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Ask the Trainer: How Can I Quiet My Barking Dogs?

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Dear Kevin,
My 1.5 year old and 8 month old Golden Retrievers bark at EVERYTHING. People walking by the yard, squirrels, the garbage truck, etc. (They only do this at home. On walks and at the park, they are much quieter) and nothing I do seems to make it stop! I don’t yell at them (isn’t that like asking a dog to stop barking by barking at it?), I offer treats and praise when they’re being quiet, I’ve tried “thanking” them for alerting me to something in hopes that they’d quiet down after knowing they got my attention and everything is ok, and I’ve even tried shaking the penny can (as suggested by another trainer), but that scared them to death and made me feel terrible! (And, it didn’t work anyway).

Because of a noise ordinance in my city, I can be fined if my dogs bark after 9pm. I’m nervous about letting them outside at night, and now I’m afraid I may have made the problem worse by bribing them to quiet down and come inside with treats when they start barking at night.

My neighbors think my very sweet, loving dogs are just obnoxious, un-trained, vicious animals and one man threatened to poison them if they barked at him walking by again. The problem isn’t just annoying anymore, but now their safety is a concern.

What am I doing wrong?

Hi there Jennifer,
One thing that could help this right off the bat would be increase exercise. In theory if they have less energy in them, they have less energy to bark at things out of the window. From a training standpoint I am going to recommend something similar to what you mentioned but with some important variations.

My first goal when working with dogs and distractions is to get their attention on me. The cue I use for this is their name. The way this works is you say the dog’s name and then the dog looks up at you. Directly after the dog looks at you it is very important that you say your praise word followed by a high value reward. A high value reward to a dog is something like string cheese, hot dogs, turkey, toy etc. Make sure not to repeat the name. If the dog does not look when you say it once, make some sort of other noise to get its attention. It really comes down to finding what your dog(s) will work for.

When teaching this cue in the beginning it is important to start with no to minimal distractions. Start off really easy and once the dog(s) is getting it increase the difficulty of the distraction. This is going to be important because if you try to just jump to a very difficult distraction you will not have much if any success.

When the Attention Work is very solid use it on these distractions out of the window. It will go something like this:

Dog barks out of window.
Human says name of dog,
Dog looks up at human,
Human says “good boy” (or something like that)
Human rewards with a high value reward.

Your dog(s) will start to catch on to this game. The dog(s) may start to anticipate its name being called and start to look at you. If this is the case, every time the dog(s) looks through the window and sees something it usually barks at, and does not bark, say “good boy” and reward.

With all of the repetition of saying “good boy” and then being rewarded, you can start to faze out having to say the dog(s) name by using “good boy” because they know exactly what comes after the it. It will look something like this:

Dog looks out of window,
Human says “good boy” before dog barks,
Dog looks back up to human and is rewarded,
Dog looks out of window and the cycle repeats.

From a punishment standpoint what I would recommend is using a leash and removing the dog after it barks. Do that for about 5 minutes and then let it back in that room if you choose. I would stay in the room and reward the dog if it looks and does not bark, or do the same punishment if it does bark. If you are very strict with this it can help a lot. You can use a phrase such as “Too bad” just after the bark and just before you remove the dog. I would focus on doing the first protocol I mentioned primarily. But don’t be afraid to use both.

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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  1. Avatar Of Cheryl R

    Cheryl R


    I take my Bichon to work and she was running off customers with her barking. My vet suggested a citronella bark collar. It cured the barking in 2 days and then I just put it on her without turning it on for a few more days. Each time she barked and it puffed out the citronella I would say the “quiet” command. She doesn’t use the collar any longer and does really well with the “quiet” command. I know some people would not agree with this method but I have a very good vet and I trusted her recommendation. The reviews suggest that it doesn’t work on all dogs but it was very good for me. One negative is if another dog barks close by, it will set off the collar on my dog. It goes by the loud bark sound.

  2. Avatar Of Peter



    Disgusting that a neighbor threatened to poison your dogs for barking at him. If someone did that to my dog he won’t want to live in the neighborhood anymore after what I’d do.

  3. Avatar Of Eme



    This technique rewards the dog for barking. You are classical conditioning your dog to bark. Dog barks, looks at you, is called over gets a treat. Then goes back to the window to find something else to bark at to get another treat.

    I like dogingtonpost but this is silly. Choose better advice before poating .

