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Ask A Trainer: Help! My Dog’s Barking is Getting Worse


Q. My 3-year-old whippet barks as soon as someone arrives next door, especially with a dog. This has gotten worse and I am at a loss to know how to stop him. – via Facebook

A. Thank you for your question. We need to try and work out why your dog is barking. For example, is your dog barking because he is defending the house? Or is he worried? Or excited by people and/or other dogs? When someone arrives next door, is your dog’s barking triggered by him seeing the person or dog, or by the sound(s)? Below are suggestions that can help you not only determine why your pup is barking more, but also how you can help him.

Barking at Sights

If the trigger is visual, you could try window blinds so he can’t see out. However, sometimes smaller dogs bark as they want to see what is going on outside and they can’t see. In this case, you could give him safe access to a window, as long as this change does not result in him barking more.

Barking at Sounds

If he is triggered by sound, you could use a sound CD to help desensitize him to the outside noises. Start the recording at a very low volume that you can’t hear but your dog will be able to hear, and pair this experience with a calming activity such as a snuffle mat or LickiMat®; licking and sniffing help to calm dogs down. Over time, slowly increase the volume – at your dog’s pace- pairing it with a calming activity, and if he reacts to the noise on the recording, then go back a step to a lower volume.

Canine Communication

Historically dogs have been bred to look after our homes and one of the ways they do this job is by barking to inform us that there is someone or something there. If your dog is barking to let you know what is happening outside, I would first acknowledge that there is something there. For example, I would say, “It’s just next door” and then follow that with going to do something with him that is calming such as a LickiMat® or snuffle mat to direct his attention away from what is happening outside.

If your dog is generally worried by people and dogs, either in the home or out and about, and you feel this distress is the reason your dog is barking, then you should look for a qualified force-free behavior consultant to help you and to help your dog with his fear, anxiety and/or stress.

Providing Activities and Downtime

We can also look at what routine your dog has. For example, does your dog get mental stimulation at home, such as sniffy puzzle games? Whippets are sight hounds and are more visual by nature; therefore activities he may also enjoy could include lure coursing, Fast CAT (Coursing Ability Test) and flirt pole games.

Whippets were originally bred for racing and enjoy running in short bursts, so if he is good off lead (and it is safe and permitted in your area), he will likely enjoy time off lead to release some physical energy.

Additionally, how long a walk does he have? Does he have long walks or short walks? Does your dog get sniffy walks (opportunities to sniff)? If your dog has too short (or too rigid) a walk, he may be bored and/or frustrated which may also cause him to bark more. On the other hand, if your dog has too long walks, he may be overstimulated when he gets home, which could make him overly vigilant, which could result in more barking at activity next door. So, as well as mental and physical stimulation, does your dog’s routine include rest periods – opportunities to decompress and relax?

I hope this approach – working out why your dog is barking, and addressing the need(s) beneath this behavior- helps you both. Please let us know!

About the Trainer

The author, Caroline Ward pictured with one dog on her lap and one sitting next to her on the couchCaroline Ward is a UK based dog trainer and managing director of her own business FITdogs Club, which was born in 2016. She has gained her IABTC instructor and IABTC Clicker and target (levels 1-3). Caroline attended several workshops in puppy training, life skills and cognition, including the Dog’s Mind and Social Learning in Puppies with Claudia Fugazza (2019) and most recently Chirag Patel’s online puppy training workshop (2023). 

Caroline is a committee member of the Pet Professional Guild (canine division). She loves helping puppies and dogs create a bond through play, fun and training, with a special interest in canine cognition and how dogs feel, which is something she would like to develop in the future.


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