've spent hours now doing the different tactics ~ saying no, and standing in the way; doing nothing and ignoring the behaviour; using my clicker to reward each time someone walks by.  I don't know what to do and it's driving me crazy.  Aside from living with my house totally closed up, there doesn't seem to be much relief ~ and now, he doesn't have to See anyone to bark if he thinks someone is out there. 


Any advice would be greatly appreciated. 

thank you,



Laurie Luck's picture

Window Barking


Good for your for knowing that limiting your dog's field of view will help with reducing the barking. Yes, keep those blinds closed or keep the dog out of those rooms so the visual stimulation doesn't elicit the barking. The more the dog practices barking, the better he'll get at it! 

In the meantime, you can do a couple different things. (1) Limit your dog's access to the rooms he can see out until you're ready to train. Then (2) get some treats your dog doesn't normally get, like chicken, steak, salmon, sardines, etc. Sit in the window with your dog and feed him the instant he sees someone but before he gets the chance to start barking. As soon as the person moves out of sight, stop feeding immediately. Repeat this process. Person = food, food, food. No person = no food. 

It shouldn't take long for your dog to figure out that people = food and that he doesn't need to bark. But it's really important to not let him practice the behavior. Youcan use baby gates to keep the dog out of the rooms that have visibility so he can't practice when you're not there. 

Let me know if this helps,

Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at

Group Alarm Barking

I have 5 pugs and when one starts alarm barking they all start in.  The behavior has gotten to the point when someone moves from one side of the house to another the will hear it and all head to the site of the noise alarm barking the entire way.


I am new this to this site and clicker training so any suggestions would be welcomed.

Laurie Luck's picture

Group Alarm Barking

Thanks for your question. Working with five dogs will take a lot more time than working with one, so patience is your friend. First, teach each dog to look at you when you say a specific word. It can be "look," "here," whatever you want. This will take some time to get all five dogs trained, so don't rush through it. Then, when you have each dog trained to look at you on cue, begin to work with just two of them together. Say your word, then click and treat when they look at you. Once two are very good at this, add in a third dog. You may need to work on different pairs of two until they're all working together in different pairs satisfactorily. You'll add in distractions (movement, sound, etc.) with each dog until they are easily looking away from the distraction when you give them the cue.  In the meantime, as you're working on this behavior on all the dogs, can you put a barrier up so the dogs can't run from one end of the house to another? Sometimes physically limiting the dogs will help with the excitement. 


Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at

barking at everything

 a year ago i got a 2 month old white shetie. at first she rode home in the car fine, now she shivers and whines constant when in the car. Also she constantly barks at everything that moves outside- a leaf falling, the wind ,cars going by, bicycles people , other animals , just everything.  This goes on all the time i have the front door open; i tell her off and she stops for awhile but then starts in again. I've been working with her constantly but it's like she thinks she's alpha dog of the house. I have an older male sheltie who is calm and quiet; but she's a little terror, she chews on my rugs, shoes, etc. when i leave her home and out of her crate. Not all the time just now and again. She knows how to sit, lay down, shake paws, switch paws. She's very smart but like i said it's like she wants to be alpha dog of the house. I would appreciate any suggestions.                                                                       debbie

River's picture

She is still young. I have

She is still young. I have found that my Border Collies will chew and generally get themselves into trouble untill they are way over 2 years old. One of mine would actually chew wallboard ...... sit by the wall and chew into it. Sheltie's are herding dogs too ... active and get easily bored. She might be bored .... it also helps to always make her sit/stay before you open the front door. If you keep a treat handy by the front door ... I have a small pottery bowl ... she will be waiting for that and that will take her focus away from barking.


barks ONLY at smokers

My 5mo old Chihuahua/doxie mix is now barking at smokers when I take her for walks.

She alert barks from about 100 ft away as we draw closer it just gets more rapid.

This is her only alert bark that I can't seem to use the clicker to regain her attention with or use

her target stick or my hand. All get ignored. She is ignoring children, wheel chairs,

motorcycles, bikes just fine. She hates other dogs but I can gain her attention with the clicker and

get her barking to stop. This is not her "go away - other dog bark." I am starting to wonder if the

last four people I encountered were all smoking the same brand of cigs.

