Controlling barking dogs

By Karen Shirk

Does your dog bark? Of course, he does! All dogs bark or whine to some degree. Asking a dog to never bark or make any type of vocalization is like asking a human to never speak. However, for most of us we do need to control how much our dogs bark.

For some dogs this is easier than others. I have two dogs who are very different. Aiko rarely barks and when she does bark it can be pointed to a specific reason where as Boone barks for any and every occasion.

So, why do dogs bark? The most common reason dogs bark is related to their suspicion level. It is the reason many people get dogs. Suspicion is what makes a dog alert to a stranger at the door, or someone in our yard who should not be. Suspicion can come on many levels.

The perfect dog, for most people will only bark when there is in our opinion a valid reason such as a stranger at the door. For some dogs though, a bag floating in the street outside the window could be a monster that is planning to attack at any moment just like the leaves falling from the tree could be considered dangerous and should be alerted to.

Some other reasons dogs bark include, barking to let another animal or human know this is their property, barking to get your attention or because they are so happy you are home, and of course barking because they want something.

My dog Boone barks for all of the above reasons. So how to deal with the unwanted barking? Let me first reiterate, in my opinion it is not right to ask a dog to never bark but to rather work on controlling the barking and eliminated unacceptable barking. So, you may allow a couple of barks to say it is dinner time and work to terminate all barking at people or dogs. For me, I allow Boone to bark if he wants a treat but he must stop barking and sit to get it.

However, barking at other dogs is completely unacceptable. The way I dealt with this was to take him places where there were lots of dogs and as I saw a dog in the distance I began to tell him what a good boy he was and to give him tiny sized treats. I kept his attention off the dog and he began to associate another dog approaching as a treat time and became more focused on the treats and praise than needing to bark at the other dogs.

If he did bark, I carried a very small water bottle and would squirt him and say no. If he quieted down and the dog was still in sight I rewarded his now compliant behavior.

So, in conclusion, figure out why your dog is barking and what barking is acceptable and what is not. Set out to limit acceptable barking and terminate unacceptable barking. The best way to end barking is through redirection but sometimes labeling it as wrong with a firm No and at times an unpleasant experience like a squirt of water may prove useful. Limiting acceptable barking by asking for obedience commands such as sitting and for the barking to stop before they get what they are asking for is best.

By Karen Shirk

Story courtesy of Karen Shirk, executive director and founder of 4 Paws For Ability. Visit to learn more about what they do.

Story courtesy of Karen Shirk, executive director and founder of 4 Paws For Ability. Visit to learn more about what they do.