How to
and keep a
quiet dog
How to stop barking and keep a quiet dog busy,  
copyright (c) 2021 Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved.

Dogs bark but what to do when the barking is excessive?  How do you change a
barking dog into a quiet dog? Barking is a natural and necessary part of canine
expression and communication, an alert to let us and each other know about
what's going on around them.  But not being able to control barking can be
frustrating, especially where neighbors and guests are concerned.  Here's my
advice after working with a client seeking help with barking for a small, older
rescue (names have been changed), who it seems had little, if any, prior training.  
Here are strategies to lower the volume and give that quiet dog something to do:

First, know that barking is a natural behavior for a dog and typically serves three
broad purposes: alert, alarm and solicitation. Other canids, like wolves, do not bark
nearly as frequently as dogs do.  This behavior is something we have selected for in
dogs, so no fair blaming them for what we have asked them to do in the first place.
Acknowledging the purpose of the barking by letting your dog know they are
heard - that you heard it too , thanking them for the alert and redirecting
after the fact by asking for something else to will help target barking.

Here are my notes on working with a barking dog, Marcelle (not her real name of

Marcelle seems well socialized to people and comfortable in her home. Her focus in
life is you, which is a beautiful thing but makes her life one dimensional; giving
Marcelle more to do that is substantive for her as a dog will enrich her life. While
she probably has a history of positive interaction she also seems to have a history
of lack of training which may explain her insistence on being heard no matter
what. Marcelle's barking habits can be attributed to two things; natural behavior
and lapses in training.  Here's how to help lessen the need to bark and keep that
quiet dog busy:

  • On to barking: Marcelle will naturally alert to the presence of a new
    person entering a room, you and other people should greet Marcelle first
    when entering a room or an area where she is -a simple "Hi Marcelle" or
    "Marcelle we're home" will help take the pressure of her to let the world
    know about it. Strange noises and newcomers frequently  set off alarm
    barking.  Working on "quiet" after you tell her in four or five words that
    you hear it too (say 'Thanks, I heard that too" for instance) are the way
    to go with this one initially: Start as soon as the barking begins, hold a
    treat in front of her nose (or a toy she will respond to if you get up to
    toys) as soon as she sniffs the barking will stop (she cannot do both at
    once) then immediately say "Good quiet!" or "Hush" or whatever
    command you want to always use for this and offer her the treat
    immediately, repeat frequently.  That treat is important - remember
    you are marking and rewarding the quiet and not the barking. Next
    you can redirect by asking your dog to get her favorite toy.  This is
    also a great redirection for a jumping-so excited-you're-home-don't-
    know-what-to- do-dog and allows all that energy to be channeled to
    finding something special, taking hold of it and bringing it to you.  Of
    course, you will be thrilled that the toy has been retrieved.  Now
    redirect yet again to a yet another thing to do - a place to go with that
    special toy.

  • Your dog would benefit from learning canine manners in a human world,
    little dogs are in greater need of structure just because they are so little -all
    that barking (and jumping or pawing) gets the attention she is asking for at
    the moment, it serves her well being so much smaller than everyone else
    around her but is difficult for humans around her. Training will also give
    her confidence, boundaries and create a stronger relationship, one where
    she is more tuned in to what you are asking of her and she is responding
    to it.

  • Give Marcelle more to do in her day: Feeding her diet in a Kong for both
    breakfast and dinner meals will prolong the satisfaction and the doing of
    eating her meals both of which are enriching for her. Go back to puzzle
    toys full of treats and leave these for her as well, more activities to feed
    her mind.  Try new and different toys to leave for her and keep one by
    the door (a special one that she only gets when you leave).  Puzzle toys
    that you have buried for a day or two in your dirty clothes hamper
    (gives them the best smell of you) and that you have showed how to
    play with, are a great addition to squeaky and stuffed toys.

  • Classical music has been proven to soothe dogs and cats, leave the
    radio (105.9FM in NYC) on for her for the music and the soothing
    voices of the announcers for company and to listen to, another thing
    for her to do.

  • First know that training is so much more than teaching tricks and
    commands, it is about finding a clear and consistent way to communicate
    with another species, one who has no extensive "language" to understand
    our explanations and whose idea of life rewards is at times very inconsistent
    with ours. Because of this, we are limited to an almost pantomime if you will,
    one where we have to identify without words, what stimulates a response
    (from the dog's point of view not ours) and "condition" that response, we
    "associate" behaviors and rewards (meaningful for a dog) and we reinforce
    -- repeat so we both know that's what we're looking for.  So start with what
    you both know already is working. Praise is part of training and a reward
    that should be freely given for being "quiet" or "good,” etc. If she is sitting
    with you or lying down or waiting  patiently you can label ("put it on
    command") what she is doing at the moment and praise: "Good quiet Marcelle,
    good quiet." The trick to remember is saying the phrase when she is doing the
    behavior you want to reinforce.  Remember, that her name is not the
    command or the praise.  Label the behavior, remark on it. We do not nearly
    praise enough at all.

