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In the 20 years since I’ve had my own dogs, I’ve heard my share of ways to get your dog to quit barking.

Shake a can of pennies at them. While this would terrify me, it never phased my dogs. And it made me look like a lunatic.

Spray them with water. Labs generally love water so this just turns into a game for my dogs. It never worked for us. I think it made them bark more.

Wear your dog out. Easier said than done. I think my dogs are tired when we leave the dog park. Then we get home and they’re ready for the next adventure, such as barking at someone at the door.

Ignore the barking. I’m good at this one. In fact the only thing I’m better at is sarcastically asking my dogs to stop barking.

Not all barking is problematic. This Dog Time article says there are eight types of dog barks:

  • Territorial or defensive barking
  • Excitement, or happiness at seeing you
  • Play and exercise
  • To get your attention or to signal you (i.e. “I have to go potty!”)
  • Aggravation over not being able to attain something (such as your pork chop).
  • Social barking in response to other dogs
  • Separation anxiety and trepidation
  • Compulsive behavior

Caesar will bark when he needs to go outside or wants to come in. Dixie has learned to bark for these things, too, recently. My dogs also bark when they’re trying to get each other to play. And they bark to protect the house, which is negated by their wagging tails.

You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks. Winston churchill

Honestly, I don’t hate my dogs barking. Maybe I’m in the minority. When someone knocks on my front door, I want them to know that I have dogs. Being married to a cop I hear lots of stories about home break-ins. So we’ve never backed away from them barking if it’s for a good reason. Deterring unwanted people is definitely a good reason.

It’s natural that they would be protective of their home. I want people to think twice before coming to my door unexpected. If we’re expecting guests we won’t let them bark like that. But I’ve never had someone come to the door selling something I really want. It’s always magazine subscriptions or tree trimming services. And it’s usually a struggle to get the solicitor to move on. I don’t even answer the door if I don’t know who is there. I have no problem sitting in my living room ignoring someone while they knock on my door. I also have no problem with my dogs barking at them.

I would rather hear my neighbors’ dogs bark all day long then hear them yelling at their dogs once to stop barking. The minute their dogs bark they yell at them. The dogs don’t stop barking so they get annoyed with them. So they yell more. This goes cycle on for several minutes.

They are dogs. And they’re trying to communicate with my dogs. Of course they’re going to try and get their attention by barking. My dogs of course ignore them. Which I think only makes the neighbor dogs want to bark more. A cycle again.

I know barking can be a touchy subject. Police can be called for excessive dog barking. Most cities have dog barking noise ordinances that will vary from city to city. No one wants to have dog that barks excessively. It’s bad for the dog’s well being to be constantly barking. Snd it’s bad for the state of your neighborhood.

When my husband first became a police officer in the city we live in police were called to a barking dog complaint on the street behind us. When they couldn’t find it, they came to our street.

A police car pulled up at the base of our driveway and shined a light in our house. I thought it was my husband, who would drive though the cul-de-sac and flash the spotlight at the house letting me know I’m being looked after even if he’s not home with me.

One dog barks at something, the rest bark at him. - Chinese Proverb

I asked the dogs “who’s here” and they started barking like crazy because they knew this meant that Carter was outside.

The cop yelled from his cop car, “We got a barking dog complaint.” And I realized that cop wasn’t Carter.

I said, “It wasn’t us.”

He said, “I heard your dogs barking” to which I replied “I thought you were my husband”.

It was a real Who’s on First comedy routine. Neither of us really understood what the other was talking about.

I called my husband to tell him what had happened. He thought it was hilarious. When he explained it to his coworkers, they got a good laugh about it. But at the time, it was frustrating for me. I don’t want people to think I let my dogs bark all the time. Under these circumstances that exactly what it looked like was going on.

This time of year always gets my dogs barking. Our backyard backs up to woods. And in those woods lurk deer. For whatever reason, my dogs (all four that I’ve had over the years) are more aware of them in the fall.

It started last week for the fall season. First it was just Dixie. This is all new to her since she’s only been with us for four months. I don’t even know if she’s ever encountered a deer.

Caesar has started to join in sporadically. I think Caesar and Dixie think they’re telling the deer what to do. That they’re bossing them around. Or maybe they’re trying to get them to play. And there’s always the chance that my dogs have lost their minds.

So how do I deal with this nuisance barking? For starters, I try to get their attention with a whistle. I do this to hopefully break their focus on the deer. This is only as good as the whistler, which my husband always jokes I’m not very good at. But my whistling has come a long way in the last few years, thanks in part to me practicing when I’m alone in the car.

Weird I know. But I try to have a distinctive whistle so that my dogs know I’m trying to get their attention, not someone else. So I have to practice my patented whistle. My husband has his own noise that he uses to get the dogs’ attention.

When it’s a whistling off day for me, I call them. Once I get their attention, I offer something more appealing than what the deer offer, which to be honest I have no idea what the deer offer. This also relies on the fact that they will come when called without me having to keep yelling for them. Because that’s more annoying than them barking.

Labradors [are] lousy watchdogs. They usually bark when there is a stranger about, but it is an expression of unmitigated joy at the chance to meet somebody new, not a warning. Norman Strung

Another thing to combat barking which has worked well is to teach them the “speak” command. Seems weird, I know. But every time our dogs have developed a bad habit, we’ve turned it around by adding a command to it.

For instance, many years ago Caesar figured out how to open the screen door by nudging his nose to push it open. Every time he wanted to come in, he’d just let himself in. He hasn’t figured out how to open the door to let himself out. Nor has he figured out how to shut the door after he lets himself in. Baby steps, people.

We created the “open” command. If we’re outside and tell him “open” he will open the screen door. As this article explains, teaching them “open” or “speak” helps teach them to not open or speak at other times.

Not all dog barking is problematic. When it is there are things you can do to get it under control. Breaking their attention, offering them something in place of their barking, and teaching them to bark on command are strategies that help us curb problem barking. And of course, speaking to them sarcastically doesn’t hurt.

Do you let your dogs bark? How do you control problem barking?

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