It was both men/women/young/old. Only thing i know in common was they were all sitting.

My elderly mother smokes otherwise that is the only smoker she has been around. She just started

clicker training this week but seems to be doing well at stopping barking at other dogs.

Aidan Bindoff's picture

re: barks ONLY at smokers

If I may make a suggestion that you probably won't like at first - don't use the clicker

to distract her from other dogs.  Get your hands on "Click to Calm" (available here)

for a really good introduction on how to use the clicker for best effect in these 

situations. Unfortunately, she is probably barking at smokers because she has been

reinforced for barking, and will probably start barking at other things too soon.

"You get what you click" - click while she is barking at other dogs and she will stop, but

she will be more likely to bark at other dogs also.

Get some distance, and click when she sees the other dog but BEFORE she barks.

barking/aggressive to humans when not in leash

Hi, we got our dog when she was 7 months old,she now is 3 and a half. From the beginning she showed signs of being  afraid of strangers, she growled a little at us when we first said hello. Thats fine no. When she is not in the leash and meets people, she barks heavily at them and seems agressive. She wont come on command. She also can behave the same way if strangers suddenly show up. To me she seems like a dog with little confidence who compensates with beeing "tough". At first we thought this was related to men, but she reacts like this to women too. I do not have the possibility to talk to the former owner.I have started with clickertraining, do you have any advices ? I am afraid she can bite someone, and besides I am not happy about a situation where she scares people. Of course  I try to keep her in leash all the time,but it happens I take a chance while out in the woods. But, it is always a chance that someone suddenly shows up......

barking when we leave and when we come home

We have a 1 year old beagle mix. He's a great dog except for the barking when we come or go. He is usually in the fenced back yard while we're gone. No matter how quiet we are he knows when we go out he front door. He stands at the fence and barks until the car is out of site. If we are in the front yard or side yard and he can't get to us, he will not shut up. We cannot stand outside and talk to a neighbor unless we are inside the fence. Coming home from work is worse than when we leave. He knows the sound of the car. As soon as he hears it he starts and will not stop until we get out of the car, get in the house, go to the back door and open it and tell him to stop. If we go out the back gate and around the corner of the garage to take the trash out, same thing. He will not shut up until we come back to the gate and come in. We've tried the bark collar, Bark Off, and simply telling him to be quiet.  My husband said if we can't stop this behavior, he will get rid of him. HELP!! ANYONE!! PLEASE!!

My dogs and nights awake in hotels

I understand that my dog may be trying to alert me to a potential threat when he starts barking at night in a hotel. Of course it all gets worse once the tv is off, the room is quiet because I intent to sleep and every single door that closes and people that pass in front of the door sets him off. He often growls which I dont really mind, but when he barks right at my ears or jumps out of bed and go barking loud at the door I just want to die! I am going on a trip with a friend and would really apreciate an advice on how to save her from his annoying behavior.

I know that training can help but at home I don't have this problem and I don't go to hotels that often, so what should I do?


Crate training

Dogs tend to be anxious when in a strange place, such as a hotel. My dog has a similar problem and I found crate training to be quite effective. If you get a crate you can teach them that that's their safe place. Start training at home by giving him treats when he's in the crate. Move it into different rooms, and take it other places, like friend's houses when he's comfortable in it. Then next time you take him to a hotel he should feel more relaxed in his crate. Try covering it with blankets so he can't see out. Leaving some relaxing music on that you don't mind sleeping to may help him too.


I just got a 2 month old female german shepherd dog, when she can't see me she whines, barks, jumps and scratches at the door.  When in the house and she looks like she wants outside, I let her out, she immediatly starts her behvior all over again.  When I go to work I put her in an outside kennel, she starts barking an whining. When I get home and I let her out, she jumps, bites and gets in between my legs and almost trips me.  What can I do to help her with her anxiety?

sea_lions's picture

I had similar problems with

I had similar problems with my rottweiler. I couldnt leave the room without him following me or whining when he couldnt see me. i would give him the stay command which he already knew and leave him in the hallway. Then I'd walk into the front room so he could still see me. I repeated this and gradually increased the amount of time he would be waiting in a seperate room. Keep the time random ie 30 secs then 2mins then 1 min then 5 mins then etc once he'd got the hang of this excersize i walked out shut the door so he couldnt see me then opened it straight away then you gradually increase the time you can spend apart with the door shut. Use your clicker and click before you open the door and return to your dog no need for treats as i found my return to him was reinforcement enough! My dog can now sleep in a seperate room or be shut away if we have guests that are nervous of dogs.

