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Update on how to train your dog to stop barking

Stop Barking!  One year, two months and one day later…

May 2012: Pre-hike, Sydney will not stop barking!

It has been a long time since our last post and it has largely been because of Sydney and helping her adjust to her new life.  She has been with us for 14 months.  We established routines, took training classes, went on lots of circular drive-way walks, played frisbee and got to know each other.  Everything that was extra in my life was put on the back burner for a little while so that Sydney could have a successful transition.  In order to do anything with her, we needed her to learn to stop barking; but to get to that point, she needed to feel secure.

Sydney and I have learned a lot about each other over the past year.  She is truly a unique dog and has added a lot of spirit to our household.  A previous post discusses how she did not want to stop barking and has a video documenting how ridiculous she used to be.

Taking Sydney to dog class

Syndey Waiting Patiently with no Barking

Living in Connecticut means it is not always easy to get out every day in the winter and be excited about dog walking and play time.  Knowing this, in February I scheduled dog classes for Trooper and Sydney so that they could have a weekly outing plus daily practice sessions.  Boy was I in for a special treat!

Prior to class, Sydney had successfully demonstrated sit, stay, down, come and go to crate.  We had not done any target training and very little healing.  Our class was called “Family Dog II” and was intended for dogs and trainers who had accomplished the basics and were interested in advanced obedience plus some target training.  Our goal was not to teach Sydney to stop barking but rather, to strengthen our connection.

We will talk about the actual results of the dog class in another post.  With regards to her barking behavior, it was much better in the car but not gone altogether.  Our weekly trip to dog class included our pre-departure “training session” during which she would test my patience by refusing to stop barking and disallowing us from advancing.  That meant that an hour long class was actually a 2 hour long session because it took so long to get in the car.

Once in the car, she  rode in the crate because it eliminated access to the upholstery, front seat and window buttons.  At the beginning of the ride and on the freeway, she was fairly calm and quiet.  Once we were off the freeway, however, she would not stop barking and whining ferociously.  In that situation, there was little I could do to actively train her.  My only mission was a safe arrival at dog class.

She was always quiet on the ride home because she was mentally pooped.  Over the course of the 8 weeks, her pre-car behavior improved a little bit.  With spring upon us, it was time to start walking again.  As with the dog class, the first attempts started with barking and the “ignore her” routine.  However, once we started consistently practicing, vast improvement was made!

Hallelujah, I can see a rational light in her eyes!

Sydney walking with no barking

There is a point when a dog comprehends what you are asking and you can see that understanding in their eyes.  For Sydney, the difference in her face is huge!   When she is in the midst of her crazy routine, her eyes actually look wild – she’s unfocused, unresponsive and rather crazy.  Once she started understanding how our training sessions rolled, her eyes became soft, more focused and cooperative.

The same technique was used as before:  Poor  behavior = we don’t advance toward walking.  The goal of these walks was not to perfect healing, but to get to a place where she can walk calming and quietly on a retractable leash.  Her refusal to stop barking gave away to frustrated LOUD panting, which eventually gave away to quieter panting and whining, which then decreased further to mostly semi-patient silence with bursts of panting and whining.

Sydney’s Progress on Good Walk Manners:  Goal = no barking


  • There were a few challenging points where I had to be more flexible in the behavior I demanded.  The action of connecting her leash always caused a break in focus because it took me a few seconds and it was very exciting for her.  There must be moments of ease in training or else your dog will get frustrated.  When Sydney was a barking maniac, she would be allowed through the door if she was whining/panting because that was an improvement in behavior.  Now that we were down to some panting/whining, I allowed a brief lapse in standards while I connected the leash.  Eventually, she’ll need to be silent during the whole process.
  • The other difficult moment is when Sydney walks through the doorway into the garage.  That is VERY exciting because the walk feels very much like a reality at that point.  I allowed one burst of excited panting/whining during those first few moments, but she had to immediately reign it in if she wanted to be allowed through the garage.  If her panting/whining became uncontrolled again, we reversed and had to try all over again.
  • As with waiting her out until she would stop barking, I had to wait her out until would stop panting and whining.  But honestly, once you experience a 45 minute session trying to advance toward a hike, a 10 minute session feels like nothing.  It actually feels very successful.  When it gets down to less than 4 minutes, then you know you are very close to eliminating the behavior altogether.


