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How to train your dog to stop barking

Be sure to check out our follow-up post – Update on how to train your dog to stop barking.

Barking Dogs

Dogs ‘talk’ in different ways than humans, but the goal is the same:  Communication.  Humans use words and intonation to convey meaning while dogs use different sounds (i.e. whines, barks, etc).  With a dog that barks excessively, it can be easy to feel that the dog is barking just to annoy its owner or that it is barking for no reason.  In fact, barking might seem like manipulation: They don’t get what they want, they bark incessantly, you give up and poof, they win. However, just as with people,  different situations stimulate their desire to bark. A few common reasons are:  Warning/alert, anxiety, playfulness/excitement, attention-seeking, boredom, etc.  The first step in training your dog to calm down is to identify the trigger(s).  You can then start training your dog in each situation to exhibit a different response when he/she normally barks.

Punishment Tactics

This is our shock collar for the invisible fence. While there is the option to use a remote to shock for correction, we did not order it.

There are a lot of different pieces of advice floating around about how to stop a barking dog. Many of them involve a ‘correction’ (i.e. choke collar, spike collar, shock collar) that effectively punishes the dog for the barking. However, such aggression tactics can and often do backfire – the quietness that is bullied out of them might not be long lasting and/or might not be understood in different situations. Additionally, hurting the dog (yes: choking, yanking and shocking are painful) can lead to fear and aggression.


Positive Reinforcement Training

The hardest thing for many owners to believe is that ignoring a barking dog can help them learn to not bark.  By ignoring them every time they bark because they want something (i.e. walk, food, play, etc), and only giving them their desire when they behave, you will condition them to use a different form of communication (being quiet) to “say” that they need something.  Reward and praise are given when the dog takes a few seconds to be quiet and collect themselves (or when they give up).  This method requires a lot more patience that the punishment tactics.  With punishment, the human gets to take out their frustration by yanking/choking.  With positive reinforcement, you just have to wait them out.  In a way, less energy is required….but your ears might hurt for a little while.

Our Story:  Sydney

Sydney seems to enjoy being in the car, but her happiness can quickly escalate to out of control barking.

As you may have read in recent posts, we recently adopted Sydney and she came with a whole repertoire of poor behaviors. The worst one is her barking because it is so sharp and loud that it immediately raises your heart rate and makes you want to leave the situation.  Her first week with us was really tough.  She barked for everything.  If she wanted to go outside, once she was outside, if she wanted you to throw the frisbee, if she was hungry, if she was excited, if we tried to take her on a walk, if we put her in the car, if we talked to Trooper…the list goes on.  At times, I seriously thought my ears were going to start bleeding.

We tried a lot of different tactics to soothe her.  We tried saying “shoooooosh” in a long, low, calm tone, saying “Sydney, No”, putting her in a different room, advancing quickly in her direction to throw her off guard, petting her in a soft, soothing way….nothing was long lasting and her barking would just start up again whenever we stopped our ‘correction’.  And guess what?  Trooper was starting to mimic her!  That’s the worst!  When your well behaved dog starts to copy the behavior of a poorly behaved dog, you know you need to act fast.

The Solution – Ignore the dog and wear ear protection

These ear muffs are for heavy-duty construction. Confined barking in the car definitely necessitates protecting your ears.

One morning it dawned on me that we should just ignore her.  What she often wants is attention or for us to be quicker at whatever we are doing (i.e. hiking, getting the food dish on the ground, etc).  If we pretend we do not hear her and just wait her out, she would hopefully learn to communicate the same request (look at me or please hurry) by doing something different – being quiet.  We could then swoop in with a delicious treat and praise.

The second week was not easy.  We tried ignoring her when we went out in the yard for play and exercise, but she would run in front of us, essentially running backward to keep her body/head  facing us, and make eye contact while barking at our faces.  It was really challenging to not say something.  But speaking or indicating you hear them is giving them what they want – attention or a response.  So when she started barking, I would turn a haughty chin in the air and change directions.  The moment she was quiet, I would ask for a sit/stay and then throw her frisbee for her.  Amazingly enough, her barking started to reduce in frequency, duration and intensity.

Advancing to the high desire situations

While her outdoor play behavior, requests to go outside and overall patience was improving, her response to being on the leash was not going anywhere.  As soon as we would take a leash out, she would start barking and running around like a crazed beast.  Once the leash was on, she would bite (angrily?) at it and pull on it.  Every time we tried to go for a hike, we would load her into the car, get blasted by her barking and take her right back out because we couldn’t handle having our ears blasted.  But this was the next step:  Teaching her that being quiet and calm would get her what she wanted:  Walks, hikes and car trips.  Barking her head off would get her nowhere.

The video below documents the first time we took her for a hike and the barking fest that occurred leading up to it. She barked for 20 minutes prior to being allowed to go into the woods (four minutes in the back yard and sixteen minutes at the forest parking)!  As you’ll see in the video, I walked around in the yard and ignored her until she quieted down.  Once parked, we again ignored her or engaged in something other than what she wanted (i.e. walking around but not going in the woods).  When she was quiet, we praised her.  For the first several times, praising her even a little bit would send her off, so we had to be careful.  Eventually, however, she started to respond positively to being rewarded nicely (“good girl”, “sweet Sydney”) instead of ignored.