Im now working on leaving him home alone without whining for my return!

Good luck!

Constant barking when excited.

We just adopted a 10yo Bichon who is wonderful in every way EXCEPT when he gets excited, he barks constantly & of course is hoined by our female Bichon (also 10yo) and it sounds like we have a dozen dogs!   Our female never did this before we got Maxie.   He gets excited when he sees you put on your shoes because he knows he will go for a walk, also when my husband comes home from anywhere...as short at just to the mailbox or an hour or more from somewhere else.  I just ordered a clicker from Amazon that will be here in 2 days.  How do I use it effectively?

May I translate in Chinese and post in my own blog?

Dear Melissa Alexander

I am reader from Taiwan.
I think your article "How to Stop Unwanted Barking" is great.
May I translate in Chinese and post in my own blog?
Such good article should share to more people.

Thank you


I need some advice with my older girl.. Her barking has become a huge problem.


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no problem

I think, that Unwanted Barking - it isn't problem. Dog if a friend of man. When dogs are barking, they speak with you. Contact with your dogs is very important I think. In conclusion, I want to mention that barking is very dood and funny...
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A constantly barking dog is a problem for both you and for your neighbors and many communities will take action to quiet your dog if you don’t do so yourself in very short order. While some of the techniques may seem cruel (such as not saying good-bye to your dog when you leave) keep in mind that this only seems cruel to YOU but that your dog does NOT think the same way that you do; it is NOT cruel to your dog.
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Rufus's barking

Hi, i got my 2 year old dog Rufus from a rescue centre 3 weeks ago, and he seems like the perfect dog. Yet whenever we go out the neighbours have told us he continually barks and howls throughout the day. They are getting really fed up and i cant blame them! The problem is we are struggling to train this behaviour, as he never barks when we are there ad we have never caught him in the act! He is quiet as a mouse when we are home! When we arrive home, he cries and whines and leaps all over us and is obviously distressed.
He is happy to be in a different room from us when we are in the house, and is silent at night time when we lock him away from us. We try sneaking out but he can hear our key in the lock!
We have also noticed he doesn't eat/drink/play with his toys all day whilst we are gone, and doesn't seem to sleep in his basket either.

How can we train him to be happy and content whilst we are at work?


I have exactly the same

I have exactly the same problem with my rescue dog which I got 2 weeks ago.. can you let me know what was suggested . . i dont know what to do with him.

My dog does the same

My dog does the same thing...could you e-mail me the suggestions that others sent you? Thanks!
peachymegs at yahoo .com

Aidan Bindoff's picture

Barking/Howling while the owner is out

This is one of the behaviors that is symptomatic of Separation Anxiety (but this does not mean that it is full-blown canine separation anxiety). There are several approaches to treating it, but all center around making the dog feel more comfortable being left along. Medication is appropriate in a small percentage of cases and a qualified veterinary behaviorist can advise if this is the case.

If you Google "canine separation anxiety" you will find some ideas, including making departures and returns low-key, giving your dog things to pass the time while you are gone, and creating a safe place for your dog (possibly inside your home in a dog-proof room or crate).

An exercise is detailed in an article on this site, which also includes more information on canine separation anxiety:




Brodie's barking

Since Brodie will be quiet if you pull over I would suggest multiple rides planned so you can pull over and stop as soon as there is any barking [think pulling on a leash and being a tree]. Also, plan to go PAST the 'best spots' to somewhere less exciting to him, haul out a book or knitting and just enjoy yourself for a while -do not take him out- and then go home. If he manages to be quiet, have a nice walk somewhere or even stop at the best spots. You just want to not reward barking. Also, if you can train him to hold a toy or another incompatible behavior that could help. Another suggestion is to heavily reinforce 'quiet' when the radio is on and then play the radio in the care. I would also put the barking on cue and let him bark his head off when learning cued, and then just not give the cue very often.

