Some breeds hardly ever bark, while others bark a lot. Barking is a way for dogs to communicate with humans, and sometimes with other dogs. Wolves don't bark, and nor do strays, there's no-one to talk to. Barking is a common alarm call and a warning to intruders, but dogs also bark because they are happy to see you, want to go out, want attention, can see a friend across the street, or just 'because'. Barking at strangers isn't always a sign of aggression. Dogs may excitedly bark at visitors in the hope that something nice will happen. If your dog barks a lot, you will know that there are differences between the kinds of bark he makes, with the alarm barking deeper and more urgent.

Saying 'good dog' can be a very effective way to get dogs to shut up when they give alarm barks, or other barks aimed at getting your attention. It might seem odd, because you are rewarding the bark, but you are also telling the dog you have heard him, so there is no need for him to repeat himself. Then you can work out what he is trying to tell you, and respond accordingly. Ignoring him may mean that he carries on barking to get you to hear him.

The main problem with barking is that it often annoys the neighbours, especially if your dog barks most of the time you are out of the house at work, or at night when people are trying to sleep. You want him to sleep at those times, so he has to be ready to sleep. Older dogs can happily sleep for long periods, so they may just need a short walk, but a young dog needs a good run before being left alone for a long time, either a long walk with some off-leash time, or a shorter walk and a ball game. Then he should be ready for a rest.

Dogs also bark less if they are left in rooms where they can't see or hear passers-by, or other stimuli that might trigger barking, and if they have chews and other toys to occupy them. The same applies to bed-time - a good run will help your dog sleep. Supervise him and keep him busy when he is outside at night.

If you take your dog out for late-night walks, teach him that you won't open the front door and go out with him if he barks, only if he is sitting nicely and quietly. This front door etiquette especially applies if you have several dogs, which can set each other off - start opening the door slowly, and at the slightest attempt to bark, close it again! Likewise, if they bark when you are just outside the door, going back in and doing the procedure again can calm them. Whispering is often an effective way to quieten a dog. He has to shut up to hear you. This is very useful for late night walks when you don't want to wake your neighbours. Whisper 'shh' and stop preparations for the walk if the dog barks. If he gives an excited bark as you go out of the door, stop in your tracks with a 'shh', and go back indoors if he barks again. He should soon realise that he only gets to go out if he is quiet. Obviously it's better if you control barking in the day time

Dogs can frighten visitors by their barking. The goal is to have him calm before you open the door and let the visitor in. It may help to take the dog outside on a lead and introduce him to the visitor with no jumping up, before going back in with the visitor. You can also increase control by working hard on 'sit' and 'stay' commands so the dog will obey these even if there is an exciting visitor that he wants to jump on. If all else fails, the visitor is very nervous and the dog wild, just shut the dog out of the room with a chew toy, then work on his manners later, with a dog-friendly visitor.

Barking at the phone is a common problem, especially in multi-dog households. You can try getting someone to phone you several times at a pre-arranged time, and not pick up the phone. Say 'Good dogs' to the dogs for telling you the phone has rung, then tell them to lie down. When they have done so and are quiet, reward them. There is often a ringleader whom you can keep on the leash in a downstay while you talk.

Dogs are more likely to bark at passers-by, joggers, bicycles, and other stimuli on walks if they aren't used to them, or have been allowed to develop bad habits. Pups and young dogs benefit from training sessions with friends walking past in different outfits, or pushing bikes, riding bikes quite near, then closer, while you get the dog to focus on you. Gradually build up his ability to focus on you rather than on the passer by or the bike. The same applies to joggers. Dogs often bark more at a single jogger than at many people involved in sports events, and it may help to take your dog to somewhere where there are so many things happening, he can't possibly bark at them all, rewarding him for paying attention to you. Informal sports events, and squares in towns with a bench where you can sit with your dog are good places for teaching him to sit quietly. Friends with well-behaved older dogs can be very good allies on walks, because young dogs will often
follow the example of the older dog, who is setting a good example.

Lastly, it's better to supervise your dog if he barks at passers-by from the garden. Dogs can get very wound up barking at people going past, and if they do get out, can be so wound up that they rush up to passers by and jump on them, and even bite, especially if they have been teased. Training is important - getting your dog to focus on you while you are outside. It also helps to use fencing of a kind that provides a safe barrier. This means that the dog is less wound up by what is happening outside the garden, and children can't poke fingers through the fencing.