  1. Thank you! But my aussie always barks when she’s outside when we’re not with her. We can’t be with her at all times, so do you have any suggestions as to what we can do? The neighbors have started complaining. But when we put her in her kennel, she only barks more. P.S., I really appreciate your video on how to bathe an aussie.

    • What do you do for exercise? What’s her daily routine?

      • We usually let her stay in the yard, but on a chain so she doesn’t run away. Every day, she goes on at least one walk. And we always play with her every day.

      • I know it sounds like a simple fix and it’s possible it won’t help at all. But most aussies need intense exercise – both physical and mental. Trooper grew up on a long lead (because he also ran away and we had no fence) and as a result, he had all sorts of neurotic tendencies that only went away if he got exercise. Same with Sydney – I stopped walking her on a leash a few months ago and now I take her for a hike. She runs like crazy in the woods for 20-30 minutes and is then WAY better behaved at home. A leash walk isn’t going to accomplish the same thing unless you’re running.

        Same with routine trick (mental) training – giving your aussie a job will satisfy her. They were bred to work so it’s very common for behavioral issues to develop in dogs who mostly live in the house. You’re not alone – many aussie owners are in the same boat!

        My most recent routine for Sydney is –
        *30 minute hike most mornings (it’s my exercise too)
        *Stuffed kong (keeps her busy for ~2 hrs) while I get ready for work
        *Leave her home while I’m at work (she’s exhausted so she just sleeps)
        *Come home and play frisbee for ~10 minutes (or walk her if I feel like doing leash work)
        * Meat dinner

        Aussies love routine and will settle down if they have a predictable (and satisfying) schedule.

  2. What kind of a Kong do you use and what do you stuff it with? My mom and dad keep giving me the standard bobbling-type of Kongs, but when they stuff ’em with kibble it just falls out all over the floor, and when they stuff ’em with things like peanut butter I can lick it out in a flash. Once, they tried putting some hard-to-get-out Snausages in there and I got bored ’cause it just wouldn’t come out no matter what I did. I know they would love to keep me busy for two hours at a time, but the Kongs they’ve tried so far just don’t come anywhere close… maybe 15 minutes at the most!

    • I use a large sized kong and stuff it with a mix – canned pumpkin, greek yogurt and peanut butter. Sometimes I’ll add apple cider vinegar. After I stuff the kongs, I put them in the freezer for a LONG time to harden everything up. If it isn’t frozen, they’re done with it in a flash.

  3. We have a 1 year old Aussie and we have almost entirely eliminated barking. Neighbours have actually commented that they never knew we had a dog until they actually saw her months later. I think it was a bit of luck but our method was an empty plastic juice bottle with some coins in it. If we heard her barking in the yard while we were home, we would go to an open window but stay out of view and then shake the bottle once to distract her from barking. I think we had to do it for the first three weeks and haven’t had to do it again since. I have only heard my dog bark twice since then (once protecting me and another time protecting herself from another dog). It may just be her demeanour though which makes her less of a barker than others. She is definitely one of the most energetic Aussies I have seen!

    • Congratulations! That’s awesome. I love hearing other training stories of non-violent corrections. So many people just get frustrated and use force and aggression to try and modify their aussie’s behavior.

      How did she react when you shook it? Did she look around curious? Was she nervous? Thanks!

  4. Hi…I adopted an Aussie (Ozzie) about a year ago. We think he is around 2 now. I am also in CT (lower Fairfield county) and wondered if you could share the name/location of the obedience class you took. Ozzie is generally well behaved but he does whine a lot and has a pretty ferocious bark (but is quite gentle…often submissive). He does not fight with other dogs but seems to be uncomfortable around them. I’d like for him to have better social skills…so family manners sounds good.

    • Hi Patricia,
      Thanks for visiting! I have used two facilities in the South Windsor area; they have very different missions. TailsuWin is a fantastic dog training facility that has a TON of classes. The instructors are great at allowing for different paces of learning and addressing individual issues. Their classes can sometimes be rather large but they always have several assistant trainers on hand. I have taken 3 or 4 classes with them and have enjoyed them all. I also just tried a place called Our Companions. They keep their classes very small (~7-8 dogs) and they have many assistants on hand. While that means you can get a lot of individual, one-on-one attention, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. They do not allow for dog-dog interaction during their level one class, but the level two class is all about outings and activities where dogs are trained in the near vicinity of other dogs.
      I hope that helps!

