Best Ways to Stop Dog Barking in Reactive Dogs

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18 Minute Read
Updated September 27, 2021
Dog's bark, that's totally normal, but inappropriate and excessive barking can be a sign of stress, frustration, or boredom. Learn how to stop dog barking and ditch reactive habits. 
Does your dog bark at all hours of the day or night?  Or when someone walks by your house? Or maybe when she sees another dog?  It may seem impossible to stop a dog from barking. After all, barking is a natural instinct. However, it is possible – without using cruel methods like dreaded bark collars. 

Using simple techniques, you can change your dog’s behaviours so that you and your favourite furry friend can be more relaxed and enjoy being at home together and help your dog become more comfortable when he’s alone. 

It’s important to break down why your dog is barking in the first place, and then use best practices to train your dog not to engage in excessive barking. 

Training your dog to stop barking may seem daunting, but it can be done with a little patience and knowledge. This article will go over why your dog barks, how to help your dog relax and how to get your dog to stop barking. 

Is Your Dog Reactive?

If you have any experience or knowledge about training, you may have heard of reactivity. But what exactly is reactivity?

Reactivity is a term that refers to your dog overreacting to everyday, normal situations. This could relate to a variety of circumstances, including reaction to a person, another dog, or being home alone. 

Your dog is considered reactive if they react unusually intensely to any of these typical situations. This can include barking and other behaviours such as growling, snapping, or lunging towards the person or thing stimulating them. 

Dogs who do these things are often labelled as being protective or aggressive, but there’s actually more going on here. These behaviours indicate that your dog is feeling very intense emotions and naturally, they use their go-to coping mechanism to make them feel better or safer.

Most of the time, this means barking. Understanding reactivity and common triggers are one of the most important steps to solving your dog’s challenging behaviour. You’ll have a better idea of what makes your dog anxious and how to relieve this anxiety. 

How to Stop Dog Barking When Left Alone

three dogs barking home alone

Dogs frequently bark when they are left home alone. Not only is this negative as it means your dog is upset, but it can also cause you to have angry neighbours!  A common reason that dogs bark is separation anxiety. 

With everyone's schedules and routines drastically changed in recent years, one overlooked and unexpected way that it has caused problems is actually in our pets. 

Many pets have gotten used to months of working from home, social distancing, and quarantine. For dog parents who have to go to work, or are thinking about returning to the office, a real worry is separation anxiety. 

Change can be scary for dogs. Any change in routine, including going back to work, can cause separation anxiety, especially if they have become accustomed to you being home 24/7. 

Some dogs handle this fine, while others may have separation anxiety that results in barking all day long when they are home alone. And barking might not be the only issue. Your dog may have other negative behavioural changes such as chewing, scratching, and licking. 

These behaviours can be problematic both for their own health and your house. Relieving the cause of dog barking – separation anxiety – instead of just the symptom can help your furry friend be happy and healthy, even when you are away from home. 

There are several ways that you can stop your dog from barking when left alone. Each dog is different, so it may take some trial and error to figure out how to best help your pet adjust to being home alone and to stop barking. 

Here are some tips to help your dog overcome his anxiety and stop barking when home alone. 

Desensitize By Practicing With Your Pup

It’s always a good idea to practice before you head back to work. This can make a huge difference to your dog. This allows your dog to get used to spending the day alone, napping and relaxing, instead of barking and pacing. 

Check out our 7 steps for getting your dog comfortable being home alone:

