How do you train an older dog to not bark at people? Can you train an 8-year-old dog to stop barking? The short answer to that second question is “Yes… but it’ll take a lot of patience.” As for the first question, just keep reading! I’ll go over everything you need to know to teach your senior dog to stop barking quite so much.
How to Train an Older Dog Not to Bark
Look, all dogs bark. It’s how they communicate! Asking “how do I train my dog to stop barking entirely” is like asking “how do I train my kids to never speak again.” You would want that, would you? Okay, so maybe during the “why, why, why” stage it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. You get my point though.
Nobody should expect a dog never to bark. Each sound has meaning and allows dogs to communicate with their people in their language. However, barking can sometimes be excessive, resulting in frustrated owners and neighbors.
Too much or nuisance barking is defined as a dog repeatedly barking for long periods that interrupts neighbors’ ability to enjoy their property. Everyone defines “excessive barking” differently, but if you have a dog who barks excessively, there are things you can do to help your pooch and keep your home calm. Regardless of your dog’s age, the first step is to determine what is causing your dog to bark so much. You can begin to treat their barking problem once you recognize what’s causing it.
Why Is My Senior Dog Suddenly Barking So Much?
Dogs may bark to attract attention, to alert to something happening around them. Here are the reasons why:
- Protection of Territories– Some dogs were kept to guard homes and properties, alerting owners to intruders’ presence. When someone enters an area your dog considers their territory, it frequently results in excessive barking.
- Boredom– Dogs, too, get bored, especially alone in our house for an extended time. When they are unhappy, they bark excessively.
- Frustration- Dogs may be stressed if their needs are not met, like playing outside, eating when hungry, and worrying about things.
- Seeking Attention– Attention-seeking dog behavior is typical – and is a standard survival mechanism in puppies who rely entirely on their mother’s care, especially when greeting or playing with people.
- Separation Anxiety– Dogs may have anxiety or depression too. They often bark excessively when left alone and make repetitive movements.
Once you identify the trigger, it’s time to figure out what to do about it.
Best Methods to Train an Older Dog Not to Bark
Let’s look at the two best methods to train an older dog not to bark. Yes, there are other techniques, but these tend to work best for senior pups.
The Tackle The Cause Approach
This is where your legwork in identifying your dog’s barking triggers comes into play. Depending on the triggers, there are a couple of tactics that you can try.
Tire them out
Dogs have boundless energy. Increasing the amount of exercise causes them to become exhausted, like throwing a stick or a ball to keep themselves running instead of a regular walk.
FYI, while this tip works best for dogs who bark out of boredom and frustration, it can help with other triggers as well. For example, tiring out your dog before you leave the house can help alleviate some separation anxiety and territorial barking.
Distract them when you’re not home
Another option is to close the curtains if your dogs bark when they see people passing by your house. If your dog hears strangers, turn on a TV or radio to drown out the noise outside. Your dog will bark less as he becomes more distracted, and the motivation to bark will be removed until he finally breaks the habit.
Just remember that you’re dealing with an older dog that may not be as spry as a pup. Don’t overdo it. Agility games for older dogs, like those in the video below, are great because they engage the mind as well as the body.
Desensitization and counter-conditioning training
Dealing with a separation anxiety trigger is a bit trickier. Rather than trying to get your dog to stop barking you’ll need to really work on helping him overcome his anxiety through desensitization and counter-conditioning training. That’s not something I can really explain in a single sub-section, though. I recommend checking out VCA Animal Hospital’s guide on it, or watch the video below.
The “Quiet” Command Technique
While your dog is barking, saying “quiet” to them may help them stop, even if it takes some time. Don’t interrupt a whole stream bark until your buddy has mastered “Quiet” in a controlled environment.
Alternatively, you may signal your dog by holding your finger to your lips as a sign of “quiet.” Remember, you should never reward them while they are barking. They will eventually realize that if they stop barking at the word “quiet,” they will receive a treat.
I’m a HUGE fan of Zak George’s training methods. They’re force-free and work for dogs of all ages. Check out his video below, or read our guide on how to teach your dog the quiet command.
What Not To Do When Training Senior Dogs to Stop Barking?
- Don’t yell. Yelling at your dog will not solve the problem of barking. The more you yell, the more your dog barks, and the situation generally escalates. Instead of getting frustrated, try recognizing that your dog isn’t actively barking to make you mad. Dogs are communicating a need or desire in the only way they know.
- Never, ever, ever, ever hit your dogs. Aversive techniques based on pain are dangerous and just plain cruel. According to studies, they also significantly increase stress, reduce a dog’s quality of life, and may even cause dog aggression.
- Maintain consistency. Don’t encourage your dog to bark at certain sounds (a door slamming, people passing by) while discouraging them from barking at others.
- Avoid muzzles. Never use a muzzle or other form of restraint to keep a dog quiet for extended periods or when they are unsupervised. It can be harmful to your pet.
Some barking is normal, but excessive barking indicates that your dog is stressed or their needs are unmet. Vocalizations are one way for dogs to express how they feel and what they want. There is always a reason for the barking, and our responsibility is to determine what our dogs require.
Never punish your dogs for excessive barking; instead, use the approach or method described above to train your dogs not to bark.
Did you successfully train an older dog not to bark so much? Share your experiences below!