Barking is a common dog behaviour and it’s entirely natural. But if your dog is barking up a storm in the garden, you’re probably looking for an effective solution before your neighbours lose the plot!
First, we need to look at the reasons why your dog’s barking to decide how best to address it.
Then I’ll walk you through how to stop your dog barking in the garden, so you can stay on good terms with your neighbours and enjoy the milder weather! Let’s get cracking.
Table of Contents
Why does your dog bark in the garden?
If your dog is barking in the garden, we need to look at the reasons why before we address changing the behaviour. The way you stop the behaviour will be different, depending on the cause.
3 reasons your dog is barking in the garden
- Attention barking
Barking at movement or noise in other gardens
If there is noise or movement behind the fence or wall, this might be the trigger that sends your dog into a barking frenzy. Your dog’s in what I call ‘holy ghost mode,’ as in ‘what on earth is behind that fence?!’
We want to teach your dog that there’s nothing to be scared of and that you don’t need alerting when they hear something on the other side of the fence.
- Pair the noise with something positive.
As soon as your dog begins orienting towards the noise, chuck some treats on the ground.
- Build positive associations and movement away from the noise
Throwing treats on the ground away from the fence will attract your dog towards you, and start building a positive association with the noise. Even if your dog is barking, toss out some treats and start training.
- Reward your dog for turning to look to you
As you practise steps 1 and 2, your dog will begin looking to you when they hear a noise outside of their garden. Reward this behaviour and your dog will repeat it and build a new habit.
When your dog is barking, they’re not in thinking mode.
If your dog is worried, the cognitive bit of their brain isn’t working. Your dog isn’t thinking or learning if they’re barking because they’re worried.
Supervise your dog going out in the garden, so they don’t form a barking habit.
Introducing a positive interrupter
A positive interrupter gets your dog’s attention on you, so you can interrupt unwanted behaviours.
Watch the video tutorial below and focus on teaching this when your dog isn’t highly distracted. Build it up and over time you’ll be able to use it to interrupt garden barking.
If you’re ready to transform your dog’s impulse control and banish their incessant barking, check out my new mini-course on impulse control for dogs… it’s a game changer!
If your dog sits in front of you, barking at you – this is attention barking.
This is pretty much the only time I will advise you to get up and walk away from your dog. You need to remove your attention in order to stop attention barking.
Shouting, telling your dog off or fussing them all counts as attention. So be mindful of your actions in response to attention barking, the last thing you want to do is reinforce the behaviour!
Beware, if you’ve previously rewarded your dog for attention barking, you may find the barking gets worse at first!
This increase in barking is called an extinction burst.
Essentially your dog has a strong history with being rewarded for barking. Hold strong and stick with ignoring the barking… it will stop eventually!
If you give up, you’re only reinforcing the fact that barking louder and for longer is very effective…. Making it an even more painful habit to break!
Barking at a cat on the fence (aka boredom barking)
Does your dog persistently bark at cats, birds, squirrels or other wildlife in the garden? This kind of barking often stems from boredom.
Barking once or twice to ward off a visitor is one thing, but continued barking, patrolling the fence line and not giving up is something else.
Barking at the other animals can be very rewarding for your dog, particularly if the animal leaves once they’ve had enough of being yapped at!
Your dog barks → the animal leaves → your dog believes their barking was very effective
The cycle continues. To break the cycle you have to be able to bring your dog away from the trigger as soon as the barking begins.
Your dog barks → they’re removed → the animal stays → the outdoor barking stops
If your dog continues to rehearse the unwanted habit of fixating on wildlife, it’ll likely start becoming an issue on your walks too.
Stopping boredom barking in the garden
To stop boredom barking in the garden, I recommend that you bring your dog inside immediately.
If you can’t get your dog to come inside and end up in a game of ‘chase me,’ try out the garden games towards the end of this blog.
If you can get your dog inside, address their desire for entertainment by playing an animated game with their favourite toy or having a short training session.
Why is your dog bored?
Is your dog getting enough mental and physical stimulation to meet their needs? Are they being given regular outlets for natural behaviours that they crave?
Alongside a zero tolerance policy to barking at cats and other animals in the garden, you need to be giving your dog appropriate outlets for their natural instincts.
You also need to consider why your dog is self-entertaining in this way. Is your dog getting sufficient outlets for their natural breed behaviours?
Look at what your dog was bred for and try to find activities to do with your dog that give them an appropriate way to engage in behaviours that are totally natural to them.
- Hounds – Whether a sighthound or a dachshund, these breeds have a high prey drive and need to have the opportunity to ‘hunt’. Satisfy this through play and giving them an outlet for their chasing instincts.
- Gundogs – From Spaniels to Retrievers, these dogs have a need to find/retrieve. Scentwork games and fetch games are a good way to meet these breeds needs.
- Pastoral – Collies, Shepherds and sheepdogs all fall into this group. They were generally bred to herd and if you don’t give them an outlet, they’ll make their own fun!
- Terriers – From the small Yorkie to the large Airedale, Terriers have an innate instinct to hunt prey and they don’t give up easily! Scentwork games and chasing games go down well with these breeds.
Ensure you’re giving your dog both mental and physical exercise appropriate to their breed and your dog will be more content and less likely to engage in unwanted behaviours.
Create new habits with these garden games for dogs
Spending quality time together in the garden is a brilliant way to build new habits and focus your dog’s attention on something positive. Instead of the garden being a place that your dog goes to bark, chase, and look for trouble – it becomes a place of positivity!
You can train anything you like, or simply play together. My favourite garden game to play is hide and seek for food.
I like to play this with the dog on the lead, so that we’re working together.
- Toss some treats on the ground
- Point your dog towards the first treat to get them started
- Let your dog’s nose do the rest as they sniff out the remaining treats
- Expand the search area to a wider remit as your dog gets the hang of the game
This is a great game for dogs who bark in the garden as they’ll still be hearing the noises around them, but they’re learning that they can ignore them.
Sniffing is also a brilliant calming activity for dogs. As your dog’s nose gets to work, their brain is engaged and they are naturally brought to a calmer state.
Teach your dog impulse control
Dogs who bark in the garden (and elsewhere), often lack impulse control. My new calm yer beans! mini-course is fun, easy and waiting to help you transform your dog’s self control in just a few minutes each day!
Transform your dog’s impulse control and banish their incessant barking