To bark, or not to bark, that is the question

This is a Frequently Barked Question.

FBQ: How do I stop my Pyrenean Mountain Dog from barking?

Clowie: All dogs bark and there can be lots of different reasons for barking. The most common reasons are anxiety, boredom, excitement, or a perceived threat. Everyone has their own ideas about how much barking is acceptable, but most of us have neighbours and have to control our urge to bark sometimes. As it’s such a big topic, I am going to concentrate on my main reason for barking and how I trained my bipeds to understand me, so that I need to bark less.

Pyrenean Mountain Dogs have a reputation for barking at passing butterflies, or a falling leaf! We take our protection duties very seriously, so there is some truth in what is said – we are always on the lookout for a potential threat. And some of us simply like the sound of our own voices!

I didn’t bark very much at all as a puppy, this is normal for a Great Pyrenees. (I wrote more about this in “The calm before the barking storm“) We tend to start barking when our protective instincts kick in, as we mature. When I did start barking, I found I enjoyed it and would carry on until I was absolutely sure that I had barked the threat away.

Lots of trainers advise teaching a dog to bark on command. This means you can work on asking the dog to stop barking as part of a training session, rather than at unexpected times. This seemed to make sense and so my bipeds tried to get me to bark on command, but they failed. The suggested techniques rely on exciting a dog until it barks. I don’t bark when I’m excited, I make a small, excited noise in my throat and sometimes do a little, bouncy jump – very demure!

My barking was all about what I perceived to be threats to my household. I didn’t find many security threats because I had met everyone that comes to the house – including the postman. I found I enjoyed barking when I did find a reason and it was hard for my bipeds to get my attention. If they spoke to me normally, I didn’t hear them because I was making so much noise. If they raised their voices I thought they were joining in and that made me bark louder!

There were two places that I liked to bark, just inside the front door, peeking through its panes of glass, and outside by the side gate. I enjoyed spending part of my day by the side gate – it was made of wrought iron and I could see what was going on in the road from there. Every time I barked one of my bipeds would come out and attach a lead to my collar and take me indoors, without saying a word – that wasn’t much fun! It didn’t take me long to decide to keep my barking to a minimum when I was outside.

Indoors was another matter. When I heard something to bark at, I would stand where I could see through one of the clear panes of glass in the front door and fill my lungs and bark and bark. Sometimes one of my bipeds would wave a treat near my nose to get my attention and then ask me to sit. It’s hard to bark when you’re sitting with a treat in front of your nose!

Sometimes I was so determined to bark that I wasn’t interested in the treat and I ignored it and carried on barking. Then one of them would touch my head to get my attention and lead me away from the door. I should say I’m extremely relaxed about being touched and this would not be a good idea with all dogs – leaving a line attached to the dog’s collar would be a better idea if the dog is not calm about being touched unexpectedly.

They gradually introduced the command “quiet” to tell me to stop barking. I gradually barked for a shorter time, as I knew they looked to see what I was barking at before they told me “quiet”. Now I usually only give a couple of short woofs and one of them will say, “Thank you, Clowie”.

I only continue to bark if it’s something out of the ordinary and I think they haven’t understood, but as my training of my bipeds progresses I only need to do this very occasionally.

I still have a few FBQs that I haven’t answered yet, but if you have a question for me then please leave it in the comments or on my other social media. I will put your name when I answer it, unless you ask me not to.

See you next Wednesday!

Aqua paw print

Related posts:

I’ve also explained why young Pyrenean Mountain Dogs often don’t bark very much and what to expect when they do begin – “The calm before the barking storm

I am also asked about barking at night and explain how my bipeds reduced it – “Why barking at night can be a good thing

100 thoughts on “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question

  1. Clowie, you sound just like Kirby, just the bigger version, tee hee.We have also begun to learn how to teach him to “be quiet” as well. He also barks at a very random things hedoesn’t understand like a pile of leaves or a bug even, teehee

  2. Since you are a great protector, we think you should be allowed to bark some especially at danger. But maybe learn when the right time it is to be quiet. You will learn soon. Have a great day.

  3. Sometimes we hear the doggie next door bark but it’s always for a good, security reason. Pretty loud, though, even through two walls, a fence and a shed. He’s a good dog.

