Shoud You Use a Dog Muzzle for Barking Problems?

Dogs bark excessively for a number of reasons: boredom, being alone for long periods of time, a territorial instinct, fear or aggression. A dog muzzle can be a useful tool for overly aggressive dogs, but is not a good option for dealing with other barking problems.

Most dogs bark because they are bored, because they want attention from you, or because they are sensitive to noises, other people or dogs, or being alone. There are solutions to each of these problems.

Boredom as a Cause of Barking

If you suspect your dog is bored, either when you’re home or when he’s home alone, make sure you have distracting and interactive toys around the house. This is especially important for working breeds—these dogs are happiest and calmest when they have jobs to do.

Toys like Kongs or puzzle boxes are valuable in this situation; this type of toy gives a dog a treat, but requires him to work for it.

These toys can be filled with:

For softer fillings, freezing it before giving it to your dog will make it last longer. Some puzzle boxes are toys within toys and provide additional mental stimulation while also rewarding him. An alternative is to hide treats around the house before you leave for the day; while you’re gone, your dog will have fun hunting them down.

Barking due to Attention-Seeking

When your dog barks and you pet her, yell at her or tell her to be quiet, you’re rewarding the behavior. Rather than giving affection or trying to chastise, ignore a barking dog entirely. If this method does not work over time, use a loud noise or squirt of water to distract your dog when she is barking. Once barking has stopped, say "quiet" in a calm voice and give her a treat.

Preventative methods are often most effective. Schedule plenty of time to do things with your dog—long walks, playing with whatever he likes, basic grooming and physical affection, and teaching basic commands and tricks. Consider training classes; they provide more built-in socializing with both other dogs and other people.

Desensitizing Your Dog

If your dog gets upset by being left home alone, or if he is protective and likes to bark at things outside or at visitors, work with him to get him used to being alone and comfortable with everyday occurrences he might view as threatening (other dogs, loud street noises, etc.).

Start by leaving the room or house and closing the door behind you just for a few minutes. Make sure your dog has something to play with and leave a treat, but don’t say goodbye or greet him when you come back. The treat provides a positive association with you leaving, and staying calm when you exit or enter encourages him to stay calm too.

Handle loud noises by directing your dog to do something else, and reward her for good behavior. If your dog barks at passerby or other dogs, start distracting her with treats when you see a potential distraction coming before she starts barking.