  5. I have a 6 month of mini Aussie named Cooper. He is doing great, he is potty trained with a bell, so he rings every time he has to potty or just wants to play outside. This is great because he doesn’t bark. We have the same bell at my parent’s house & my in laws when he comes to visit.
    However, our daily routine might be why he has been having barking problems. We live out in the country so I take him into town everyday to my parent’s house. The drive there is one problem I have. At first he was great, just laid on the seat and slept. Now he constantly barks his high pitched bark a few minutes after we leave then a few minutes before we get to my parents house. The first time he did it I constantly was telling him to stop, which obviously didn’t work. So I tried the ignoring method a week ago and it has helped gradually. I only pet/sooth him if he stops barking. So I can’t figure out how to calm him down in the car.
    The second problem is his crate. At my parent’s house he plays outside with the other dogs if the weather is permitting or he goes in his crate and I come by on my lunch break to paly with him & let him out. However, when I put him in his crate he goes crazy, barking and knocking over his food. I can’t figure out to get it thru to him that he has to go in there.
    The only reason I haven’t left him at my house in his crate all day is because he would be without seeing anyone for 8 ½ hours. I thought that seemed too long. Maybe it would be good for him so he has a steadier routine. Always being in the crate?
    Any advice would be great.

    • Thank you for your questions. Good job with the ignoring routine. Stay consistent and it should help. Cooper’s car routine sounds just like what Sydney used to do. Despite progress with barking outside the car, she would always turn it right back on when we went for a drive. The beginning and end were terrible, made especially bad by a high pitch bark. I switched to transporting her in a crate. The crate is awesome – each side has windows that can be shaded so she is essentially in a soft cave. She might bark for 5 seconds upon entering the car, but she lays right down and turns on silent mode.

      Does he go crazy when you first put him in the crate, only after lunch when you’re going back to work or both? Have you done any crate training or did you just start placing him in it? I don’t think going to your parents’ house is necessarily a bad thing. It sounds great for socializing. He is very young, so he probably has tons of energy. Does he get enough exercise?

      I’m happy to help. If you can answer the above questions, I’ll do my best to provide advice.

      • Crate training wise, I really just started putting him in there. what would you suggest for crate training? I don’t want him to go crazy each time I put him in there. That is what he does now unless I put him in there real quick then leave. Then I don’t hear him bark. HE might be lacking in the exercising. He gets to play outside for a long duration twice a day but maybe I need to start taking him on consistent walks in the morning so he less antsy when he goes in there?

      • Make the crate his favorite place to be. Every time he goes in, he gets something really delicious. Sit down near the front of the crate and chill for awhile (read, play on phone, etc). Throw snacks into the crate while he’s watching, allow him to go in, praise and give him another snack and then allow him to do whatever he wishes. If you’re sitting down there, he might just lay down inside. Or he might leave and go roam about. Always leave secret snacks in the crate so that when he happens to investigate it, he gets an awesome surprise. They don’t have to be huge – just rewarding.

        Once he understands the crate is a great place, start closing the door and feeding him while he’s inside. Sit next to him and praise/feed for a few minutes. Let him out. Work on building up to several minutes with you still nearby. Then introduce you leaving for short periods of time. Always return BEFORE he starts to bark and give him a snack as a reward. If BEFORE means 5 seconds after leaving, then that’s what it takes. He’ll get better.

        When he’s doing well without you there, start locking him up (with reward of course) while you are in the house. Walk by every now and then and give him more snacks. Make sure to use AWESOME snacks when you’re crate training. You want him to want to be in the crate. If you are consistent, he should start to beat you to the punch – you’ll come home and he’ll be inside, waiting for his snack!

        With regards to exercise, I have never seen it fail to help with excessive barking. I’m not saying it will eliminate it all together. But Aussies have a lot of energy and drive. After a 3 hour hike, Sydney will still be up for frisbee. She’ll even eagerly go on a 2-4 mile walk. And once a week isn’t good enough for her. But every dog is different, so you’ll have to see what is optimal for Cooper.

  6. I just finished reading your article from part 1 and 2. Very helpful. We are really struggling with our puppy, Cash. He is actually 6 months old today but have failed tremendously with barking. It is gut wrenching and it is constant, ALL THE TIME. We will try your ignoring tactics. We have heard to do that before but learning more about how it is a process rather than an instant fix may give us more patience. Thank you!