  4. Clowie i think your analysis of barking is on the mark for all dogs…Gizmo used to bark at any noise but over time he’s learned that some are normal or non-threatening, while others (like the sound of jingling dog tags on dogs walking by across the street) are always ‘bark-worthy’. I work from home on the phone and one thing I’m very proud of is that he has learned to be pretty quiet while mom’s at work…except when Pamela the Maillady comes by cause she always calls out “hi Gizmo” to him and of course a polite dog has to say hello in return 🙂

    • Thanks, I think it’s all about finding an acceptable balance. And you’re right, it would be rude not to return a friendly greeting!

  5. You and your bipeds are incredibly smart Clowie! And it is very hard to “sit” and bark and see a nummy treat without going insane! 😉 When I first found my bark, I used to bark at everything and everyone, it was too much fun! But, as it didn’t seem to get me anywhere fast, I dropped the bark down to when I was scared or I saw an intruder! Now no one seems to mind the occasional terrier bark!!

  6. For some weird reason if my mom says the word “bad” when I bark, I stop. In fact that word just terrorizes me and I will stop anything I am doing. I’m a nut.

  7. You sound like a very skilled biped trainer, Clowie! Excellent work 🙂

  8. I like the attention I get when I bark; I also like feeling tough like a big guard dog. Sometimes I have to bark at the fridge when it makes noises too – it needs to be put in its place because I’m the only one around here who’s allowed to make noises! 😉

  9. Those are some great tips, Clowie! Luckily Huskies are not much for barking!

  10. Great answer! Penny is 50% Pyrenees and barks for much of the same reason you do. I hadn’t considered teaching barking on command so I could also work on quiet, but that makes a lot of sense. So far, Penny only barks when she needs something or when something is going on. She has different barks for different reasons and just turned 1–so far no barks out of turn, but I will keep an eye out for that.

    So glad I found your blog!

    • Hi, it’s lovely to meet you!
      I don’t want to worry you, but I hardly barked at all until I was about 18 months old. I really liked the sound of my own voice for a while!

  11. I think it is nice that you and your bipeds think about the neighbors.. 🙂

  12. We don’t bark much…just when we feel the need to! You and your humans are very smart Clowie! We are so impressed with how fast you learn! You are one smart dog:)

  13. It’s hard not to talk/bark about interesting things, things that annoy or concern us. Our Spot, as I write, is expressing her displeasure very vocally at a human walking to pick up their mail lol. I love how vocal she is – it’s part of her personality but when she gets ridiculous about it we have a little up close and personal talk! See you next week Clowie! Interesting to know more about you!

    • I like to keep an eye on everything that happens and it sounds as though Spot does as well. They laugh because I can be fast asleep, but I will wake up at the slightest unusual sound and investigate.

  14. Such a good explanation of how important barking is to some dogs and great suggestions for working together.

    Honey is not a guard dog so she only barks a little in alarm. But when she does, I need to let her know I check out what she was barking about. She usually stops as soon as I look out the window to see what she’s telling me about.

    BTW, glad to know I’m not the only one who found teaching a dog to bark on command worthless. 🙂

    • I’m sure Honey appreciates that you acknowledge she is communicating with you. I know I like to be acknowledged.
      I know you’re like my bipeds in that you like to understand the reasons for particular behaviour. There’s always a better chance of adapting a behaviour and reaching a compromise if we understand each other.
      I think it’s much harder for a dog that has a reason to bark to stop than it is for a dog that is barking as a trick – they’re different situations.

  15. When I was growing up, my rat terrier companion would bark at anyone who walked on the sidewalk in front of our house until they crossed to the next property. Then he stopped. I think he just wanted them to know they were on his turf and he knew it. 😉

  16. You are very smart, Clowie!

  17. Great information for barking dogs. I’m not much of a barker until that UPS man shows up.

  18. Hi Clowie, we have an award for you on our blog 🙂

  19. Thanks for all the great information Clowie!

  20. A very important topic. Brin the Boxer only ever barks if there’s trouble about, so I always go to him. He knows the comman ‘no barking’ if I want him to be quiet.

    Good work x.

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