Sydney’s first hike

What is not recorded is our hike in the woods.  Sydney was out of control!  When we were not hiking fast enough, she would herd us, running behind us and barking as loud as ever.  If we rested for a few minutes, she would run in circles and bark.  It was absolutely shocking the level of energy she was willing to put into this communication.  She would actually work herself into such a state of frustration that she would eventually leave us to run over to sticks and branches on the ground and would bite at them; groaning, grunting and whining while she pulled/chomped them into pieces.

After the hike, we were a little disheartened.  We ignored her for 20 minutes and were perhaps looking for that to be the miracle cure.  Wrong…Just because she gave up near the car does not guarantee that she would transfer that experience to being in the woods.  But guess what?  Doing the same exact routine for a second day worked wonders!


We went for a hike the next day and she only barked for 8 minutes! It was so incredible that I would not have believed it had I not been there.  I do not believe that dogs want to bark the way she has been conditioned for the past five years.  They just learn to do it to get what they want, but it is stressful and requires a lot of energy.  Once Sydney figured out that sitting down quietly resulted in the immediate delivery of what she wanted, she started to put the pieces together.  The next outing only featured 5 minutes of barking!

Sydney’s progress is dramatic, so do not be discouraged if your dog does not advance as quickly.  One thing that will definitely help is consistency.  Because Sydney barks in nearly any situation where she wants something, I get a lot of opportunities to reinforce the behavior I want.  If she only barked during hikes, I would only get to train her in the context of the hike.  We have been ignoring her barking for nearly two weeks now, and she has started transferring her experience in one situation to the rest of them.  If barking does not get her food or the frisbee or attention or a walk or a hike….then maybe that response that worked for the food and for the frisbee will work for everything else too!

For further reading, The Humane Society has a great article that describes working through other bark situations.


  1. our year old australian shepherd barks when someone comes to the door or drives up. she scares visitors with her vigorous barking. we usually isolate her in another room when someone is coming then let her out after they are inside and seated. then she will come out calmly and sniff them. i would love to get her to stop barking when someone new arrives. though sometimes i do like the warning.

  2. Your isolation routine is a good start – It lets her know it is unacceptable to respond to visitors with intense barking. Something you might want to try is turning it into a ‘how many snacks can I give you game’.

    When you hear someone approaching, grab your training treats (keep them small because she is going to get a lot of them BUT delicious because you are about to ask for something that might be challenging for her) and run to that designated ‘isolation’ room. Throw a treat through the door so she chases it in. Praise praise praise! She just voluntarily isolated herself!

    Go into the room with her, ask for a sit and give her a treat. If she can hold a sit-stay, ask her to stay and reinforce with treats every few seconds. You are getting her primed for your visitor.

    At some point, she is going to hear your visitor. The key is to keep reinforcing her silence with treats. If she starts to bark, withhold treats for a second to do what is necessary to get her attention again. For me and Sydney, that means I pretend I’m trying to find an oh-so-good treat on the ground and she has to come plug her nose into the area to help. She can’t bark and sniff at the same time so I just got silence again. You might use a toy or a command or whatever has worked for you.

    Once you get silence again, reinforce it. Once your visitor is established in the house, you can then ask her to calmly leave her isolation room, maybe on a leash. Praise lots for small steps.

    (I do this routine with Sydney but with a crate. She sounds so crazy when visitors arrive that it sounds like i have an attack dog. The crate works great and as soon as my body language points that I am about to run to the crate, she races me there, flies in and QUIETLY waits for her snacks. It’s awesome. We are now at the point where I can get her crated before she knows a visitor is here and released after they’ve left and she doesn’t bark at all.)

  3. I have a 5 month old Aussie female. She barks excessively at us for no reason, when we are just around the house. She does not bark at the door or other dogs, just us when ever we are not 100% giving her attention and playing with her. If we are doing anything around the house she just barks at us for no reason. I have tried to ignore it but it is getting worse. Any suggestions ?

    • Hi Ryan – I’m sorry to hear about your barking issue. I completely understand what you’re describing. Sydney does this sometimes when we make a room transition – I have no clue why.

      Two things I’ve found to be effective – Do the crate routine. She gets one chance to calm down after you have asked her to. If she doesn’t, send her to her crate, reward her and leave her. Cover it up if you have to (this helps some dogs; others don’t like it). As long as she is quiet in the crate, you can also throw surprise treats in every now and then. She needs to understand that she can’t boss you around.

      The other option is to just isolate her from the pack. This doesn’t work for all dogs but it does for Sydney. If she loses her composure, we put her behind a doggie gate in another room. She can see us and walk around but she is not allowed with ANY of us – animals or people. After she quiets down, we release her.

      I’d love to hear how it goes once you’ve given something a go. Good luck!

  4. I have a 2 year old Aussie,Toby. He has been to several obedience classes when he was younger, and we take him to the dog park for an hour every night to play with his two friends. With all his training we can’t seem to get him to stop barking at bikes, skateboards, scooters or any wheeled object. Even with a training collar he still will excessively bark. Now it seems to be getting worse, he will now bark at any noise he hears outside, if a neighbor walks by as we’re on a walk he will bark like crazy. We have tried positive praise with treats, and try to get his attention away from wheels but he is so focused and intense it’s like he doesn’t hear us. Do you have any advice for us?