Best of luck,

Dog Barks at Children

I have a 2 year old, 20 pound terrier mix. He has had basic obedience training, has always been socialized with other dogs and has some exposure to children (walking in the neighborhood, walking trails, etc.). He seems to have a fear of children that worries me.

When we are walking and a child goes near him, he jumps away and tries to hide behind me. When our friend brought her 3 year old daughter to our home recently, he barked at her so much that it made her cry. We had to remove the dog from room as the child was quite afraid of him. On another occasion we were at my parent's home when a friend's grandchild came over. He barked constantly at the child then as well. I tried to bring the child over to let the dog sniff him. He did but was clearly nervous so I didn't push it. After a while, I had the child give the dog treats and he did accept them from the child and seemed to do a little better.

Does anyone have any advice on training the dog not to bark and be fearful of children? I want to expose him to them as much as possible but I don't want him to frighten the children either. Thanks!

Senior dogs and increased barking


I need some advice with my older girl.. Her barking has become a huge problem. She used to be very good in the cage and or crate. As she has becomes older we cut her a lot more slack and that has led to what appears to be a very spoiled dog situation.

We travel in a MH and her barking,howling, whining and wailing are getting very intense. I have tried the clicker, covered her cage, left Kongs, cajoled, ignored, scolded and grown INCREASINGLY frustrated. She is a poodle and the other dog is a poodle as well but sleeps quietly in her crate (she will be three yrs. old in January) They are caged separately but she even carries on when I cage them together and other dog (so far) had remained quiet. It seems to be major separation anxiety as she will remain quiet if I am near the cage. She will totally leave the area and ignore me if I am in the motorhome but I better not try to leave.....There has to be a way that I haven't tried or something I am missing in my approach. Please help.


Barking dog and deaf owner

I have a problem similar to Susan's.

A man who is new to our obedience class is deaf. He can speak but not much and can't hear much, if anything. He has a nice 9-month-old GSD that likes to jump on him and his kids and barks a lot at children when they are on the street. The owner can feel the barking through the collar but if he's distracted, I'm not sure he always knows when it's started.

We are going to have him click and treat when the dog looks at him, on the principle that the dog can't bark and eat at the same time. I also told him that when he sees a distraction like that approaching, he should get the dog's attention and give a sit signal.

But we're flying by the seat of our pants here and would appreciate any ideas!


Hi Susan, I now this is an

Hi Susan,

I now this is an old comment but I thought I'd put my two cents in since I went through a very similar thing with one of my dogs. With Phoebe, it was buses, dogs, bridges etc that were setting her off every time we went anywhere. Phoebe was responding to things she could see out the window so I'd tried experimenting with various makeshift blindfolds until I asked at my local pet supply store and they suggested a new product called the "Calming Cap". It's made my Gentle leader and turned out to be a bit of a challenge to find but it seems to be available online now. It goes over the dog's face in the car and fastens around their collar. There is a mesh "window" in the spandex-y cap that obscures some but not a of the dog's vision. With the cap on, Phoebe lies down in the car and rests her head on her paws. Best $30 I've ever spent!


excitement barking

Brodie's problem barking behavior is limited to a very specific situation- driving in the car to fun places -which is pretty much everywhere we go- he even loves going to the vet, although agility locations and the woods where we usually walk are the worst.

Most locations, its a few barks as we get there, no big deal. For the higher level locations, it is a bigger problem- at least for my ears! Unfortunately, he's got a piercing tone to his bark that goes right through me.

Covering the crate doesn't work- he still knows where we are. I've tried giving him something to chew on-stuffed Kongs, marrow bones, pigs ears, bully stix- he won't touch it, though he chews like a maniac at home. He won't take treats tossed into his crate- even wonderful extremely high value ones. We've sucessfully managed to stop barking from the point where I am out of traffic and can stop the car if there is barking present, so the actual end of the ride is fine, its the middle portion, as we're getting there, that drives me crazy.

I've given serious consideration to ear plugs! Oh, and he managed to get a muzzle off his face. Any suggestions?

Susan Mann, Brodie and Kyp!

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