How to Stop Dog Barking, Whining, and Howling

Learning how to stop dog barking problems always needs to start with an understanding of why your dog is barking, whining, or howling in the first place! Dogs bark to communicate. It’s normal for dogs, but can drive us crazy when they do it at the “wrong” times. To reduce what we consider "nuisance" barking, you first have to figure out why your dog is doing it. Determining what triggers the barking will help you figure out how to stop dog barking problems.  

Just remember, it’s unrealistic to expect your dog to completely stop vocalizing, especially if you have a breed that is a “barker”. Some dogs also whine or howl instead of, or in addition to, barking. Let’s look at the types of barking and the reasons behind them.

Attention Barking

Many dogs will bark, whine or howl at people or other animals to get attention or to get something they want.  

  • The key to controlling this problem is to ignore it. Every time you give your dog attention when he barks, you teach him to bark when he wants something. You must be extremely consistent on never responding if you want to get it under control.  
  • When your dog barks, don’t look at him, touch him or talk to him in any way. Turn away from him, look up or walk away if needed.  
  • Then you reward him the instant he stops barking by giving him attention or what he wants. If he barks when he needs to go outside, you can teach him to ring a bell hanging by the door. However, if this is the only time your dog barks, you may prefer he continue it.
  • You also want to reward him for being quiet. It’s hard to remember to do this, but when he’s being quiet is the time for attention and treats.

Territorial and Alarm Barking

Dog Alarm Barking

Some dogs will bark at dogs or people that come near their home or while they are in the car. These dogs don’t like strangers coming near their territory. Other dogs bark whenever they hear or see anything even if they aren’t at home. They are often sounding the alarm. These dogs have a stiffer body and may move forward slightly as they are barking.

Both territorial and alarm barking are based on fear and they are treated in a similar manner.

  • Limit your dog’s ability to see or hear other people and animals. Use removable plastic film or glass coatings on windows and doors and use opaque fencing. Keep your dog indoors when you know there are others outside.
  • Teach your dog to associate the presence of strangers with good things like treats or attention.

Greeting Barking

Some dogs bark and whine when they greet people or other dogs. These dogs are excited with wagging tails, but they can sometimes appear to be out of control.

  • Keep greetings low-key: Speak in lower tones and keep movements slow.
  • Teach your dog to sit and stay when people come to the door.
  • Give your dog a toy or treat when he’s quiet at the door.
  • Use a head halter when walking your dog and entice him with treats when you pass others.
  • Pet him and interact with him when he’s less excited and not barking.

Barking at Other Sounds

Because this situation tends to be unpredictable, it can be difficult to figure out how to stop dog barking behaviors that result from hearing other dogs bark or howling whenever they hear certain sounds. Some tools to try include:

  • Keep your dog indoors if you know there will be noise outside that causes him to bark.
  • Use a fan or play music to muffle the outdoor sounds.
  • Distract him with treats or with play, especially if the sounds are from a TV.

Compulsive Barking

If your dog sounds like a broken record, seems to bark when it’s not necessary, and the barking is non-stop, it may be compulsive barking. This is especially likely if the dog is also pacing in the house or running back and forth along the fence.

  • You can try changing how the dog is confined (e.g. don’t tie him outside) or increase his stimulation.
  • Medication or working with an animal behavior specialist may be the best route to help this dog.

Fear and Submission

Submissive Dog

Other dogs bark out of frustration, usually when they are tied up or confined in some way. These dogs may improve with some basic obedience training. Try to reduce the amount of time the dog is confined alone.

Submissive dogs that whine are usually trying to please you. These dogs often have their tail tucked, their head and body lowered and are looking away from you. Obedience training can build up their confidence and help resolve the problem.

Anxiety Issues

If your dog is barking, whining, or howling only when you are gone, he may be suffering from separation anxiety. These dogs will usually have other signs that occur only when they are left alone. These could include urinating or defecating in the house or destroying things.

Some dogs will also whine out of a general feeling of anxiety. They will show other signs of anxiety such as pacing, circling or licking and do it when you are home.

In both cases, the key to how to stop dog barking all centers around controlling anxiety. In severe cases, medication may be needed. Working with an animal behavior specialist will also help.

Still Struggling with How to Stop Dog Barking?

Remember these are problems that are generally controlled and not “cured”. There is no quick answer to how to stop dog barking problems. It will take time, consistency, patience, and persistance to get the issue under control. You may need the help of a qualified animal behavior specialist to guide you through the process or may want to read this article for additional tips.

Occasionally sudden barking can be caused by a medical problem. It is best to have your dog examined by your veterinarian to check for this. If your dog has anxiety, a checkup is important. Medication will often help anxious dogs. If medication is needed, combining behavior training with it generally offers the best solution.

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