    • Hi Shannon,
      I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with Toby. Fortunately, I think you can train him to stop that. You will have to desensitize him to each object individually. Trooper used to attack and bark at the vacuum. After slow and patient training, he will now lay on top of it!

      This topic is worthy of a post in itself, so I will be brief here. Get one of the wheeled objects he is scared of and bring it into a safe training environment. Reward and praise him every time he looks at you with the object nearby. You want to reward his focus on you and lack of attention to this ‘major threat’. If he begins to get worked up, say his name and reward him when he looks at you. Repeat until he won’t look away.

      Work up to walking near the object and asking him to touch it (if he knows that). When you give him a treat, throw it away from you – near the object, not near the object, anywhere.

      Once he doesn’t care at all that the bike/scooter/etc is in the room, get someone to move it for you. Start over with your expectations. Now that the wheeled object is moving, it will likely be worrisome again for Toby. Reward his focus on you and give lots of treats. Maybe sit on the bike and give him treats. Help him realize it is no big deal.

      Work toward someone riding a bike (or other wheeled threat) across your yard with you training/praising Toby. Then work up to the same thing but strangers riding down the road.

      He definitely hears you but he is ignoring you in favor of this greater “threat”. You have to get your voice heard before he completely focuses in on the object. Don’t yell or be crazy. If he doesn’t respond, calmly hold his collar/leash and walk him away from the object. When you are far enough away that he stops barking, give him a treat and talk to him. Try again.

      This might be a very slow process but it also might progress really quickly once he gets the drill. Aussies love to work. Make this a fun, safe game with his favorite snacks and I believe you will be successful. Let me know how it goes!

  5. Can you truly stop your Aussie from barking? I have a 3 year old, Butters that barks at everything that goes by the house and continues until she can’t see them. Also like others have said she barks at anything that moves. Ex. lawnmower, bicycle, tractor. I have an invisible fence for my Aussie. Although, I did just read that it is not good to let your Aussie roam free. Is this true. I would appreciate and suggestions you may have.


    • It probably isn’t safe to allow your Aussie to roam free, outside of your yard. If you yard is safe, I don’t see why it would be a bad idea. (If you live where there are dangerous wildlife and you allow your Aussie to roam at night, that’s a different story.) As for the barking, how do you exercise her? Have you done any obedience training with her?

  6. Hi,

    I have a two year old mini Aussie named Bo. I am having a problem with him barking when I leave. I live in an apartment and need to get it under control because I don’t want to give him away. What should I do to help the situation? Also, would a bak collar be a bad idea?

    • Thanks for visiting! I generally don’t like bark collars because I think it only addresses a symptom, not the real problem. Does crating him help with the barking? How do you exercise him?

  7. I’m new to the Aussie breed. I rescued a 1yr old from a family that didn’t have time for her. She is very good IN the house -barking is minimal, but when out in the yard,herding our labs (yes, she herds 2 adult Labrador Retrievers & they love it), she barks like crazy. I don’t want the neighbors to get upset… Any suggestions? I’m perfectly ok with the herding behavior/game, I would just like to minimize the barking that’s included. Thanks!

    • It’s FAB – Female Aussie Barking …(joke…I just made that up). It seems every female aussie I know who enjoys playing with others, also likes to bark her head off while playing. Some dogs are just vocal creatures and like to shout about what they’re doing. If you’re okay with her herding them and their play routine, I think it would be challenging to selectively train out the barking behavior. My only suggestion would be to not allow excessive barking in other situations so as to prevent her transferring the ‘allowed barking’ into inappropriate situations. You could also try taking your play sessions to a hike or a dog park.

  8. I have a 3 year old female Aussie who for her first 6 months with us was an angel. We trusted her with kids of all ages until one day she was with one that was constantly teasing her and taking her bone, the child would run with her bone then give it back. Only to snatch it again. After the child was repeatedly told not to do that we took her home. We got a call from the mother saying that our dog had bite the child when the little girl went to say goodbye. Now our dog has NO patience for children and seems to be afraid of any new people that don’t have another dog with them. We have tried gentle leaders and muzzles but she still is very fearful and is always barking at people she doesn’t know or does know but hasn’t seen for a while. Oh and she also has a problem with tall men. What should I do?

    • Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry you’re in such a difficult situation. Have you had your Aussie since puppy or did you recently adopt her?

      Because of the surprisingly change in behavior toward children, I wonder if the child hurt her. If the little girl went to say goodbye and did something mean, hurtful or scary, it could have shocked your pup enough to cause a lasting impression.

      For future reference, be wary of allowing young children to play the food/toy keep away game with her. It’s a risky game even when the dog loves children. I’m an adult and I wouldn’t like someone taking something away from me!

      From your description, we can be pretty certain her responses are fear based and not outright aggression. So it’s time to start helping her see that people are not scary. That means training and conditioning to relax and greet people nicely. This can be a very long process.

      If that ends up being an unobtainable goal, the alternative is teaching her to have absolute focus on you when in ‘scary’ situations so that she is quiet and agreeable. This requires her trusting YOU and trusting that you aren’t going to make her go meet that scary person. If there is a person approaching during a walk and you anticipate that she is going to get scared, you get her focus, change sides of the street, pause and hold her focus while the scary person passes and then resume walk.

