The complete guide on how to stop a puppy from barking
Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Rachel Rodgers
21st Jul 2023
7 mins read
Barking is natural for puppies and dogs, and an important way of communicating. However, excessive barking can be frustrating for you and other dogs. Whatever your pup is barking at, or why they’re barking, you’ll need to work on teaching them when you expect them to be quiet. Positive reinforcement for calm behaviour will help, and redirection with a cue when they do bark can also help.
Barking is a perfectly normal and natural behaviour for puppies and dogs, although a lot of loud barking can quickly become frustrating for us humans. How to stop a puppy from barking depends on why they’re barking. Whether it’s at the door, another dog, people, or cars, and whether it comes from a place of anxiety, frustration, or excitement.
We have to remember, barking is an important part of your pup’s communication, so you shouldn’t punish it or aim to get rid of barking altogether. But with positivity and patience, you can teach your dog when you expect them to be quiet. You can also teach them a “quiet” cue, so when they do bark, you can bring it under control.
When do puppies start barking?
Puppies generally start to bark at around eight weeks of age, and is often learned from other dogs. However, the timing can vary depending on the breed and the individual puppy. Some breeds or individuals are more vocal than others and may start barking sooner. Unless you have a Basenji, then they’ll never bark!
Remember, a puppy’s bark can change as they mature. While they might make a lot of high-pitched noises as a youngster, their vocal range will widen and they’ll learn to bark and growl as they age. Training from a young age can help manage barking and ensure your puppy grows into a well-behaved, happy dog.
How to stop a puppy from barking
Remember, some level of barking is natural for dogs, they're just trying to communicate. However, with patience and consistent training, you can help your puppy to understand when it's okay to bark, and when it's time for quiet.
- Figure out why they’re barking.Puppies bark for a variety of reasons. They could be bored, anxious, hungry, or need the toilet. Understanding the cause can help you address it!
- Reward quiet.When your puppy is barking, wait for them to be quiet. As soon as they’re quiet reward and praise them. This can help them associate quiet behaviour with good things!
- Ignore the barking.This may seem counterintuitive, but paying attention to your puppy when they bark can encourage them to do it more. Unless they're in distress or need something urgently, try ignoring the barking. When they calm down and stop barking, reward them with a treat, playtime, or praise.
- Distract them.If your puppy starts barking, try to divert their attention to something else, like a toy or a trained cue. Reward them when they stop barking and do the behaviour you want instead.
- Teach them to be quiet on cue.With a little patience, you can teach your puppy a “quiet” cue. Start by saying the command when they stop barking naturally and rewarding them. Over time, they will learn to associate the cue with stopping barking.
- Meet their needs.Some pups might bark when they need something, like going outside to the toilet. Others might bark when they want to play or have attention. Many puppies will bark when they’re tired. It’s a bit like having a baby. If they’re barking, they’re probably trying to tell you they need something. The tricky part is figuring out what it is! (Don’t worry, you will get used to your pup’s routine and cues and figure out what they’re telling you.)
- Stay calm and consistent.Dogs can pick up on our emotions, so if you're feeling stressed, your puppy might get agitated and bark more. Try to stay calm, and be consistent with your training.
- Get professional help.If your puppy's barking seems excessive or you're struggling to manage it, consider reaching out to a certified dog trainer or behaviourist for help. You can find one throughthe ABTC website.
How to stop puppy barking for attention
Puppies are smart, and soon realise that if they bark, they tend to get a reaction from you. And a reaction means attention! Plus, pups don’t speak English, so if you tell your dog to “be quiet”, or even shout at them, there’s every possibility they think you’re joining in, and bark more. If you’re looking to stop your puppy barking for attention, try the follow.
- Make sure their needs are met.Make sure your puppy has everything they need: food, water, bathroom breaks, and playtime. A contented puppy is less likely to bark for attention.
- Reward quiet.Reward your puppy when they're calm and quiet, this helps them to learn that they get attention and good things when they’re quiet. This could be through praise, petting, treats, or toys.
