Puppy Barking: How To Train a Noisy Puppy To Quiet Down

Is your puppy’s constant barking sending you over the edge? Don’t lose hope if you’re having trouble spotting the volume dial. There are ways to discourage your puppy from non-stop barking. The key here is distinguishing nuisance barking from ordinary, healthy canine vocalization—because there is a difference.

To get a better idea of the many reasons why puppies bark and what to do about them, we spoke with professional dog trainer Kristi Benson, who has a Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC) from the Academy for Dog Trainers and a PCBC-A credential from the Pet Professional Accreditation Board.

Why Is My Puppy Barking?

The first step in training your puppy to stop barking is figuring out why they’re doing it in the first place. Dogs bark for a lot of reasons, including stressors (like watching people or other dogs walk by your house from the window), wanting attention, and communicating during playtime.

“Barking is a general-purpose communication tool for puppies and dogs,” explains Benson. “They let us (and other dogs, of course!) know that a dog is nearby, and they also communicate many messages: I’m scared! I’m bored. I’m happy! I need something. Puppies bark during play, if they’re bored, or if they have unmet needs: social needs, food needs, and more.”

Since there are a number of reasons as to why puppies bark, there’s no single training rule to deal with this problem. Instead, your training will depend on the reason behind the barking.

Type of barkingSolution
Fear barkingIntervene immediately; remove source of anxiety where possible
Play barkingTake the game outside and enjoy
Boredom barkingIncorporate enrichment like play and toys
Attention barkingIgnore it—and make sure to positively reward calm, quiet behavior
Reactive barkingTrain, ideally with a professional
Alert barkingMinimize opportunities, then train a positive replacement behavior
Separation anxiety barkingPrioritize crate training, safe spaces, heartbeat toys, and desensitization
Pain barkingContact your vet, consider teething toys

Fear Barking Needs an Immediate Response

Signs: Barking with stiff body language or jittery, anxious movement.

Problem: Your puppy may be scared of anything from another animal in the home to the doorbell ringing.

Solution: Determine what’s frightening your puppy and use positive reinforcement to help them become calm and reduce stressors from the environment. When possible, remove them from the situation or source of fear.

“The absolute most important thing is to assess if a puppy is barking because they are scared—if so, then we absolutely must, immediately, help that puppy feel confident and safe.”

Puppy peering anxiously over girl's shoulder

gabczi via iStock

Puppies go through a socialization window from 8 weeks to around 12-16 weeks old. During this time, Benson says it’s essential to determine if your puppy is barking due to fear in certain situations, as this can set the foundation for future barking responses.

“Puppies’ brains are particularly good at learning both this thing is safe and good, and I should be comfortable around it forever, and this thing is dangerous, and I should be scared of it forever.”

Benson stresses that using positive reinforcement in your training and response is important when dealing with puppy barking and fear. “Fear in adult dogs can cause welfare concerns and sometimes even fearful and aggressive behavior,” she explains. “If a puppy is barking out of fear, they must be moved away from what is scaring them and comforted immediately in a way they enjoy, from patting to food treats to play.”

Play Barking Is Natural—No Need To Discourage

Signs: Barking with a wagging tail, bowing, or rolling over.

Problem: A puppy may bark loudly and excessively during playtime.

Solution: Benson says there is no need to train your dog to stop when it comes to playful barking, especially since it’s a natural behavior. If the barking gets out of hand or too loud for your liking, she recommends taking playtime outdoors or even investing in some earplugs.

Boredom Barking Stops With Enrichment

Signs: Barking when no one is present or when not being actively engaged with.

Problem: Puppies are curious, have lots of energy, and most have been recently separated from their siblings. Left to their own devices, they easily become bored and may turn to barking as an outlet.

Solution: Incorporate toys and puppy games, enrichment, training, and play, for mental stimulation.

In time, walks will help your young friend burn off steam—but since most puppies are limited in the distance they can go (or not ready for big adventures until they’ve had their vaccinations), play is key.

Tug ropes, flirt poles, and balls are all great ways to engage. When you need a break, try offering a basic puzzle toy filled with kibble or treats. Since puppies crash and burn as fast as they ramp up, don’t be surprised if play sessions are brief. Short, sweet, and frequent is the name of the game.

Ignore Attention Barking, Reward Calm Behavior

Signs: Barking while making eye contact or when not being actively engaged with.

Problem: Your puppy may have realized that barking gets their human’s attention and gets them what they want, whether that’s food, affection, or entertainment.

