How to lessen barking and keep a quiet dog busy,  
(c) 2012-2018 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved

While barking is a necessary part of canine expression and communication, not being
able to control it 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

Marcelle seems well socialized to people and comfortable in her home. Marcelle's 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 Marcelle
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:

  • Marcelle 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

    Work also with Marcelle 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.
  • On to barking: 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.
    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--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 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.

  • Teaching Marcelle 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 there. 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 session.

    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
How to stop
barking and
keep a quiet
dog busy
Every dog needs something to do at home
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"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."
Schedule an individual consultation
Training opens communication, gives structure and done right is rewarding
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

Entire website copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen