Trainer shares how to handle a dog’s excessive barking and improve communication

Dog barking
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many dogs bark – it’s one of the main ways our canine friends can communicate. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be annoying. If you’re on a phone call, working from home, or just trying to relax in front of the TV, a barking dog can be incredibly frustrating.

And some dogs bark more frequently than others. The breed of the dog is a major factor, of course, but even dogs belonging to breeds not known for barking can bark excessively – here are three reasons why your dog barks at everything. If your dog barks a lot, particularly when someone comes to the door, what can you do?  

Lisa Corcoran, a graduate of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior and co-founder of The Confident Hound, shared some advice on Instagram, and you might find it useful if you’re dealing with a barking dog. Get some of the best dog treats ready… 

In the video Corcoran shares, she explains that she doesn’t mind barking, but doesn’t like it to go on and on. When her German Shepherd, Ace, is stood barking at the door, she uses a cue, “Okay, thank you!”, which encourages him to disengage. 

“Start by just saying the phrase cheerfully,” she explains, “Then immediately feeding your dog a tasty treat. Your dog doesn't have to do anything to earn the treat: you are simply charging that phrase with happy feelings and teaching that a treat always follows. Repeat this 10 times daily for at least a few days.”

Once your dog is used to the cue, you can begin to use it in real life. When your dog begins barking, say the phrase after they’ve barked once or twice. After a while, your pup will learn to come to you for their reward. 

Corcoran goes on to say in the video that, rather than chastising your dog when they bark, it’s better to engage with them positively. She says, “Our first dog Artemis was the neighborhood watch and her barking at windows drove me crazy. When I started replacing my annoyed ‘Shut up!’ with a cheerful ‘What did you find?’, the effect was immediate!”

She explains that because Artemis felt valued in her job – as could be seen in her body language – she viewed Corcoran’s voice more positively, and this in turn made training easier. 

Another piece of advice from Corcoran is to minimize your dog’s exposure to things that trigger alert barking. Because Ace is noise-sensitive, she uses white noise and music to drown out sounds from outside, and there’s also a decorative film on the windows that obscures what’s outside. Sometimes Ace will bark when he’s bored, she explains, even if there’s nothing there, but it just means she needs to distract him with an activity. 

For some dogs, barking is just a way they communicate. But there are ways to curb it if they begin to bark excessively. You just might need some extra patience – and some tasty treats for good measure. 

Want to find out more about other simple cues you can teach your dog? Here are five of the most important dog commands and how to teach them

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.