    • Avatar Of Kim



      I agree. I used to reward my dogs for coming back in the house when I called them in because they used to ignore me. Soon one of them started asking to go outside just to walk a couple steps, turn around and walk back in the door and sit down waiting for his treat.

  4. Avatar Of Chantel



    What about when you leave your dog home alone (gated inside) tans they bark uncontrollably. Any tips?? We’ve tried leaving the tv on, kong, bully, thundershirt, you name it. We now have her on a baby monitor to see how long she barks for and it usually last a max of 30-45 mins then she sleeps. But during hat 30-45 mins she’s crazy. Any tips??

    • Avatar Of Sabrina



      I have a similar problem, labradoodle 6 months old. When i leave him in his cage, while i am out/at work he barks almost continously according to my basement tennant. He isnt as bad when i leave him out but dont trust him to be out without supervision. He had a cone on his head for a few days from surgery so kept him out because he didnt fit well in the cage with it. Tennant getting very annoyed but i think she talks to him through the floor.

  5. Avatar Of Marilyn Mcleland



    I have many many dogs and they bark at everything sometimes. They bark to get me up in the morning. They bark very time I feed them and can’t get them to be quite. Will spanking them get them to be quite? Some days it gets really bad. I think I have them spoiled too much. I’m home now as I have no job at this time, so I’m around them all the time most days. Can you help me???

    • Avatar Of Karen



      Marilyn – whatever you hear, please do not use pain to train your dogs. It only teaches your pets to fear you. If you have a choice, wouldn’t you want your pets to respond to you out of respect instead of fear? Positive reinforcement ALWAYS works. You can use the training method listed in the article the same way. Reward them when they exhibit the appropriate behavior. It might take work and practice but it is a very simple procedure if you are consistent. Your dogs have been conditioned now to bark to get what they want. I can picture your feeding routine.. you start preparing the food.. they get excited.. they see each other getting excited.. they start to bark.. you tell them to be quiet.. they keep barking.. you finish preparing their meal… still barking.. “Hey! SHHH! Be quiet!”… more barking.. food is set on the floor… barking stops and eating commences.. Right? They have just been trained to know that if they bark, they will be rewarded with dinner. IF the above practice doesn’t seem to work by getting their attention with their names, try a sound or even a squirt in the face with a water bottle. Some might argue that the water bottle is a form of punishment but it’s better than a spanking. You can eventually replace the water bottle with their name, then a piece of kibble.. then the entire bowl. Only you can decide what will work with your pack. Since you said you aren’t working, take several times during the day to do 10 minute training sessions with your dogs. Remember, they are only to be rewarded with their food when they are exhibiting the desired behavior.

  6. Avatar Of Catherine King

    Catherine King


    What can I do when my 4 dogs start barking and howling every time someone rings the doorbell or there is a strange noise outside?

  7. Avatar Of Jean Sforza

    Jean Sforza


    dogs can not bark and chew a chew toy at the same time. maybe hes bored!

  8. Avatar Of Donna K Donna K says:

    You are correct Paul. Always find an appropriate replacement behavior. Even if it’s sit or go find a certain toy. You would ideally always find a replacement behavior for an unwanted behavior.

  9. Avatar Of Donna K Donna K says:

    I am a trainer too. I would also suggest teaching the dog to “Speak” When your dog barks say “Speak!” When he barks again say “Good boy!” If you can teach speak as a command maybe it would help. Also, if your dog does anything you don’t approve of, a short, sharp NO! or Ehh! or whatever sound works. Remember matter of fact, short and sharp sound. Not out of anger or frustration, just matter of fact, you mean NO!Don’t sing song Noooooo, short sharp NO!

  10. i really like for my dog to bark i love when he warns me of somthing outside these days i am glad i have got a great watchdog so bark on charlie

  11. Avatar Of Leigh Hilderbrandt

    Leigh Hilderbrandt


    These techniques are all well and good when people are home to be with their dogs. But, how do you maintain the good behavior when people are NOT home (ie, at work)?

    And, what about the dog who is so excited by whatever he’s barking at that he doesn’t hear his name when you say it? What if he’s not reward-motivated? And, what if pulling him away with a leash makes him aggressive?

    • Avatar Of Paul B.

      Paul B.


      Don’t give the dog access to the window when you aren’t home. Crate, tether, baby gate, whatever is needed to block that access.

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