How To Prevent Dog Barking

Excessive dog barking is a real nuisance, but before you can address the problem you need to understand why your dog's barking - remove the problem and he'll stop.  It's as simple as that... well almost. Find out why dogs bark and discover 5 effective methods to stop barking dogs.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Golden cocker spaniel dog barking in the garden

It's a fact of life - dogs bark!

Dog barking is a natural canine behavior. It's how they communicate and a bark can mean anything from 'Let's play!', 'I'm hungry', or 'I'm bored' to a warning of danger - 'there's a burglar in the house!'.

Dogs should be allowed to bark in order to communicate with their owners or to alert us to potential danger. However, once the 'communication' has been made the barking should stop.

Excessive barking shouldn't be tolerated for any reason and will need to be addressed quickly before it becomes a habit. If the barking problem is allowed to become habitual it will be much more difficult to stop.

In many cases you can stop your dog's barking simply by removing the cause of his barking.

For example, your dog may be lonely, he may be able to hear intruders lurking outside, or the children may be teasing him.

Remove The Problem

Remove the problem and you'll likely stop your dog barking:

  • If he's bored or lonely - make sure he gets lots of exercise, has toys to play with and keep him occupied, and has regular training;
  • If you think he senses a prowler outside - put exterior lights on and check there's no-one around - that's usually enough to frighten off most intruders, which in turn, will stop your dog barking;
  • If he's being teased by the kids and he's becoming frustrated - stop the children teasing him and your dog will stop barking.

  • If your dog is hungry - feed him!

Tired, well-fed and watered, contented Spaniels are happy Spaniels and happy Spaniels don't nuisance-bark!

Why Is Your Dog Barking?

In the above examples, it was the causes of the dog barking that needed to be addressed - not the barking itself.

However, where the cause can't be removed, you must find other ways to address it.

That's the reason you need to work out what's causing your dog to bark before you can begin to tackle the problem.

A dog barking for a prolonged period usually means that there's something wrong and he's trying to let you know.

If you can't work out why your dog is barking and you're confident he's not ill or injured it's possible that his barking has simply become a habit - as unsociable and annoying as it is - and he's barking simply for the sake of it.

Continued, incessant dog barking is excessive and unnecessary and is exactly the type of barking that we want to discourage, especially before it develops into a habit.

5 Effective Methods To Stop Barking Dogs

1. Be Quiet!

As I mentioned earlier, different situations may require different ways to stop your dog barking. By understanding what's causing your Cocker Spaniel to bark will allow you to decide which is the most suitable method to use.

One of the best and easiest remedies is to teach your dog to bark and then teach him to stop - yes, it does sound contradictory, doesn't it? But I promise you, it works.

Learn how to teach your pet to stop barking using this "Be Quiet" command. Although it's much easier to teach this command to a young puppy, it can also be taught to an older dog, but it may take slightly longer.

2. Barking Puppy?

If you have a puppy with an excessive barking problem, and the above simply isn't working for you, you may find this article called 'How To Stop Your Puppy Barking' very useful.

3. Barking At Visitors

Sometimes our dogs bark at visitors, either because they're over-excited, or because they believe the visitor is a threat to his pack. If your dog is barking at visitors, delivery men, garbage collectors, or the postman, I recommend you follow the link and try these training exercises.

4. Barking In The Garden

Most Cocker Spaniels enjoy being outdoors, but unfortunately some turn into barking demons as soon as they're let into the garden.

Vocal pets can sometimes drive you (and your neighbors) to distraction, barking at everything from birds and rustling leaves, to their own bloomin' shadow!

'Barking Mad In The Garden' will help you to remedy this and in no time at all you and your neighbors will once again be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of your own yard...ah bliss!

5. Correction Devices

There are many owners who recommend using a barking correction collar on their dogs, usually because all else has failed.

A correction collar is a device worn around the dog's neck which triggers a spray or a mild current each time your pet barks.

The aim is to teach him that each time he barks something unpleasant (but not harmful) will happen and this unpleasant experience will make him think twice about barking again, and eventually he will stop completely.

One of the down sides to a correction collar is that another dog's barking can set it off.

If you're on a tight budget, a simple and cheap alternative to the correction collar is a water spray. You can use an ordinary toy water pistol or garden spray bottle, simply fill it with water or water and lemon juice.

The problem with a spray that you activate is that he can only be 'punished' for barking when you're around; if he barks when you're not around he won't be sprayed which results in inconsistency, making this method slightly less effective.

Punishment Based Methods

The methods listed below follow a punishment based approach (and/or are a last resort) to prevent a dog barking.

However, I believe that they're harsh and rather drastic - judge for yourself.