    Work also with your dog on what she knows already to make it stronger for
    the both of you (as humans we need to work on our timing of asking, labeling
    and rewarding so our pets know what we want). Training is best for everyone
    if it is constant and  consistent so aim for some time during the day even if it
    is just three to five minutes in the morning or the evening.
  • Teaching your dog to go to her "spot" or "place" takes more doing but is an
    exercise in human canine communication and will teach her and you more
    about each other, strengthen your bond and give her a really secure base
    not to bark and feel good about it too.  To learn "spot" or "place" a pet has to
    already know "sit" and "stay."  Read on for the steps in how to teach this on
    your own (taken from the former ASPCA's Virtual Behaviorist website):

    1. Identify a place in your home where you’d like your dog to go when
    people come to the door. If possible, choose a place that’s at least eight feet
    away from the front door but still within sight. It might be a spot at the
    top of a set of stairs, inside the doorway of an adjacent room, your dog’s
    crate, or a rug positioned at the far corner of an entryway or foyer.

    2.   Say “Go to your spot,” show your dog a treat, and then throw the treat
    onto the spot where you’d like your dog to go. Repeat this sequence 10 to 20
    times. By the 10th time, try pretending to throw the treat so that your dog
    begins to move toward the spot on his own. As soon as he’s standing on his
    spot or rug, throw him the treat. As your dog catches on, you can stop
    making the fake throwing motion with your arm and just give him the
    cue, “Go to your spot.” Then wait until he does and reward him.

    3.  Once your dog is reliably going to his spot, vary where you are when you
    send him there. Practice asking him to go to his spot from many different
    angles and distances. For example, say “Go to your spot” when you’re standing
    a few steps to the left of it. After a few repetitions, move a few steps to the
    right of the spot and say, “Go to your spot” from that position. Then move to
    another area in the room, then another, etc. Eventually, practice standing
    by the front door and asking your dog to go to his spot, just as you might
    when visitors arrive.

    4. When your dog masters going to his spot, start asking him to sit or down
    when he gets here. As soon as your dog’s rear end hits the floor on the spot,
    say “Yes!” and reward him with a tasty treat. Then say “Okay,” and allow
    him to move off the spot. Repeat these steps at least 10 times per training

    5.  Now add stay into your exercise. Stand next to your dog’s spot. Ask him to
    sit or lie down, say “Stay” and wait one second. Then say “Yes!” or “Good!”
    and give him a treat. After you deliver the treat, say “Okay” to release your dog
    from the stay and encourage him to get off the spot. Repeat this sequence at
    least 10 times per training session. Progressively increase from one second to
    several seconds, but vary the time so that sometimes you make the exercise
    easy (a shorter stay) and sometimes you make it hard (a longer stay). If your
    dog starts to get up before you say “Okay,” say “Uh-uh!” or “Oops!” and
    immediately ask him to sit or lie down on his spot again. Then make the
    exercise a little easier the next few times by asking your dog to hold the stay
    for a shorter time. Avoid pushing your dog to progress too fast or testing him
    to see how long he can hold the stay before getting up. This sets your dog up to
    fail. You want him to be successful at least 8 out of 10 times in a row.
    6.  When your dog can consistently stay on his spot for at least 30 seconds,
    with you standing in front of him, you can start moving toward the door. Say
    the cue “Go to your spot,” walk with your dog to his spot, ask him to sit or lie
    down and ask him to stay. At first, just turn your head away from your dog.
    Then turn back to give him a treat and release him from the stay. After a few
    repetitions, make things a little harder. After your dog is sitting or lying down
    on his spot, ask him to stay and then take one step toward the door. Return
    immediately, give your dog a treat and then release him from the stay with
    your release word or phrase.  Gradually increase the number of steps that
    you take away from your dog and toward the door. Eventually you’ll be able
    to walk all the way to the door and back while your dog stays sitting or lying
    down on his spot. (Don’t forget to keep rewarding him for staying!) If your
    dog stands up or leaves his spot before you release him from the stay, say
    “Oops!” the moment he gets up. Then immediately tell him to sit or lie down
    on his spot again and stay. Wait a few seconds and then release him. You may
    have progressed too fast. Next time, make the exercise a little easier so your
    dog can succeed. Ask him to stay for a shorter period of time and don’t
    move as far away from him. When he’s successful at an easier level, you can
    gradually make the exercise harder again. Never end your dog’s stay from
    a distance.  Instead, always return to him, say “Yes,” give him a treat, and
    then say “Okay” to release him.

    7.  When your dog can consistently stay in a sit or a down on his spot for 30
    seconds, while you turn away and walk to your front door, you can start to
    introduce some distractions. Tell your dog to stay, and then do something
    distracting. At first make your distractions mild. For example, start by
    bending down or doing a single jumping jack. Over many sessions of training,
    gradually intensify your distractions to things like running a few steps or
    tossing a treat on the floor. Reward your dog quickly after each distraction
    for holding the stay. If he breaks the stay, quickly say “Uh-uh,” ask him
    to sit or lie down on his spot, and try again. When your dog can stay while
    you do all sorts of distracting things, ask him to stay while you go to the
    front door of your home and pretend to greet someone there. Your goal is for
    him to learn to stay the entire time you’re at the door.

    This article is an original work and is subject to copyright. You may create a link
    to this article on another website or in a document back to this web page. You
    may not copy this article in whole or in part onto another web page or document
    without permission of the author. Email inquiries to
All dogs need training, even the small ones
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Barking is a natural behavior
for a dog and typically serves
three broad purposes: alert,
alarm and solicitation. Letting
Marcelle know she is heard,
alerting her first and giving her
something else to do will target
the barking."
Contact me for a consultation
Acknowlege your dog when you enter a room so they don't have to bark to get your attention
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

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