  1. Create a fun and welcoming environment for your dog. This can be his bed, the couch, your bed, a kennel- whatever works for your pup. Practice by taking him to his place and giving him a treat. Do this several times. The goal of this step is to associate his place with happy things like treats, toys, and relaxation. 
  2. Once your dog loves his place, give him a fun toy or a long-lasting chew. Choose something that will take time and hold his attention. 
  3. While your dog is doing this activity, go through some of the routines and habits that he associates with you leaving, such as making coffee, putting on shoes, etc. Do whatever it is you normally do. If he notices and gets anxious, bring him back to his special place and redirect him back to the distractions there. 
  4. After this step, go on a short outing. This is to get your dog used to watching you leave. When he is distracted and calm, just casually leave. You aren’t sneaking away- if he notices, that’s okay. Just go sit on the porch or your car. Maybe go for a short walk. You’ll likely hear your dog bark, knowing what your neighbours have had to listen to. 
  5. After about 5 minutes, calmly walk into your house. Ignore your dog. This part is rough, but it’s important to try not to give him the attention he wants. Give him a few minutes to calm himself down while you take off your shoes and go about your regular routine. 
  6. Once he is calm, give him attention and affection, showing him that calm behaviour means playtime and lots of love. 
  7. Repeat the same technique, leaving for longer periods of time. Go for a nice walk or take a quick trip to the store. Work your way up to a couple of hours at a time. Practice can really help dogs get into the routine of you leaving. This will result in reduced stress and challenging behaviours. 

Prepare for Anxiety

If you are already back to work, then there are some behaviours you can adopt that will help reduce your dog's anxiety. Here are 5 tips for preventing separation anxiety in dogs:

  1. Give yourself a little bit of extra time to give your dog attention in the morning. Take your dog on a walk, do some quick training, or play in the yard. Choose an easy activity to get your dog to release some energy, both physically and mentally. 

  2. Take your dog to his special place and give him something to do. You are reinforcing that this is a comfortable and safe place, and allowing him to have some fun. 

  3. Regular activity and exercise help reduce boredom and stress. After a long day at work, it may be the last thing you have on your mind, but it’s important to be active with your dog. Walks, training, games, and socialization are all important parts of your dog’s routine. Having consistency in both physical and mental activities can go a long way for your furry friend. 

  4. Use natural chews and raw bones to help manage boredom and stress. Don’t use special treats too often as they can lose excitement and value to your dog. 

  5. Try calming solutions to help your dog relax. Think outside the box on this one. For instance, hemp oil has been found to dramatically decrease anxiety in dogs

This and other calming solutions can be used in combination with our other tips to increase your odds of success. Thundershirts are a great hands-off approach for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. 

Dog Stress & Anxiety Solutions

Doggy Extra-Curriculars

The tips above should help your dog transition back to her new normal. However, if your dog’s behaviour is causing your neighbours to complain, then you should look into other ways to help break up your dog’s day and release energy. Here are a few options:

Doggy Daycare

If you work long days and your dog is particularly destructive when home alone, consider enrolling your pooch in doggy daycare a few days a week. It will burn some energy, reduce anxiety, and make sure your dog spends less time alone. 

Dog Sitters

Some dogs just don't play well with others, so if they require a solo dog experience, then a dog babysitter, like a friend or family member, that can come in and hang out with your dog can significantly reduce anxiety and stop disruptive behaviours. 

Dog Walker

Not all dogs need constant supervision. Instead, your dog may be fine with a mid-day walk to break up the day. Hiring a professional dog walker gives your dog a chance to play and exercise, use the bathroom, and get some social interaction. 

Ask a Neighbour

Sometimes the solution to your dog annoying your neighbours is to ask your neighbours for a hand. Having a neighbour pop in once or twice for a few minutes each day can be just what your dog needs to not feel abandoned. They can let your dog out for a quick potty break and maybe a snack.

Lunch Break Visits

Depending on your job, you may be able to stop home for your lunch break to let your dog out and give them some attention. You can spend a few minutes training and playing to help your dog relax and settle down for a nice mid-day nap. 

Depending on the severity of your dog's behaviour when home alone, training out bad habits like excessive barking can take time. Remember that barking is the symptom, not the cause, so your dog will need a unique training system that works for both you and them. 

How to Stop Dog Barking at Night

dog-barking-to-get-owners-attention-compressed

Another problematic behaviour that many dog parents report is whining and barking that keeps you awake at night. This is one of the most common behaviours reported. 

Dog barking at night can be really challenging. Everyone needs a good night’s sleep, including you and your neighbours! 

