My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Barking for Attention


If your dog barks at you when you are on the phone, watching television, visiting with guests, sitting at the computer, or when hugging someone, he’s probably barking to get your attention.

And if you have ever tossed him a toy or a treat, spoken to him or touched him when he did that then…well… you rewarded him. You didn’t mean to, but what caused the good thing to happen? Barking! So what will he do more of in the future? Bark!

If you’d like to stop this annoying habit, try these suggestions:


Ignore the barking. And we do mean totally. Do not glance at, smile, gasp, scowl, comment or otherwise react, as all of these reactions can be rewarding to the dog.

Redirect your dog. Try puppy push ups – sit/down/sit/down – be neutral about it, after a few reps ignore him and move on with your day. Your message? If you want my attention, here it is.

Use a Guided Down. Many dogs quiet when downed, so pretraining your dog to lie down to light pressure on the leash can make him manageable even when he is distracted.

Reward quiet. If he is quiet for a few moments, give him a toy to work on, maybe something with some food inside. He needs a new hobby, and only you can supply a good one.

Body block him away from you. Being made to move away from you is a powerful message to any dog. Being made to move out of the room entirely cannot be mistaken. So one option, when your dog barks at you for attention, is to walk into his space and cause him to back up and away from you. Look past him, not at him, and continue backing him until you have backed him out of the room. Then stop and go about your business.


Don’t give in. If you respond to him in any way that he finds remotely pleasant, he’ll bark more. Do NOT feed him, pet him, speak to him, toss a toy or put him outside (unless he really needs to go).

Don’t make a move. If you reach toward a treat or toy when he is barking, intending to use it when he becomes quiet, then you just unintentionally rewarded the barking. Do not make one move toward anything your dog likes or wants until he is quiet. Make sense?

Don’t make him sit or down by luring him with a treat. No way to do that without inadvertently rewarding barking.

Don’t forget the basics. Demanding dogs are often smart dogs who need more than they are getting from life. Is he getting all the exercise he needs? The interaction and training? If not, make sure he does. Only you can change his life.


Add a negative. Many dogs don’t like being sprayed with a stream of water. Using a plant mister set on stream, squirt him when he barks. Be casual about it – don’t make a big deal of looking at him and aiming. Simply continue what you are doing as you deliver a quick spritz. If he stops, you stop – instantly! If he calms down, reward him.

Try a hand-held ultrasonic device. These can work with some sensitive dogs. The key to this tool is to make it comprehensible to the dog. So be sure you calmly say, “Quiet” just before you use it. Be sure your dog is barking when you use it. Stop the moment your dog is quiet. Do that consistently, and a sensitive dog may soon understand what you mean and stop barking when he hears you say, “Quiet.”

by Sarah Wilson,


  1. My dog barks at me for no reason. I ignore hime and h e doeant stop for half an hour. I have close neighbors and the last thing i need is to have a lot of angry people at my door. He gets exercise always has food and water. What can i do to stop him. He barks so loud that my ears ring and i end up having to lock myself away from him in fear i will have a reaction due to my ptsd

  2. I have tried the steps you suggest..he is totally ignored, but he will bark for 30 mins plus the second he is not next to me or when I’m doing something not related to him. Piercing high pitched bark! He DOES get daily play, exercise, walks..but he STILL wants undivided attention. I honestly woder if i hAve no spoised him wit attention?! There are times that he just can’t be right next to me every minute of the day. I am at a loss!!!

  3. By doing puppy push ups, isn’t that the same as giving attention?

  4. I have tried the above too. If I ignore him he nips me…hard to ignore that! I grab his snout and say “no bite”. That hasn’t worked either. He thinks it’s all a game. My husband is unable to deal with him too as he is in cancer treatment. I will not give up On a dog so we will probably be boarding him when I have to go out of town for work. The barking, nipping and pawing at my legs is wearing me out. Help!

    • Sounds like it’s not a quick fix for him. I’d start with on leash training with My Smart Puppy Space Games and giving to pressure work so you can direct him to a better choice then reward that. Also, how much exercise is he getting? Some daycare time might help him burn off from energy or some long walks with a brisk walker. I’d also look at food dispensing toys, like Kong, to keep him busy. A good local dog pro would be helpful, too. I’m sorry to hear about your husband and hope he recovers quickly. Sarah

    • Hi Debbie. I am extremely interested to learn if you found an answer to your puppy barking /nipping problem. Your post could have been written by me as I am experiencing exactly the same with my 11 week old Jack Russell.
      My husband who is a devoted dog lover, is also undergoing cancer treatment and finds that the high pitched barking and constant demand for attention (she gets loads) is wearing him down and almost causing him to dislike her. This is really upsetting as she is (despite all of this) a dear little thing.

      • Get in there and train, crate train, exercise, distract (with good chews), find playmates. Barking for attention when young tends to get worse as they grow so turn that bus around now! Good luck.

  5. I have the same problem my dog barks at me for no reason if im.on the phone..ect I know it’s for attention but seems the more we do the more hyper she gets morebshe barks she only 4 months and she s a sheepadoodle!! she very intelligent and will do anything to seek out food I’m constantly on her and she still does it .. if I turn my back for a second she s up on my counter top eating apples or helping herself to whatever she pleases..and I do all I can to keep things out of her reach and she still manages a way to get it.she know to knock the garbage to get what in it so I revamped alot of what I do I my house but I’m still coming home to constant mistif…pleaee help and tell me this will get better lol ahhhhhhh!!!!

    • Hi Krista – If you’re coming home to this then she isn’t crated. That is job #1 and, now that she knows how to do these things, the crating when you’re gone is for at least 2 years. Then try again. Get some local training help. Until then, keep her on leash so you can spend more time creating the wanted instead of being outmaneuvered. Good luck! You have a smart one!

  6. We started using the water bottle to squirt after if worked well with the cat. And it works well with my shihtzu poodle mix!

  7. Our 4 month old Bernese Mountain Dog barks for attention mostly when we are in the kitchen preparing meals. I try to ignore her, but then she jumps up on the counter, an action I feel I must address (ie. give attention to) immediately. We’ve tried squirting with water, but that just riles her up even more and she barks at that. Stern, mamma-dog like “no”s, only rile her up. We can’t block off the kitchen, because we have an open floor plan, and the kitchen is accessible from every room. Her crate is in the kitchen, so she sits in that an barks (and we don’t want the crate to be a punishment). If we put her outside, she scratches at the glass patio door and BARKS. A Kong works for a while, but after she’s finished, she’s right back to the kitchen, barking–maybe now after the meal while we’re cleaning up. We have not given her food from the counter, so she hasn’t been “trained” to bark for treats. We’re at our wits end.

    • Ah… this is a symptom. Have you been doing straight treat training? Clicker work? Are you doing the My Smart Puppy Mine, Simple Sit and Guided Down?

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