      That is just one example. Sydney has a similar issue but I haven’t identified what exactly is “scary”. But to avoid a loud, uncomfortable situation, I just avoid anything that I have learned will set her off. We get out of their way, Sydney gets lots of treats and attention and everybody is happy.

  9. We have a 8 month old, male Aussie who, when chastised for bad behavior, will bark at us as if HE’s scolding US! He does NOT like being told “No”. And yes, he is very loud and I swear his bark echo’s off the walls, vibrating in our ears. LOL I’ll try to remember to ignore him when he’s doing this, but I’m fairly certain he’ll start pawing/scratching at us, which is very hard to ignore. When he gets really worked up I usually place him back in his crate for a time out for 10 minutes, which usually calms him down.

    • You have a great start! You have an energetic puppy. Is he getting enough exercise?

      One of my favorite ways to discipline is to tell them what they did wrong (for example, “no biting”) and then immediately redirect to a request that will allow him to do good. After you discipline, try to immediately ask for a trick (i.e. sit, down, pay, etc). When he does it, give him a few snacks in quick succession while telling him how good he is. Then suddenly it’s all positive.

      My favorite redirection request for Sydney (the loud mouth) is ”go to bed/crate”. The crate should never be a discipline tactic. You can give him a time out in there but only if he goes in willingly and it is accompanied by an abundance of praise and snacks. Having a dog who enjoys their crate and goes to it without issue will prove to be an invaluable tool for life. It helps with travel, when you have company, when you’re not home, during challenging situations (like storms) and best of all, when you need to redirect.

      I hope that helps! I’d love to hear how it goes.

  10. Hi Chelsea,

    I have a 11 month old male mini aussie, I recently moved into a new apartment and he is now starting to act out again. He went to the bathroom inside my room which he never does! and he will not stop barking when I leave the house! I live in a small apartment with a neighbor who lives right under me and I know she can hear him. I’ve waited outside to see how long it lasts and he usually barks for 5-10 minutes non stop when I leave. My neighbor said he barked for an hour non-stop while I was at work. I’ve come back inside and punished him and yelled at him to stop barking and he wont get it. I don’t know what to do anymore and I need him to stop because then my new neighbors will start to get frustrated too! Any ideas?

    • Hi Kasey – I’m sorry to hear about all the stress. A few questions – How much exercise does he get? Did all of these less-than-desirable behaviors begin with the new move?

  11. Hi Chelsea,

    I have a 9 month old Female Aussie who is much too territorial & protective of me. She guards her home & anything she perceives to be “home” by barking her head off. It’s always been embarassing, but never dangerous!

    Then the other day, she ran up on a dog she sees in doggie daycare all the time, & has no problem with & tore her ear open! This dog is completely Submissive & did nothing to provoke her. I quit doing overnights because of it & picked up on her thinking that anywhere we sleep is “home.” However, I have no idea what brought on the sudden burst of aggression. The only changes in her life is that the (Alpha?) male dog who was really protective of the pack (and one of her BFFs!) moved away, & she also recently got spayed. I’ve read some pretty far fetched stuff about already reactive Aussies needing that estrogen to “help balance them out,” so I dont know what to believe. I honestly cant even remember if she barked at work prior to her friend leaving, or if it’s a bad habit passed down. If she did it was nowhere this bad or noticeable!

    She also barks her head off at my other family members & doesn’t seem to want to accept anyone but me & our 2 cats into her life. Do you have any advice on how to stop her barking, being territorial, or getting her to accept my dad & sister? Thanks!

    • Hi Cindy,
      I am so sorry to hear about what’s going on. She seems really stressed out and it sounds like you’ve guessed at a few likely causes (the recent changes in her life). Do you have a local training facility you can visit? I would highly recommend scheduling a trainer for some one-on-one time. They can help you pinpoint the cause of her aggression and then teach you how to work through it. I don’t think it is as simple as a barking issue. I realize that getting a private trainer is expensive but you definitely don’t want things to get worse (i.e. her attacking a person).

      I’m sorry that I can’t be more helpful and wish you the best of luck.

      Good luck,

  12. I have a neighbor that has an Australian shepherd almost 2 years old. It barks contently and when we bring this up to them. We get an answer that after 2 years old they quiet down. After reading this it seams that they probably are misunderstanding this bread of dog. Is there a Website out there I could turn them on to assist in this situation. We have 2 dogs of different breed and feel bad because the dog is outside most of the day and barking.

    • Hi Gary,
      I did a quick search and this site says it all, all on one page –
      I have never heard that barking disappears with age. In fact, dogs spend their young years learning and trying things. If your neighbor’s dog has learned that barking makes him feel good, then it might become very challenging to make him un-learn it.

      Aussies need jobs. That is the fundamental rule of Aussie companionship. If you can’t give them a job then you aren’t going to be helping them fulfill their greatest potential. Without guidelines and direction, they can develop behavior issues (ie. barking, digging, aggression, etc) and become less-than-desirable family pets.

      It sounds like your neighbor’s dog, who is often outside, has taken it upon himself to be the alarm dog. My guess is that he’s barking because he hears/sees things and is communicating it to his owners. In his head, this is admirable behavior, not bad behavior. I hope for his sake and everybody suffering from the barking, that he learns what is appropriate soon.