  • Removal of the vocal chords (Vocal Cordectomy or Surgical Debarking). This 'remedy' is only used in extreme situations where chronic barking simply cannot be controlled. The operation doesn't normally remove the bark completely; it simply reduces it to a hoarse croak. However, the noise levels are considerably reduced.
  • Some owners have actually resorted to taping their dog's muzzle closed! I don't recommend it.
  • Smacking the underside of the dog's muzzle every time he barks - I don't think so. However, it's said to work like the correction collar.
  • Staring into the eyes of a barking dog until the barking stops and the dog goes into 'submissive mode' - dangerous and certainly not recommended!
  • Muzzle your dog. Although this may stop your dog barking, I believe using a muzzle in this way is cruel. There are more suitable methods available.
  • A tin can, or a bottle, containing pebbles or coins, is shaken vigorously each time he barks. Dogs don't like the sound it makes, and although the rattle bottle may work, I don't recommend using this method without first seeking professional advice from a qualified canine trainer or animal behaviorist as it could make your pet aggressive if not used properly.
  • Whacking your dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper when he barks? I don't think so!

Personally, I believe some, if not all, of these methods to be a little over the top as they are too aggressive and I wouldn't recommend them.

Apart from being harsh (and in some cases, downright cruel!) they're also only short-term 'solutions' as they'll only work when you're near enough to your pet to give the 'correction'.

Reward Based Methods

Wherever possible I recommend you stay away from the negative, punishment based approaches shown above and use positive, reward-based training methods instead.

Use punishment based training methods at your peril. If you do, you may end up creating other behavioral problems in your Cocker Spaniel, for example, biting or aggression, particularly towards the person giving the punishment - you.

"Reward based training is much more effective and kinder to your dog than negative, punishment based training."

Look at it this way.

When the postman or a delivery-man comes to the door, your dog is whacked for barking, whether it's with a newspaper or something thrown at him, and he feels pain each time. It won't be long before he begins to associate his pain with visitors to your home and he could become aggressive towards all visitors as a result.

Our dogs learn by association.

If you're going to give your pet a (reward-based) correction you must 'catch him in the act' so that he understands why he's being corrected. I'm talking seconds here. Leave it too long and he won't make that connection.

Acknowledge your dog's bark (he's telling you that you have a visitor) and then tell him to 'Be Quiet'. Let him see the treat in your hand and if he stops barking, reward him. If you reward your pet the moment he stops barking, he'll soon learn that when the postman arrives it's treat time...the postman is no longer a threat. Learn more here.

Acknowledge Your Dog's Barking

Always acknowledge your Cocker Spaniels barking. Let him see that you understand what he's 'telling you'.  For example, if he's barking at the door or the window, go and take a look. If there's nothing to be worried about tell him and lead him away.

If you've taught him the "Be Quiet" command, use that but add something like, 'it's okay', or 'we're safe'. Choose words you feel comfortable using and stick with them - be consistent.

As you're reassuring your dog, take hold of his collar and gently guide him back to where you were sitting and give him a pat.

In your dog's eyes, he's let you know that there was a potential problem and you (as his pack leader) have investigated and have decided that there was no danger. You have acknowledged his warning.

If you don't investigate the problem, he may continue to bark until he's confident that you have taken 'control' of the situation.

If he sees that you're not in control (ie, not dealing with the problem) he may try to challenge your status as the alpha male. Either way his barking will continue, probably even louder so ignore it at your peril!

Attention Seeking?

If there's a possibility that your dog is simply barking for attention, you could be making matters worse by fussing over him when he barks. That's why we need to understand the cause of our pet's barking so we can apply the correct solution.

Do you shout at your dog to stop barking, throw your slipper at him, or grab his his collar?

You do? In his eyes, that's attention - his barking worked - he got your attention and he's learning to do it each time he wants something from you.

The worse thing you can do to try to stop your dog barking is to shout at him. Unfortunately, as frustrated dog owners, this is sometimes exactly what we do!

To your pet, shouting simply sounds like you're barking too and in his eyes, you're either reinforcing his decision to bark in the first place or you're joining in the fun. Shouting will only encourage him all the more - usually louder and with more determination!

If your Cocker Spaniel is often attention seeking, ask yourself whether or not you're spending enough time with him. Do you give him enough exercise? Do you play with him? Is he bored?

Your Spaniel needs at least a 1-hour walk and 15-20 minutes play each day to burn off his energy; more if you have the time - wear him out!

Give him attention, praise, and reward, only when he's quiet and well-behaved to encourage and reinforce good behavior.

Read more about attention seeking behavior in dogs and how to deal with it.

If all else fails...

If after trying some of the above methods you still haven't managed to stop your dog barking, I recommend you consult your vet.

If your vet gives him the all clear, then perhaps you should consider contacting a professional trainer, or animal behavioral therapist for advice?

They might suggest that your Cocker stays with them for a few days so they can monitor his behavior for themselves before deciding which is the most suitable therapy for your dog.

Alternatively, they may prefer to work directly with you and your pet to come up with a strategy to stop your dog barking. They'll help you to communicate better with your pet and work on his barking problem.

Either way, it's a win-win situation.

Happy spaniels don't bark!

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