Again, you can also try teaching your dog a “quiet” command, so that if they do bark, you and your pup understand how to bring it under control. But remember, barking is your dog’s natural way of communicating, so you still want them to bark when they need to.
How to stop puppy barking at night
Most of the time, a puppy barks at night because they’re worried about being left on their own, or because they need something (like a toilet break!) If your puppy is barking at night, try using positive reinforcement to teach them that you expect them to be calm and quiet at night, and build their expectation that you’ll always come back. Here’s a quick guide onhow to stop a puppy crying at night
How to stop a puppy from barking when left alone
If your puppy is barking when left alone, they might be experiencing some anxiety or separation-related behaviour, or separation anxiety. Remember, it's completely normal for your puppy to feel worried when left alone because they haven’t learned to expect you back yet. However, with patience and consistent training, they can learn to feel safe and comfortable even when you're not around. Here are7 tips to help prepare your pup for time alone
but in summary you need to:
- Gradually train them and build their expectation that you’re coming back
- Make sure they’re comfortable and have things to do.
- Meet their physical needs before leaving them alone.
- Don’t make a fuss when you leave or come back, keep everything calm.
You can also make use of a dogsitter or doggy daycare if you know your pup is going to be alone for a while. And if your pup seems distressed about being left alone, or you just need some extra help, a clinical animal behaviourist or a certified dog trainer will be able to give you personal advice. You can find one throughthe ABTC site
What to do if your puppy barks at other dogs
If your puppy barks at other dogs, you’ll need to try and figure out why your pup is being vocal. Their barking could be caused by excitement, playfulness, fear, or frustration. To be able to stop the barking, you’ll need to figure out the cause and train them appropriately.
- Socialisation.Expose your puppy to other dogs in a controlled, positive environment. This can help them understand that other dogs are not a threat and decrease their need to bark from nerves. Rewarding your puppy for being calm and quiet around dogs can also decrease excited barking, and teach them to ignore other dogs on walks. Puppy classes or playdates with well-behaved dogs can be a great place to start.
- Gradual desensitisation:If your puppy barks at other dogs due to fear or anxiety, gradually desensitise them to the presence of other dogs. Start from a distance where your puppy can see the other dog but not react, rewarding calm behaviour. Then gradually decrease this distance over time.
- Distraction and redirection.If your puppy starts to bark at another dog, try to distract them with a cue, toy, or treat, then redirect their attention to something else.
- Remain calm and positive.Dogs can pick up on their owner's emotions. If you stay calm and positive, it can help your puppy to remain calm too.
- Get a helping hand.If you’re not sure where to start, or struggling to control your pup’s barking, an accredited clinical animal behaviourist can help. You can find one throughthe ABTC.
Remember, some barking is normal and is an important way for puppies to communicate. So you don’t want to stop your puppy from barking when it’s perfectly normal and acceptable. You just want to control any excessive barking. If you’re not sure what’s excessive and what’s normal, it’s a good idea to chat to your vet or a clinical animal behaviourist.
With patience, consistent training, and positive reinforcement, you can figure out how to stop a puppy from barking at other dogs.
Barking is a perfectly normal behaviour for puppies and dogs, but it can be frustrating for you, your family, and other dogs. It’s important that you understand that it’s an important, normal behaviour for dogs and it serves a purpose. It’s their way of communicating! You can’t expect a dog that never barks, they need the outlet and ability to “speak”.
How to stop a puppy from barking depends on what is causing them to bark, whether it’s fear, anxiety, excitement, or so on. Most barking is due to a heightened state of emotion, whether positive or negative, so teaching your puppy to be calm is vital. So that means plenty of praise and positive reinforcement whenever your pup is calm and quiet.
If you’re ever not sure if your puppy’s behaviour is normal, it’s a good idea to chat with a vet or a clinical animal behaviourist. Especially if you’re a new owner.