By Susan Wagner
Tired of your puppy barking all the time? Remember this: She’s trying to communicate with you! But what are puppies saying when they bark and how can you get them to hold their peace?
There are some common reasons puppies bark. Most often your pup needs to go potty or feels anxious, afraid, or uncertain. A few simple schedule and training adjustments can address these issues and put a stop to excessive barking.
How to Stop Puppy Barking
Positive reinforcement training can help you manage the most common causes of barking. The strategy is simple: Reward your puppy for the behavior you want to see more of—in this case, not barking—and make it worth her while to practice this behavior.
Stick to a consistent bathroom schedule
Typically a puppy can go as many hours as she is months old between potty breaks. For example, on most days, a three-month-old puppy needs to go out every three hours. To prevent bathroom-related barking, stick to a consistent schedule. Take your puppy out before the barking starts and offer a reward as soon as she does her business. Once your puppy knows a break is coming, she won’t default to barking to go out. Plus, you can reduce the risk of accidents in the house.
Teach your puppy that new things are not scary things
Your puppy may bark at anything new or different: your neighbor, a bicycle, another dog. Teach her to recognize people and items that are a common part of your life by introducing them slowly. For example, if your puppy barks at people, have a friend or neighbor stand across the yard or down the block. Direct your puppy’s attention to the person and immediately offer a treat, before there’s any temptation to bark. This teaches your puppy that good things can happen when new people come into view. As your friend slowly moves closer, continue to point him out and offer treats. If your puppy barks, have your friend back up and start the exercise over.
Make a cozy, safe retreat
Your puppy may bark because she is anxious or afraid, especially when you first bring her home. One way to make your puppy feel comfortable and safe is by offering a retreat, often a crate. Make the inside of the crate smell like home by lining it with a t-shirt you have worn or by spraying bedding with pheromone spray. Block distractions by covering the crate with a towel or light blanket. Encourage your puppy to go in and out of the crate during the day; when she goes inside, offer a treat and close the door for a short time. As she gets more comfortable in the crate, increase the time the door is closed. Eventually, your puppy will learn that instead of barking, she can retreat to her crate and be safe and comfortable.
Remember that Barking Isn’t Always Bad
Not all barking is bad—your puppy may bark because she needs to tell you something important. Training dogs not to bark at common events can help you distinguish when barking means business.
Here are three situations where you should heed your puppy’s barking:
Your puppy may bark because she is sick or hurt
If you suspect that your puppy’s barking is caused by pain or illness, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Treating the underlying medical issue should take care of the barking.
Your puppy may bark to warn you that something is wrong
We’ve all heard the stories of dogs who alerted their humans to a fire or a gas leak. If your otherwise peaceful pup starts barking at nothing, listen to her—she may be warning you of danger.
Your puppy may also bark because she wants your attention
It’s ok for her to use her voice—sometimes she just needs to know you’re focused on her. Consistent training and rewards can help limit her barking, but every so often she may bark to remind you that she’s there.
Barking is one way your puppy communicates with you. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with endless yapping. Teaching her when it is—and isn’t—OK to bark can help bring the noise level way down.