Solution: If all your puppy’s needs have been met (potty, food, exercise, etc.) and you’re pretty sure attention is what they’re after, ignore their barking. Follow up by using positive reinforcement to capture and reward your puppy when they’re calm and not barking.

Is it really okay to ignore my puppy’s barking?

If you’ve determined that your puppy is just barking to see your reaction and there isn’t anything that they’re afraid of, then Benson says it’s okay to ignore the noise.

“Using behavioral extinction (ignoring) can be very frustrating for the humans and dogs involved, so if the puppy’s barking is enough to seek treatment, other options will likely make more sense,” says Benson. “However, if the puppy is just trying out barking to see if it works for the first time, and there is absolutely nothing the puppy is scared of, it likely won’t hurt to ignore it.”

Reactive Barking Gets Easier With Professional Help

Signs: Barking loudly at triggers (like other dogs, strange objects, or new humans) with fearful, anxious, or aggressive posture.

Problem: Reactivity can stem from not being properly socialized, a bad experience during their socialization window, fearful feelings, excitement and frustration, or even a stressful birthing experience.

Solution: Work with a professional dog trainer to address reactivity early on to prevent rehearsing the behavior, prevent reactivity during the socialization window, and build positive associations with triggering sights and sounds.

Not all kinds of barking require a new pet parent to call in the professionals—but reactivity can be especially hard to deal with, and it’s easy for overreaction to turn into aggression if not treated properly. A professional fear-free trainer is an expert in turning negative associations into positive ones and can help build your new dog’s confidence.

Alert Barking or Territorial Barking? Minimize Opportunities

Signs: Barking when the doorbell rings, they hear sounds outside, or they see humans, dogs, or animals outside the window.

Problem: Your puppy is loudly defending their territory—or at least trying to let you know that an invasion is afoot.

Solution: Manage the source, then replace the alert behavior with a positive one.

Step one is simply to remove the stimulus that sparks the alert barking, which might mean covering windows with curtains, blinds, or privacy screens to prevent your puppy from seeing out. If your puppy’s good ears are the problem, you can also use white noise machines, music, or the radio to cover up noises.

Step two is a little trickier. You’ll want to teach your puppy a new behavior that replaces barking when they see or hear things, such as going to a mat to lie down or finding their human for a treat. If it’s only very specific noises or sights that cause a flurry of woofs, consider desensitizing them to the sound or sights that make them bark.

professional trainer can be a huge help with both of those projects and set you up for success as your dog gets bigger—and louder.

Funny portrait of cute barking puppy border collie on couch

Iuliia Zavalishina via iStock

Separation Distress Barking Benefits from Crate Training

Signs: Your puppy starts barking as soon as—or shortly after—you leave them alone. Other signs of separation anxiety in puppies include pacing, destructiveness, and increased potty accidents.

Problem: Puppies have been recently separated from their siblings and mother and are still getting used to being alone.

Solution: Providing a safe space to rest, working on crate training, and providing your pup with heartbeat toys are all excellent solutions to help soothe puppies going through separation anxiety.

In serious cases, you can begin desensitization training, which involves getting your puppy used to the signs and signals that usually cause distress, like picking up your keys or putting on your coat. A professional trainer can offer guidance on a step-by-step approach to separation anxiety.

Sickness or Pain Barking Needs Immediate Attention

Signs: Aversion to touch, lethargy, whining or whimpering.

Problem: Puppies sometimes bark to communicate they’re sick or in pain.

Solution: Head to your vet to rule out any underlying health issues.

Teething is one not-so-scary source of puppy pain—but that doesn’t make it easy to deal with. If your dog is gnawing intently on your shoes and has irritated or inflamed gums, consider puppy chew toys, especially freezable ones, to offer relief.

An upset stomach is another common source of puppy pain, especially from having discovered a new food that disagrees with them. Because puppies are pros at eating things they shouldn’t, gastric distress is a good reason for a call to your vet, who can help you evaluate whether a visit is in order.

Will a Puppy Grow Out of Barking?

It’s important to remember that barking is a form of communication and very normal behavior for dogs of all ages. Certain breeds, like herding, hunting, or more protective dogs, may bark even more than others.

While some dogs may grow out of excessive barking as they get older, others may not. “Puppies grow into juvenile and then adult dogs, and their behavior will change somewhat,” said Benson. “Whether or not they start to bark more or less will depend upon why they were barking in the first place and how their humans handled the barking.”

In short, while your puppy definitely isn’t “bad” for barking, it’s a good idea to show them the ropes early and help them know how you want them to behave. Training, especially at an early age, can make a huge difference—and there’s lots of help out there to get you started.

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