How To Stop Dog Barking When Your Dog is Excited
Step 14 of 14 in the Dogly Barking Channel
with Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie of PathandPaw, Training Advocate

Does your dog bark like crazy with excitement when you're nearing a favorite park, heading out the door for a walk, or about to start any other beloved activity?

That's anticipatory or excitement barking. It’s a learned behavior that can start when many dogs are young, but it's never too late to teach your dog not to bark.

Okay, tell me more...

Dogs bark for all kinds of reasons - dogs barking in anticipation and excitement is common and normal. It can even be charming to see our dogs so exuberant about something. But when a dog barks excessively, it can be a bit much and get disruptive (especially when other dogs are around).

I asked pet parents what topics they’d like more info about, and dogs barking excessively from excitement was one that came up numerous times. In particular, many dog owners asked about dogs who bark when arriving at an exciting destination, like the park, or even just when your car slows down!

Needless to say, excitement barking is particularly challenging to manage when you're trying to drive. So let's jump into what you need to know about excitement barking and your dog!


Why can this kind of dog barking be hard to shake?

Before we talk about training, let’s talk about why this dog behavior can become and stay so strong. What is reinforcing your dog's barking?

When it comes to something like arriving at the park in your car the sequence of events is something like:

  1. Car slows down/nears familiar destination.
  2. Dog starts barking.
  3. Dog is let out of the car to enjoy a romp at the park.

Of course, we know logically that going to the park was the plan all along - but since barking directly preceded this event, it is strengthening your dog’s behavior.

Dogs do what works, and in your dog's mind, all that hooray barking worked to make the really good thing happen!

You don't have to be a certified professional dog trainer to know that you can expect to see that behavior again. And more so with each time your dog's barking gets reinforced!

How do you do what you planned but stop your dog's barking behavior?

Let's take a look at a few ways to stop your dog from barking that can apply generally to anticipatory barking, starting with heading out the door for a walk as an example:

1) Limit the cues your dog picks up that indicate a beloved activity is about to happen.

For instance, you could keep your dog's walking gear out of sight until it's time to go and be low-key about getting it when ready. (Also combine with #3 - is your dog quiet before you clip on the leash or put on the harness? Note when your dog usually starts barking and when your dog is normally still quiet and reward your dog for waiting quietly before you hit that tipping point.)

2) Channel the energy behind the excessive barking into something else.

If your dog starts barking when he/she sees you getting the leash, try teaching a cue such as "Go Get Your Ball" and then redirect that enthusiasm into playing a little fetch. You can substitute any other behavior that works for your dog - your goal is to break the connection between the barking directly preceding the walk.

3) Try rewarding calm behavior with treats or praise when your pup is not barking.

The idea is to reward the absence of barking and gradually increase the amount of time before getting rewarded to reflect your dog's ability to remain quiet.


How about when the excitement barking happens in your car?

Dealing with unwanted behaviors in a car can be tricky, because obviously, actively training while driving can be really unsafe! So it’s best to work with your partner, a family member, or friend when working in the car. That way one person can concentrate on driving, and the other can work on your dog's behavior. 

How do you get your excited dog to stop barking in your car?

To get rid of this behavior, we need to make sure it is no longer reinforced, BUT simply waiting it out till your dog stops barking would cause both you AND your dog a lot of stress.

So instead, we can reinforce an alternative behavior. Sitting quietly, for example. This is where having a partner comes in handy!

Try this

1) Next time you go to the park in the car, have plenty of high value treats ready.

2) Then, as you approach the park, BEFORE your dog begins to bark, begin marking and reinforcing for your alternative behavior. A simple alternative behavior can be sitting quietly. At first you may need to be fast! Be a human pez dispenser if needed!

3) When you park the car, continue to mark and treat as your partner (the person driving) exits the car and goes around to the door to let your dog out.

If you get out and stop the flow of treats, it’s likely that your dog will resume barking, and we want to make sure there’s no opportunity for that.


More tips for your barking training sessions

Each time you go to the park, follow this procedure, until you can slowly begin to slow your rate of reinforcement. Look at your dog’s body language to gauge when barking may resurge - cues of escalating excitement may be perked ears, panting, fidgeting, etc.

The more you observe your dog, the more successful you’ll be at timing your treats!

With practice, you’ll likely be able to fade the treats in time, and ultimately you can use the reward of exiting the car for your adventure instead of food. 

If your dog has generalized this behavior to the car slowing down anywhere ...

Try using the same approach without the destination. Simply go for a ride (with someone else driving) and begin marking and treating whenever you anticipate slowing down.

Give me an example

Approaching stop signs is a good practice point. You can help manage some of the anticipation of the slowing car by taking meandering drives with no destination, and as you see stop signs ahead, practice reinforcing sitting quietly, and then return home. 

For anticipation/excitement barking in other situations

For dogs who bark in anticipation and excitement NOT in the car - for example barking while walking up to a favorite playmate’s house, or barking as you prepare their meal, the same concept applies.

Heavily reinforce your alternative behavior and make sure that the exciting activity doesn’t follow a burst of barking.

  • This may look like lots of rapid-fire treats as you approach that friend’s front door (and ceasing forward movement or turning around and backtracking when the barking occurs)
  • Or maybe teaching your dog to go to his/her mat and marking and treating for waiting quietly on the mat while dinner is prepared.


A final note on dog barking strategies

Remember that anticipatory or excitement barking is normal but disruptive, so it's always best to find ways to redirect this extra energy into something productive and positive! With a little patience and practice, you can help your pup learn to control excitement before it becomes barking.

Recommended Products

Next up in the Barking Channel on Dogly

Now that you know how to manage your dog's excitement barking, continue in the Barking Channel and learn how to translate your dog's bark in the step-by-step guide here. Or check out the other guides on demand barking or attention seeking barking and alarm barking.

If you have any questions, just ask the Advocates in our Community Discussion in the Barking Channel!

Or if you ever need more personalized dog training guidance, please reach out!

Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie of PathandPaw

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Tressa because she sees training as a journey to better canine communication.

Tressa guides you

Anxiety - Kids & Dogs - Manners - Bite Prevention - Reactivity - Walking

Tressa is certified

Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner - & Family Paws Parent Educator