K9 Coach – Sounds of Silence


The sounds of barking may be background noise in some neighborhoods, but have you ever noticed that when it is your dog kicking up a fuss, the sound suddenly becomes louder.  All we are looking for is some peace and quiet.

Dogs who bark may be considered a nuisance, but there is often an underlying cause to this seemingly random noise.  While it might not seem important to decipher what causes a dog to bark, it is extremely helpful in deciding what step to take to rectify the situation. Movement often excites dogs, and in the excitement, the vocalization may become extreme.  How often do we see Terrier type dogs chasing a squirrel quietly?

People coming to your front door, or even stepping onto your property might prompt barking from some family pets.  Dogs bark at other dogs, sometimes in play and sometimes as a way to communicate information. Barking can sometimes be indicative of a more severe problem.  Dogs suffering from separation anxiety often bark for hours on end while left alone. This situation should be assessed and dealt with by a qualified canine behaviourist.

If you have a dog barking at something outside, the first thing that should be done is to bring him indoors.  By doing that, you often remove him from the situation that is causing it in the first place.  You may feel that you will be able to simply tell your dog to be quiet, usually through an open window.  While it may (but not usually) stop your dog, it is only temporary and before you know it another squirrel or passerby has caused it to restart.

Barking indoors is often signaled by a knock on your door, or the doorbell.  Dogs seem to love to announce that someone has arrived, and then often want to be the first to be the official greeter.  Some dog owners might like the idea of the dog barking at the door, but don’t want it to continue.  They want their dog to bark only once or twice, then stop.  This might be too difficult to control.  This means that you must count the number of barks that your dog is allowed to do before asking him to stop, otherwise you will not be consistent enough and your dog will randomly bark.

One way to turn this around for your dog is to teach an alternative behavior.  This means that you teach your dog that when the doorbell rings, he should do something else, and in turn be rewarded for doing so. You can do this fairly quickly, and it is well worth the effort.  First, make sure that your dog knows how to lie down when asked to do so. Put a leash onto your dog before you start the training.

Get a family member to help you set up the next scenario.  Have them ring the bell (or knock).  As soon as the bell is rung, pick up the leash and guide your dog to a pre-designated place.  This should be fairly close to the door but out of the way.  It should be the same place each time.  A mat or blanket can be used.  If you have a landing a few steps up, that is ideal.

When you take your dog to the area, have him lie down and give him a tasty treat.  Repeat ringing the bell and taking him to the spot to lie down a few minutes at a time, a few times a day. Remember to reward him with something special each time. You will soon find that the doorbell ringing will have your dog running to his spot.  Make sure that you keep a few biscuits handy, and close to the special spot, so you are prepared to do the exercise the next time someone comes to your front door.

By teaching your dog appropriate dog manners, you will enjoy each others company for years to come.  By taking some time to teach your dog appropriate behaviour, you will soon be enjoying the sounds of silence.



is the Director of Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centres in Toronto and Ajax, Ontario.  She has been featured on many radio and television programs and penned  a monthly column in Dogs in Canada Magazine for nine years.  Gillian is also a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, using dogs to shed light on learning theory to psychology students.  She shares her home with two dogs, and is involved in dog sports and canine performance teams.