Dog Barking

It's a fact of life - dogs bark!

A 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!'.

Golden cocker spaniel dog barking in the garden

On the other hand, excessive barking can be a real nuisance, not only for you but for neighbors too.

Barking needs to be controlled quickly, but before you do it's best to understand the reason(s) for it.

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

You may be able to stop your dog barking simply by removing the problem, like so:

  • 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 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 your pet and he'll stop barking.

  • If your dog is hungry - feed him!

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 why it's important to identify what's causing your dog to bark before you try to tackle the problem.

A dog barking for a prolonged period usually means that there's something wrong and your pet is trying to communicate with you.

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 this has 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 it's exactly the type of barking that we want to discourage, and especially before it develops into a habit.

How To Stop Your Dog Barking

Be Quiet!

As I mentioned earlier, different situations may require different ways to stop your dog barking, so you must understand what's causing your pet to bark before you 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. It's perfect for a puppy, but can also be taught to an older dog, although it may take slightly longer.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 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 will happen and this unpleasant experience will make him think twice about barking again, and eventually he will stop completely.

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.

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.
  • Smacking the underside of the dog's muzzle every time he barks.
  • 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, we 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 the owner is near enough to the animal to give the 'correction'.

Reward Based Methods

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

If you regularly use punishment based training methods you may be creating other behavioral problems in your Cocker Spaniel, for example, biting or aggression, particularly towards the person giving the punishment.

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

Imagine your dog feels pain each time the postman or a delivery man comes to the door. He would soon begin to associate his pain with visitors to your home and could become aggressive to all visitors as a result.

Our dogs learn by association.

And that's why if you're going to give your pet a 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 Barking

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

You can use the "Be Quiet" command and add something like, 'it's okay', or 'we're safe' - use whatever words you feel comfortable with, but stick with them.

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 alerted you to a potential problem and you (as his pack leader) have investigated, have decided that there was no danger, and have responded appropriately.

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!

Attention Seeking?

You could be making this problem worse if you give your Cocker Spaniel attention when he barks. Think about it - do you shout at him, or grab hold of his collar?

Yes? That's attention!

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 reinforcing his decision to bark in the first place. Shouting will only encourage him all the more - usually louder and with more determination!

If your Cocker Spaniel is always trying to get your attention, question whether or not you're spending enough time with him. Do you give him enough exercise? Do you play with him?

We recommend you give your Spaniel 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!

Remember to give him attention, praise, and reward, only when he's quiet and well-behaved to reinforce his 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.

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