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Published: Aug 17, 2012

Although barking is natural for dogs, it is a common complaint among their owners.

While the best advice is to begin working to curb dog barking when your pet is a puppy, there is hope in controlling the behavior in animals of all ages.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, anxiety is one of the most common reasons dogs bark a lot. The keys to controlling anxiety-induced barking are socialization and habituation. In other words, introduce your animal to as many new people, animals, situations and noises as possible so he gets used to them and is less likely to vocalize when he encounters them.

It's important for owners to know that acknowledging their dog's barking by giving him attention will not stop the behavior. Inadvertent reinforcement of the behavior such as allowing a barking dog indoors, or feeding, patting, praising, playing with, giving a toy, or even just going to a barking dog to try and quiet it down will not teach the animal to quiet down. Even yelling at a barking dog to quiet down may reinforce barking. Instead, veterinarians say quiet, calm behavior should be rewarded, not barking and other negative behaviors.

Discovering what is causing your dog to bark can help you to stop it from happening. For instance, if your pet barks every time you leave, training the animal to be on his own through crate training techniques can help him feel more comfortable and less likely to bark. Additionally, if you have a dog that barks whenever people walk by your window, you can close the curtains to avoid the stimulus.

It's important to note, however, that animals who bark because of fear, separation anxiety or other compulsive disorders will likely need to be treated for the underlying problem in order to stop problematic barking.

Experts say training your dog to be quiet on demand is one of the best ways to cure incessant barking. However, this can take a long time to achieve.

"Training the dog to cease barking on command can be accomplished with lure reward techniques, distraction techniques, or halter and leash training," according to veterinarians Dr. Debra Horwitz and Dr. Gary Landsberg on "Regardless of the technique, rewards should be given as soon as the barking stops, so that the dog learns that quiet behavior earns rewards."

Some people resort to anti-barking devices to encourage quiet. These include owner-activated products such as various ultrasonic devices, audible devices, a water sprayer or a shake can.

However, products that are activated when the animal barks are believed to be more effective as they ensure immediate and accurate timing. They include bark-activated collars and other devices that are triggered when the animal barks.

Remember, the older the dog, the longer it will take to change his behavior. It can be done but will require time and effort on the part of both you and your pet.