There’s a reason your dog barks at night, and it often boils down to dogs being very smart! Without realizing it, your dog has learned that whining and barking will get your attention, whether you’re wide awake or in a deep slumber. 

This can be a tough habit to break, but it is indeed breakable. The solution may tug at your heartstrings at first, though. You have to convince your dog that whining and barking will not get their attention. 

Breaking the Habit

This means you have to ignore the problem. The key is to not respond. Don’t call out soothing words, go to your dog, or let them out of their confined space. When your dog is not rewarded with attention for whining and barking, they will have no reason to whine and bark. 

This can be very difficult, and be warned: the behaviour usually gets worse before it gets better, due to a phenomenon called “extinction burst.” This is because your dog may desperately try to use a strategy that previously worked.

However, when your dog does see that you are going to be consistent and not give her attention when she barks, she will eventually realize her plan is defective and give up the behaviour. 

This process can be pretty difficult. You want what’s best for your dog, and it may seem cruel to let them keep barking without giving them any attention. However, this is really the only way to stop this behaviour. 

Like any behavioural change that benefits your dog, it will get better. A few days of difficulty letting your dog bark it out will be worth it when your dog becomes less stressed at nighttime and goes to sleep.

This is healthier for her, and the reduced barking is healthier for you, too! This lets you get a good night’s sleep, so you can be a better you – including a better dog owner. 

To help your dog transition, make sure she is as comfortable as possible before you all settle in for the night. Try playing quiet and calming music or provide your pup with a relaxing collar or diffuser. 

How to Stop Dog Barking at People

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Whether you have company or you’re trying to enjoy time with your pup at the park, it can be disconcerting to have a dog that always barks at people. You may be wondering how to stop dog barking at neighbours or other people that you come into contact with. The good news is that it certainly is possible to stop your dog from barking at people. 

It’s important to first understand why dogs bark at people in the first place. There are several reasons why dogs do this, including: 

    • Territorial Barking. If your dog barks when a new dog or stranger approaches your yard or home and has a stiff body while doing so, they are trying to protect their territory. Many dogs do this when someone comes to the front door or even walks too close to your property.

      Territorial barking means that your dog views this stranger as a threat to both themselves and their people. Unless you have a dog specifically for the purpose of guarding, this can be a threat to a stranger and create disturbances for your family and neighbours.  

    • Little Experience with Human Interaction. Dogs that don't have a lot of attention or human interaction may bark at people since they are not accustomed to socialization, or don’t trust other humans very much. This is especially seen among dogs who are rescued. 

      Furthermore, a traumatic experience with previous humans can make it difficult for dogs to trust new ones. Barking in this situation is usually due to overwhelming anxiety and fear. 

    • Excitement. This is one of the main reasons that dogs bark at strangers. This type of barking typically is not a threat at all and indicates that they are just really excited and happy. It can mean your dog is a real people lover. However, this can often make guests and strangers weary and even cause fear since they can’t tell the difference between a friendly and unfriendly bark. 

Regardless of why your dog is barking, it is possible to train your dog to not bark at people. However, this won’t happen overnight. It’s important to determine what kind of training you want to do, to remain patient, and to have consistency in your training techniques. 

Here are some of the best ways to stop your dog from barking at people. 

The Quiet Method

The quiet method means using a muzzle on your dog during training.  You should consider getting a protective dog muzzle that is durable and allows your dog to eat, drink, and pant comfortably.

The muzzle provides extra protection just in case your dog feels backed into a corner and reacts. As a stranger approaches, constantly reward your dog with very small treats, one after another. 

If your dog barks, ask them to sit and use a verbal command like "no" or "quiet." Don’t shout or yank your dog away by the collar as this will only raise tensions, and your goal is to calm your pet. 

If they stay quiet, reward them with several small treats one after the other. If they begin barking again, repeat the process, rewarding them each time they stop barking.

As you continue, gradually increase the time between treats. In time, your dog will associate the rewards with strangers and become less fearful. Then you can start working on appropriate introductions. 