      Thanks for reading my blog and good luck,

  13. I have a mini Aussie (Timber) who is about a year and a half. I take her to doggie day care every day while I am at work and when I pick her up she is nice and tired…and very sweet. However, she barks uncontrollably at every person and dog. Some examples: I will pick her up from daycare and as we are driving away in the car, she is barking like a maniac at the dogs that she can see through the window that she just spent the last 9 hours with. Then while in the car, when we are at a stoplight, if she can see the person driving the car next to us, she will bark like a maniac at them until the light turns green and we can get away. We will be at a stoplight and there will be someone at a gas station (pretty far away) pumping gas and she will see them and start barking really loud. The worst is when I am taking her outside to do her business and a neighbor is outside with their dog. I’ve never seen anything like it. She barks like …insanely wild…and pulls so hard towards them. Sometimes I will ask if our two dogs can meet…and Timber is always very friendly, but as soon as we start walking away she starts barking again. The times that we don’t go over and let them introduce it’s quite the show…and it’s very embarrassing and loud. I feel like my neighbors hate us. Finally, she has a lot of anxiety towards men. Sometimes tries to bite them, which is very weird because she is not aggressive at all. I just don’t know what to do. I can’t afford both daycare and training, and if she doesn’t go to daycare then she will be extremely hyper, destructive, and won’t let me sleep at night because she is up being mischievous. Please help!

    • Hi Amber,
      I’m sorry to hear about Timber’s barking/anxiety troubles. Your description reminds me a lot of how Sydney used to be and I’m almost certain Sydney is primarily attention seeking. She barks when she wants something and because she can quickly escalate to being loud and embarrassing, she has always gotten what she wanted (until joining our family). When your dog barks to go visit your neighbor and then you allow her to go say hi, you might be reinforcing what Timber wants. So you’re teaching her that barking is effective (in that situation). It’s possible she takes that understanding with her when you go other places and is always trying to convince you she wants something (go to person pumping gas, go see the dogs, etc).

      Barking in the car may or may not be related. I’ve known many dogs who are car barkers but are otherwise non-barkers. I think it could be car anxiety or a feeling of defensiveness or empowerment because they know they are protected by the car. Have you tried traveling with her in a crate, preferably one where she can’t see out any windows? I bought a soft dog crate that has 3 doors and all have door covers so I can make it pitch black inside. It has made Sydney a very happy traveler.

      Let me know if anything helps. Good luck!

  14. Chelsea, I have a one year old aussie. He is a great dog but when we are out on a walk or at a friends he constantly barks at strangers. And it seems to be a protective instinct. He barks when someone walks up to us and I am trying to talk to them but if we walk up to someone he doesn’t care and just wants to play. I live by myself so he is only around me but I feel that he is really socialized because I take him with me wherever I go. I am just not sure what to do about his barking at strangers. It almost makes me not want to take him anywhere and I hate that because I got him to be a hiking, kayaking, camping buddy!

    • Hi Kacie,
      Sorry for the HUGE delay – we moved several months ago and the blog has been on the back-burner while we’ve been settling in. How’s your aussie doing? Any progress?

      When he barks at strangers, does he show any other signs of aggressive (hair up, snarling, etc)? Does he seem like he is just excited to get over to them?

      If he doesn’t strike you as acting aggressive, he could be excited and trying to tell you, “hey! I really want to go see those people. I need to check out that dog! Hey!”

      I would try the name-focus game. Have some snacks on you and easy to get to. When you see someone/something you expect him to bark at, say his name, say a marker work (it fills in the place of a clicker, like ‘yes!’) and then give him a treat. Have him sit and then reward him again. Reward him for staying focused on your face. It would be helpful to get this routine down at home first so you know he understands those requests.

      When I know Trooper is going to explode at something, we sit on the sidewalk and he gets fed for focusing while the other people move by. It works for him. It doesn’t work for Sydney. Sydney responds best to the “name game in motion.” I do the same routine as described above but then I keep walking. I continue saying her name, she looks at me and gets a treat. She can’t bark when needs to watch where she’s going AND she’s trying to respond to my commands.

      Good luck!

  15. Hey, I have a 11 week old mini Aussie who has been living with my family and I for the past 2 weeks so far. She’s a a great dog and lovable but I’ve noticed that she won’t let my parents approach her. Whenever they try to get close to her or pet her she’ll start to growl and then bark. And she’ll also bark at strangers when we go for walks. When she starts to growl/bark at my parents and strangers I tell my dog Bailey no growling! No barking! but she keeps on doing it. So far I’m trying to get her comfortable with my parents by putting the treats in their hands and slowly try to get her to come to them. She’ll look at them shyly and will smell the treat but she won’t advance further unless they move the treat closer to her. How do I get Bailey to be comfortable with my parents? And do you have any tips on how to get her to stop barking strangers?

  16. Hi Chelsea, I don’t know if you still read this blog but I need advice!

    I have a 9 month old toy australian shepherd who is the sweetest puppy but when we went to a dog park around 6 months he was nipped by a larger dog and ever since then he goes crazy barking at dogs. Hes in obediance class and I try to get him out to do lots of actvities but I wonder if this is something he can come back from?
    I found a neighbor in my apartment complex who has a lab who is very calm and chill so we started walking them together. He barks initially then he will sniff him and just back away from him for the most part but as soon as he sees another dog he starts barking.

