Quieting a Barking Puppy

A chronic barker is a real headache. How you handle your puppy, especially as she’s initially testing her voice, will dictate how much barking you’re going to hear over the next decade-plus! Your reactions should depend on what’s prompting her to bark in the first place.

The cardinal sin when rehabilitating your barker is to yell. When you yell, your puppy thinks you’re barking too, which leads to — you guessed it — more barking. To solve your problem, stay cool and follow the advice listed here.

Barking at everything

Does your puppy bark at everything she sees and hears? For some people, after a while, the puppy’s barking can seem as much a part of their daily routine as the wind passing through the trees. For those who don’t fall into that category, however, perpetual barking is a big pain.

To quiet your incessant barker, try these strategies:

  • Start training immediately. Puppies who bark at everything perceive themselves (not you) as the protector and guardian of the home, and one of the leader’s duties is to guard her territory and her group from intruders. Your puppy needs to understand that you’re the boss.

  • Avoid leaving your puppy alone outdoors for long stretches of time. Unsupervised confinement often breeds boredom and territorial behavior. Put those two together, and you’re likely to end up with a barkaholic.

  • Block off areas that your puppy uses as lookout posts, such as the front yard or a living room couch or windowsill. If she’s a night guard, crate her or secure her on a lead in your room at night, giving her 3 feet of freedom — just enough to lie comfortably on her bed.

Anytime you see (or hear) your puppy start to perk up, say “Shhht” (the extra “t” is critical for emphasis) and use a treat cup to call her back to your side. If she ignores you, place her on a drag leash so you can quickly gain control.

Barking in the car

Being locked in a car creates a territorial situation: Your puppy barks, and the passing object quickly disappears, so your puppy thinks she did her job well.

Yelling at your puppy isn’t the thing to do, and pleading doesn’t lead to good behavior, either. This problem tends to disappear slowly as you progress through training. However, you can do the following things in the meantime to discourage this behavior:

  • Make your puppy pause before you let her enter or exit the car. Instruct “Wait” and give her permission to enter with “Okay.” Calming your puppy before going into the car sets the stage for calm behavior while you drive.

  • Station your puppy in the car. Choose a place in the back seat or cargo area and secure her with a chew toy while you drive.

  • When possible, ask someone else to drive so that you can sit next to your puppy and handle her while you ride.

  • Play calm music and stay cool. If you’re tense, you’ll unnerve your puppy, which increases her ferocity.

  • Ignore the barking if your car’s moving. Driving is a job in itself.

  • If you’re riding as a passenger or the car isn’t moving when your puppy is barking, discreetly spray her (without turning and glaring — yes, this is quite a feat) or shake a penny can as you say “Shhht.”

  • If your puppy barks at gas station or tollbooth attendants, ask them to toss a treat into the car window from afar. This special treatment may help your puppy make a more positive association.

If you think your puppy is bordering on territorial aggression, call for professional help.

Barking for attention or protest

All puppies go through a phase when they demand more attention and can’t bear to be left alone. If you respond to a barking puppy, you end up with a barking dog, so take charge of this situation before it becomes an all-out habit. Follow these guidelines:

  • Focus on good behavior! Reconnect warmly to your puppy whenever she’s chewing a toy, exploring calmly, or resting on her bed. Give her a sense of how to get your attention positively.

  • Ignore the barking if you can, and never yell. Earplugs help.

  • Avoid problems in your home by keeping her nearby. Dogs like to be with you, so lead or station her nearby.

  • Place peanut butter in a hollow bone and give it to your puppy when you need to leave her in a room alone.

  • Discreetly spray your pup from behind or toss a penny can toward (not at) her when she starts up. The goal is to have her think the reaction came from the environment, not you.

  • If you must interfere with her barking tantrum, go to her quietly without eye contact or comments, place her on a leash, and either seclude her or lead her around for half an hour.

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