Distraction Method

This method is as simple as it sounds. Distracting your dog is one of the best ways to stop barking. Once the dog is redirected and you have gained their attention, give them a command such as sit and reward them when they listen. 

Your dog will start to learn that obeying commands means they get rewards while barking at strangers does not. This will help your dog alter her behaviour. 

There are several methods for distracting your dog depending on the circumstances. If you are at home, then a great trick is to train your dog to get a toy whenever a stranger enters your home. Do this by grabbing a toy and offering it to your dog as soon as they notice the new person. 

When you are out on walks, toys can be helpful, but treats are likely a more enticing offer. Stop walking and get your dog's attention. Oftentimes, turning your dog and walking away or to the side is better for keeping his attention. Keep their focus until the person has passed or is out of range. 

Dog parks are one of the hardest places to get your dog's attention, so a dog whistle might be the most effective way to break your dog's focus and redirect him to you. 

Preventative Measures

It’s important to take preventative measures to make sure that your dog doesn’t engage with strangers until you’re ready. When your dog is inside and you aren’t home, keep curtains and blinds closed so that they are unaware of strangers that walk past or into your yard. 

Stick to quieter walking paths and parks if you know your dog gets overstimulated or fearful. After more practice and training, you may be able to upgrade to more congested areas with more foot traffic. 

Make sure you always have the right gear to control your dog too. A sturdy collar and leash, or a harness for bigger or stronger breeds will help. Muzzles may not seem nice but could be a huge help in a crisis. 

Having treats or toys handy, whether you are at home or not, to help distract, redirect, or reward your pet. 

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Provide a Safe Space

We’ve already discussed the benefits of your dog's special spot. The best way to help prevent excited barking when someone visits is to put your dog in his special spot and stay there when welcoming someone. 

To start this training with your pup, make sure that your dog is already acclimated to his spot and can obey basic commands like sitting, staying, and laying down. Start by telling your dog to go to her spot and give her a treat once she’s there. Do this several times. 

Once they understand the concept, practice sending them to their spot from different areas of the home. Reward your dog with positive reinforcement, such as giving her treats, in order to help her keep up the expected behaviour. 

If your dog finds this space comfortable and safe, then they are more likely to go there to self-soothe when they are anxious about new people coming over. 

Rewarding The Right Behaviour

The best way to acclimate your dog is to increase his human socialization - after he can master basic commands. Try inviting different people to your house at different times, asking them to provide treats and to be very affectionate. 

Your dog will realize that he will be rewarded by new people with lots of treats and love. Do the same when taking your dog on a walk, including places with which your dog is familiar. 

How to Stop Dog Barking At Other Dogs

jack-russel-barking-compressed

There are several reasons why dogs may become reactive to other dogs. One of these reasons is that your dog may be fearful of other dogs due to limited experience, or a past negative experience.

As a result, the fearful dog may be reactive and bark and lunge towards other dogs. This is stressful for your dog, you, and the other dog. 

Another reason your dog may bark at other dogs is that they are frustrated. This might be due to the fact that they usually get to meet every dog they see and now they can’t.

They may just be excited and want to say hello, and desperately desire to get closer to play or get to know the other dog. When they’re unable to pay a visit to the other dog, they may bark, refuse to listen, and cause the other dog to be fearful. 

It is, of course, quite possible that your dog is a combination of these things and is both fearful and frustrated. This unpleasant mixture of conflicting feelings can really make your dog anxious, and their anxiety will cause him to bark excessively. 

There are a few ways that you can help your dog to stop barking at other dogs. Like the other issues with dogs barking, the process can be frustrating but is certainly possible with patience and consistency. 

Understand Your Dog's Triggers

It’s important to understand your dog’s triggers. What makes her reactive? How close does your dog have to be before she starts lunging and barking? It may even be that particular sizes, breeds, and genders of dogs make your dog react more intensely. 

Other times, it could be particular places or times of day that trigger your dog. Understanding what makes your dog bark can help you best figure out how to stop this behaviour. 