    Yesterday a man and his child walked on the sidewalk from behind us and my dog tried lunging at him barking wildly. He never attacked kids before and now I’m worried about this too. Is there a way to get him to be the lovable happy puppy he is around me wtih everyone else?

  17. I have had several aussie mixes and two purebreds, and I have found that the best way to stop any undesirable behavior is to first determine the root cause, then use either reward or withdrawal. For this period of time, the dog should wear a harness at all times, so you can quickly clip on a leash. This means in your house as well as in your yard. Do not use these methods with a neck collar, it is too likely to harm your dog’s neck. And do not leave the dog unattended while it is wearing a leash.
    If the problem is fear-based (most barking at strangers/other dogs is fear-based), then you should move the pup far enough away from the provoking situation to get their attention, that is, below their fear threshold, then get them to focus on you and give a simple command like “sit”, and reward with a small treat. When they start the undesirable behavior again (and they will), immediately repeat, “sit” – treat, many times over til they are just focused on you. The main point to remember is you are trying to get them to relax, you can squat down near them and pet them. Act relaxed yourself, make it fun. When they are calm, you can slowly move closer to the provoking situation, stop where you can still get their attention (again, below their new fear threshold). Don’t expect to get right up to the scary thing right away. Do this for weeks at every opportunity, short sessions are best. Don’t let them practice the bad behavior, it will just set your training back. When they are calm you can wean them off the treats. You will see lasting results, I promise.I got my dogs to permanently stop chasing/barking at my horses using this technique.
    For behavior that is not fear-based (jumping on you, chewing on furniture, etc), I use withdrawal of attention. At home, this means confinement in the crate (you can tie them to a doorknob if you don’t have a crate), outside it means tying them to whatever is handy and safe, then walk away, preferably out of sight, but a short distance away keeping your back turned to them will also work. The two key things to remember are 1) keep the confinement period very short, 1 minute to start, never, never more than 3 minutes. Any longer and they will forget why they were confined or even start to get afraid that you are not coming back. Either thinking will set back your training. And 2) they must feel you are ignoring them, so out of sight is great, moving away and standing with back turned will work, too. Aussies crave your attention, and this is the real motivation part of this behavior modification technique. Then release them without saying anything, that is, do not praise or scold, and expect that you will be repeating this many times. At first, 7 or 8 repetitions is not abnormal. Soon, you will find that when you release, you have a different dog! They will walk off quietly and not repeat the undesirable behavior (at least for the next few minutes!) Again, repeat as needed. If they bark during confinement, do not release until they are quiet. It will take time for them to realize you are coming back and that they need to control themselves better or they will just be back there tied again. It actually helps them to learn to control themselves.
    Be patient, any training technique takes weeks to work, but you should see some improvement right away. Also several brief training sessions are better than one long one; better for you as well as for the dog!

  18. Hi!
    I have a 14month old Aussie male who is sweet as pie…nothing unusual for a dog his age for obedience except he barks at dogs when we go for walks uncontrollably and looses his mind.
    We try to maneuver him through by giving him treats and saying his name, but it’s not as potent as we would like. We aren’t scolding him for fear he will get aggressive. He has barrier frustration from the leash as he is great off leash…not so crazy with barking.
    Any suggestions on how to manage the barking walk would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!

    • Hi Leah –
      I have a 4 year old aussie female. I have always had this issue. We recently bought a pinch collar that has helped a little, but the walks have always been so exhausting for me. I have just started taking her to doggy day care every day. It’s expensive, however, it’s worth every penny.

      If anyone has any tips, I am excited to hear it as well.

    • Long overdue, but – thank you for the comment. Sydney still struggles with this, but is much better these days. I believe your young dog can be trained and conditioned to behave and understand your expectations. Your energy and approach to the situation is as critical as your training method. Stay calm and breathe. Understand that your dog doesn’t feel good (confident, safe, etc) and is demonstrating it by barking. If you can, give your dog the opportunity to forget that he feels that way. Go on walks where there aren’t dogs. Go on hikes where he can be off leash and you won’t run into others. When you do walk where other dogs may be, be ready to react. Here is my current tactic with Sydney:

      I turn her away from the ‘threat’. I consider myself lucky if I notice it first and she doesn’t get worked up. If I can, I take a different road or go behind an object so she can’t see.
      I put her between my legs so that I can use them to keep her directed away from the ‘threat’ if she happens to notice them. I like using my legs because it means I don’t need to rely on collar tension (which can make your dog feel more insecure and worried). Her head is facing the same way as mine, which allows me to pet and soothe her.
      Brian or I will then deliver snacks to her mouth with ever increasing intervals. If I have Brian with me, he can stand in front of her and use the name game – saying her name and rewarding her when she makes eye contact.
      We wait for the other dog to pass.

      Yes, this can be time consuming and annoying, but it keeps the humans happier and calmer than trying to rush past the other dog. Sydney has improved tremendously in this department. If you can’t prevent the problem, do your best to divert and distract. Eventually your dog should come to prefer the snack ‘game’ to the stressful barking episodes.

