How to train a puppy not to bark

How to train a puppy not to bark

Posted by PetDirect on 7th Apr 2022

A puppy makes a range of adorable noises, from little squeaks and whines to practice barking. But when they really discover their voice, a constantly barking puppy can be miserable for you, your family and your neighbours. Luckily, puppyhood is the ideal time to train your puppy not to bark as it hasn’t become a habit (yet). The aim is to stop your puppy from barking in the first place by tiring them out or giving them something to do, rather than trying to get them to stop barking once they’ve started.

Remember that you’ll never have a completely silent dog. Barking is a normal and natural part of puppy communication, but you can teach your puppy when it’s ok to bark and when it isn’t.

Why puppies bark?

Puppies are like babies. They don’t have many communication skills at this stage, so barking (or crying for babies) is the only way they can tell you what they want or need.

Puppies bark when they’re playing, to greet you (or another dog or animal), or to defend against anything they think is a threat. But puppies are smart and can quickly learn to bark when they’re bored or lonely, or when they want attention.

5 tips to help stop your puppy barking

1. Understand why they’re barking

If your puppy is barking, it’s likely they’re trying to tell you something. You want to know if they’re barking to tell you they need the toilet, but you don’t want to encourage inappropriate barking, like if they’re demanding attention or are bored.

A good way to understand what they’re trying to tell you is to look for what happened right before they started barking. If their ball rolled under the couch, they’re demand barking (telling you to get it for them) and you don’t want to react to that. Instead, wait for them to stop barking (even for a few seconds) and then get their ball.

If you’re on the phone and your pup starts barking, that’s attention-seeking behaviour. If you respond, you’re training your puppy that being loud is a good way to get what they want. Next time you’re going into a meeting, make sure you prep your pup with plenty of boredom-banishing toys.

A lot of puppies bark when they’re in their crates. This might be because they need the toilet or it might be because they don’t like being separated from you. If they start barking just after they get in their crate, they’re most likely protesting about being in their crate (read on for more tips about crate training your puppy). Or they might be overtired, cranky and resisting their nap (just like babies!).

If your puppy has been quiet in their crate for some time and then starts whining or barking, they probably need the toilet. This is especially true if it’s the middle of the night.

2. Make their crate like home

Some puppies complain, loudly, about being crated. They might feel lonely and not want to be apart from you. But it can also be that they need more time to get used to the crate. The best way to do that is to make their crate a really homely, lovely place to be.

Make sure their crate is the right size for them. It needs to be roomy enough for them to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably - but no bigger than that.

You can then work on building their tolerance to their crate slowly. Make sure they’ve had plenty of exercise before they’re crated, and use lots of treats to show them that it’s a happy, safe spot. Give them puzzle toys to keep them busy and entertained while they’re crated. If they’re still barking, wait until they stop - even for a second - then reward them with a treat or fresh toy.

3. Don’t encourage them

It’s really easy to accidentally encourage your puppy’s barking. Sure, their little yowls and barks are cute now, but when they’re fully grown they’re going to be a lot louder and obnoxious. Avoid encouraging your puppy by:

  • Providing consistent rules and responses. If you respond to their excited barking positively sometimes (it’s the weekend, you’re well rested and it’s sort of cute!), but negatively others (it’s a working day and you’re in a meeting!), your pup will get confused. Always respond in the same way to the same behaviour, and make sure other family members follow suit.
  • Walking away. If your puppy barks and you come running, you’re rewarding this behaviour. Instead, you want to reward them with praise and a treat when they stop barking. If they continue to bark, turn your back and leave the room. Puppies love human company so they’ll quickly learn that not barking means you’ll stick around.
  • Not shouting. Shouting at your puppy to be quiet won’t make them quiet - in fact, it might make them louder as they think you’re joining in.
  • Using a calm, confident voice when addressing your puppy, not baby talk or barking back at them.
  • Addressing situations that happen a lot. If your puppy barks at the post person and you don’t address it, it teaches them to repeat the behaviour over and over again. Instead, use treats to distract them when the post person arrives and reward them with praise or treats when they stop barking, even if it’s only for a few seconds.

4. Socialise them

Meeting new people and pups and being in new environments can be overwhelming and scary for a puppy and they might fear bark. But proper socialisation is really important for puppies as it gives them confidence to explore our world. Puppy school is a great way to do this. It exposes them to a range of new things in a safe, controlled way.

If your puppy barks at new people and dogs, put some distance between them and you and your puppy and give your puppy lots of treats. This helps your puppy make a positive association with the new person or dog. Anything that starts a fear-bark reaction can be handled the same way: put distance between you and use treats to distract.

5. Don’t give in to demand barking

Puppies bring out their big dog barks when they want something, like you to play with them or give them attention. When you’re playing a game and your puppy starts barking for you to throw the toy, drop it and walk away for a few seconds. Come back and ask for a simple command, like sit. Not only does this add structure (and sneaky training) to your game, it teaches your puppy that being polite makes the game continue.

You can avoid demand barking by relieving the boredom. Lots of puppies bark because they’re lonely or bored. Chew toys are a great way to entertain a puppy and to keep them quiet. Puzzles and toys, like KONG toys, can be stuffed with treats that the puppy has to work for.

A constantly barking puppy isn’t fun, but working on it when your pup is still young means you can curb this behaviour as they grow older, resulting in a well-mannered canine companion for life. If you need any further help or have a question we haven’t answered, contact our friendly Pet Direct Customer Care team on 0800 200 240 or email support@petdirect.co.nz 

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