Train with Limited Distractions

While you’re working on reducing your dog barking at other dogs, you should try to reduce exposure. At this point in training, socializing your dog by letting them meet more dogs won’t help. 

Walk or play at quieter times and places to avoid coming into very close contact with other dogs. If you see a dog when you’re out, move out of view and create as much space as possible to help your dog remain calm. Work on this for a few weeks to help your pup get used to seeing dogs in a quieter space without close contact. 

Keep Your Dog Active Both Mentally and Physically

Enrichment is an important part of helping your dog relax. Just like your dog needs physical stimulation, she also needs mental stimulation to help them manage their emotions and calm down. Enrichment is like exercise for your dog’s brain. 

There are tons of things you can do that are considered an environment for your pup. Things that soothe your dog and provide mental stimulation, like products that allow chewing and licking, are incredibly effective.

Bullysticks or other natural chews are good for quiet mental stimulation when your dog needs some downtime. Dog puzzle toys are also a great way to encourage your dog to try these naturally calming behaviours. 

Games like scattering food in the garden, doggie puzzles, or hiding a bone in a blanket are great ways to give your dog enrichment and prevent dog boredom. Frequent enrichment, just like frequent exercise, helps your dog learn self-soothing techniques and keeps her sharp.

These are particularly helpful for an overall balanced, healthy, and happy life, but also emotional regulation which reduces reactivity. 

Training Takes Time

Now that you’re ready to train your dog not to bark, take along your dog’s favourite treats with you when you walk to reward them when they see a dog. When they look at a dog, give them a treat before barking. This doesn't train dogs not to bark at others, but it does teach them to associate the sight of another dog with a positive experience instead of fear or anxiety. 

This problem relies on your changing your dog’s feelings, which is the root of the problem. This method works so much better since you aren’t just addressing the symptom of barking. 

Should You Use Bark Collars to Stop Your Dog From Barking?

One of the most common tools to stop dog barking is a bark control collar. Even though it may seem like an easy fix and effective solution, it is actually not advised to use this type of device. 

While it may stop dark barking in the short term, there are long-term effects. Using a corrective device like a bark collar just doesn’t address the underlying problems. It’s like putting a bandaid on a huge wound. It addresses the symptom instead of the actual problem, and this can have a very negative effect on your pup. 

Dog collars work by giving the dog a negative consequence of barking. This is invasive for the dog. If your dog stops barking because of fear of being sprayed or shocked, he will simply express his anxiety in other ways. This may include chewing, eating toxic items, self-soothing by over-grooming and more.  

Plus many believe it is inhumane. Barking is largely how dogs communicate, and while it can be problematic, you can eliminate that need for frequent barking, i.e. communication, by solving the problem at hand – your dog’s anxiety, fear or frustration.

Learn more about Force Free Dog Training from a local expert to help you find effective and lasting methods for correcting your dog's behavioural issues. 

When the Going Gets Ruff!

happy-calm-dog

The best way to help your dog is by trying different ways to reduce his or her anxiety and training your dog to react differently. If your dog has persistent anxiety that isn’t solved with the techniques discussed in this article, or the top-rated products to help your dog relax, it may be time to see a dog trainer, vet, or animal behaviourist. 

A lot of us are wondering: “how to stop my dog from barking,” don’t worry, you are not alone! We all want our dogs to be the most loving, well-behaved dogs, and there is more to incorporate into their lives to prevent barking at strangers than just training methods. 

Another note to keep in mind to train dogs not to bark is to make sure your dog is exercised and has enough toys and activities to wear them out during the day, as it will prevent barking out of boredom.

And of course, if any of these methods are not successful, or your dog exhibits aggressive behaviour, a professional dog trainer is always a viable option!

Does your dog bark his head off out the window at every passerby? Let us know what sets your dog off and the methods you use to curb this reactive behaviour in the comments below!

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Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channeling some crazy cat lady vibes with her four lovable, but rebellious cats.

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