  19. I wish i could say we are winning the war on this barking thing. Our Aussie is 2 years this July. When she wants to play she has this high pitch bark that just makes your ears ring and if we are busy doing something it keeps on. Have tried putting her other rooms, outside and a muzzle. When she finally calms down we play but then all of a sudden she drops the ball and just starts barking. Nothing we have tried is working and I am at wits end, to the point of buying a shock collar and when she barks zap her and say no bark. She is a sweet girl but this barking is about to drive us nuts and her being put outside…HELP LOL

    • Hi Ron – Sorry to hear about the barking issue. Sydney used to do this if we had the frisbee out and she wanted to play. She would also do it when we used yard equipment (i.e. rake, shovel, etc). Our two strategies for this type of scenario were – she doesn’t get to play unless she is quiet. This requires immense patience and time….ear protection helps. You have to be in a state where you genuinely aren’t bothered by the barking so protect your ears and make sure you’re in a patient training mood before you go out for a practice session.

      The second strategy involves proper exercise. Not a one mile walk on a leash and not frisbee/ball session for 5 minutes. We take the dogs for really intense hikes 2-4 times a week. The fatigue they experience lasts between hikes and Sydney rarely says a word. She appears to feel good and ‘complete’. She doesn’t have any cattle to herd but she can feel good from a really arduous hike.

      I know the hiking advice can be hard to hear because how do you give a dog exercise if they are barking their head off and preventing the reward (exercise) from happening? If you’re willing to practice the patience and try it, you’ll both be happier. Instead of being shocked to be quiet (and still having a ton of energy to burn), your dog will be exercised, will feel good, be healthy AND be quiet. You know what doctors say – treat the problem (high energy dog), not the symptom (barking).

      I previously went to yoga (4-5x week) and did power lifting (3x week) and then I’d give the dogs a one mile leash walk in the morning and night. I had no energy or time to do more. Sydney has a lot more energy than Trooper and was never satisfied. Since then, I’ve stopped the paid subscription type exercise and now take them on adventures. Sydney is 100% a different dog. You have to try it to believe it.

      Best of luck and happy training :)

  20. Hi Chelsea,

    We have an 11 month aussie, Urban, who is the sweetest most loving dog. He is very wary of strangers, but is pretty quick to become comfortable and accepting of people. However, his barking is getting so out of control. We live in an apartment, and he gets walked daily and taken to the dog park a few times a week as well for exercise. Simply taking him for a walk has gotten so stressful. When we walk him down to the walking trails, we typically pass quite a few people as it’s roughly 5:00, and everybody is getting home for the evening. He barks at any and everyone/thing that he sees. We have tried getting his attention, turning him away before he sees anything, etc. but nothing seems to really be working.

    He used to just bark, which while annoying isn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t aggressive sounding, and it seemed like he really just wanted to go say hi. Lately however, he is sounding so much more aggressive. For example, yesterday we turned a corner and a father and little girl (maybe 8 or so) were walking to the car, and he was straining on his leash so hard that his front legs were off the ground and barking at them scaring the little girl to tears.

    We are thinking of a collar we can put on him that will vibrate and get his attention re-focused onto whoever is walking him. I’m not sure if that is the correct route to go though, and I do not want to frighten him into becoming aggressive or anything. My husband and I are simply at the end of our rope. It’s exhausting having to check corners before turning them, and constantly be alert for anything that might set him off. Help?

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      You mention that he gets daily walks and also weekly visits to the dog park. Are you able to walk him anywhere where the terrain is challenging and you can let him off leash? I find that dog parks, while great for off leash activity, can sometimes encourage bad habits. While you are trying to teach Urban what are acceptable behaviors, you may want to avoid it.
      The biggest thing that helped us with Sydney, who is also very loving but used to be a real barking terror on a leash, has been to take her out for real exercise. When we hike, she runs ahead and back to us probably four times during the period it takes us to cover the same distance. And she keeps it up for the entire walk/hike. She accomplishes FOUR TIMES the exercise as we do and she does it while running. That is what she needs to actually feel like she is getting properly exercised.
      If you can do something similar for Urban, I think you will find him much more receptive to learning. He needs an outlet for his energy and then he will probably be much more inclined to hear what you are saying and respond appropriately. If he likes to swim, that can also be good. As can frisbee or ball.

  21. Hi Chelsea,

    I have a 6 month old Australian Shepherd who I think must have entered his adolescent stage because almost out of no where he began showing some very bad behaviors. He is sweet, loves lots of attention and is not an aggressive boy, but recently he has begun barking like no other.

    The bad behavior started on his leash. He would pull towards people or other dogs if he wanted to meet them. I attempt to get his attention and redirect. This works only if I have treats. We’ve spent some serious time leash training him which made the pulling/lunging much better. However, he started barking and lunging whenever he sees another dog, or a person he feels uncomfortable by (no apparent reason though). His barking and lunging is scary. His front paws come up, he is growling almost and it is near impossible for me to calm him down. I have tried using treats to redirect him, walking the other way, bringing his favorite toy with me to distract him. It is very frightening to other people and usually once he just meets the other dog he spots (from practically a mile away) he’s fine, and he moves on. If we don’t meet it takes him at least 5 minutes to calm down and go back to good leash walking. When hes worked up he pulls and lunges and by-passers.

    Now the barking is so bad that even a car ride (which he loves) is miserable if he spots a dog in the distance. He is almost trying to jump out of the car while barking and lunging.

    The barking has persisted and now he barks every time he hears a strange sound in our house. He barks and goes manic if hears another dog bark (even if he can’t see the dog). We have been working on “speak” and “quiet” and putting him in his crate for a time out if he doesn’t listen. I have tried ignoring the bark, but because we live so close to others at a certain point I give in because it is SO loud and end up putting him in time out.

    I am very active with Benson. Between his dad and I, we walk him about 3-4 miles a day, and take him to the dog park daily. We go to the beach about once every other week. I read in one of the posts above (from someone with a similar situation) that you recommend a hike or something off leash to really exercise them, but we don’t trust him off leash. Do you have any recommendations on how to help because this is so difficult for us and I’m running out of ideas. I don’t want him to think we can continue this way, but I also have NO idea how to stop the barking and leash aggression.

    • Hi Amanda,
      I understand what you’re going through and I know it isn’t easy. Compared to Trooper, Sydney has always been a maniac. Thankfully, as she has aged, settled in and begun to understand how things work, she has become less of a maniac.

      I just discussed your situation with another trainer. Below are some strategies and exercises that might help:

      -Attempting a training objective (i.e. redirect, quiet, come, etc) when the dog is out of its mind is not a good way to build understanding. If they are out of their mind with excitement or anxiety, they aren’t hearing you and you are just conditioning them to ignore you. Try to develop your skills in quiet and predictable places first. Which brings us to –

      -If Benson does not have a solid recall, working toward developing one will be good mental and physical exercise. Get a really long line (40+ feet) and go to an empty field (I used to take Trooper to the high school football field). Let them dog meander (while on the line, which you are stepping on or is safely attached to you). Pick a recall word (Sydney responds to ‘come’ and Trooper responds to ‘check’). Say it clearly and authoritatively, but not in a mean way.

      -Shape the dog’s behavior. Start with short distances from you. If he all he does is look at you initially, click and reward that. Eventually ask for more. If he IGNORES you, give him a second to correct himself and then GO GET HIM. Do not pull him in, like a fishing line. Go get him. In that instant, he isn’t really ‘on leash’. He thinks he is free. You want him to develop the thought, “If I don’t respond to her, she’s going to walk over here and get me.”

      -When he comes back to you, make it a PARTY. The best training treats are reserved for recalls. You want a dog who is trustworthy. Break out the dried liver or whatever his favorite is. Break it into small pieces so he doesn’t get satisfied too quickly. Praise him, act excited. Make returning to you the MOST FUN THING EVER. If you aren’t feeling it, your dog won’t. It is just like when we were training the dogs on the electric fence. It was easy for me to get in the mood because the alternative was to have dogs who went into the electric shock field. NOT desirable. Similarly, you do NOT want a dog who ignores you and runs into traffic.

      -Once he is catching on, start to really mix it up. Let him meander for longer periods of time and walk around with him so his long lead is still loose. Out of nowhere, call him back and party. Then release him and immediately call him back again. Then, start going to new places. Mix it up.

      -Do this DAILY. Exchange a portion of his walking for recall training. He will be getting physical exercise, don’t worry. When walking on leash – If you can walk places where there are no dogs, that will stop you from reinforcing the barking while he is getting a handle on your expectations and his emotions.

      -Once he is reliable, go back to a fenced field and take the lead off. Practice recalls while being truly off leash. Then you can play ball and frisbee and not worry about him running off. Then maybe try hikes. For the first several hikes, keep him on the long lead and pick places without a lot of obstacles. Make him practice his recalls.

      -You won’t regret putting the time in early on to teach him recall. Most Australian Shepherds (Trooper is an exception) are incredibly high energy dogs and can be barky. With energy outlets and a job of sorts (which can be hiking and practicing recalls), they can mature into responsible citizens.

      -Use a crate to travel in the car and if he can see out of it, COVER IT UP. He needs to learn the crate is a space of peace and quiet, and that he is safe. Letting him bark in the car, when you can do little to correct or redirect him, is bad conditioning.

      -On occasion, or whenever he is being good, send him to his crate and give him a stuffed kong or a frozen marrow bone. It will keep him busy and help him understand that sitting quietly by himself with an objective can be a positive experience.

      -The other trainer also mentioned that some people have success with citronella collars. I have not tried them but I think they can probably be effective if used as one part of a larger training strategy.

      Let me know how it goes or if you have any other questions.

  22. Hey!

    We have a 6 month Australian Sheppard called Stella, and she has started this uncontrollable barking behavior. She loves to go out to the dog park and walks but as soon as I take her out she just barks sometimes at nothing at all. She barks in the house and back yard, I can sometimes control this and other times not. I am at startIng to think I am just letting her get away with it and just giving her what she wants. She also barks at skateboards, scooters, bikes and people running and it can be quiet embarrassing at times, I just can’t seem to get her attention back on me :(

    I am just worried my neighbors are going to file a complaint and get my dog taken away. I don’t want that to happen. She is a very sweet girl very affectionate. I just wish I could get this barking under control.




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