Owning a Border Collie is perhaps one of the most rewarding things that we’ve experienced. We’ve enjoyed it so much in fact we’ve ended up with two! That said, when a Border Collie barks a lot it can be a little frustrating. Unfortunately, both of our Border Collies would not stop barking at certain triggers so we had to train them specifically not to bark. This our guide – based on our own experience – of how to get your Border Collie to stop barking
Before diving into some of our training tips on how to get your Border Collie to stop barking, first I’ll touch on how prevalent Border Collie barking is, and how to understand what your own Border Collie’s barking triggers are.
Do Border Collies Bark A Lot?
Border Collies are known to be a breed that is quite vocal. As a result, they do tend to bark frequently. If this behaviour is left unchecked, they will learn that barking is always acceptable in any circumstance! There are of course advantages to Border Collie barking – it can help to alert you and act as a deterrent to intruders. That said, the disadvantages to barking behaviour are many, and this article will hopefully provide you with some information to help you correct unwanted barking behaviour.
Reasons why your Border Collie might bark (triggers)
Understanding the reason why your Border Collie is demonstrating some unwanted barking is the first step to learning how to solve it!
There are several reasons why a Border Collie may bark at unwanted times. Of course to try and categorize all the reasons why dogs might bark would be a never ending list. But, below, we’ve listed three broad categories to help you understand this barking behaviour.
Have a read through the below and see if you can work out the reasons why your Border Collie might be barking.
Barking for attention
Of course barking for attention is a pretty broad category because the point of all dog barking is normally to get some sort of reaction!
However if you find that your Border Collie barks whenever they are at a door that they want to get through, next to their food bowl, or when they’re left alone in a different room to you, then it’s likely you’ll be able to categorise their barking as attention based.
Barking for defence or alerting
If you find that your Border Collie is constantly barking whenever somebody comes to the door, or at noises beyond the boundaries of your garden, then it’s likely that the reason for your Collie barking is primarily because they want to defend and keep their pack safe by alerting everyone.
Barking for excitement
A Border Collie who barks whenever they see another dog in the street, or when visitors come into your home, or even when you get some treats out of the drawer, is most likely barking out of sheer excitement!
Other reasons for Border Collie barking
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why your Border Collie may be barking, but these are best covered by other articles we’ve written.
If they bark whenever they’re left alone – you may want to check out our article on managing separation anxiety.
If you suspect they bark from boredom, then check out some ways to keep your Border Collie entertained.
If you’ve read all of the above, and still can’t figure out the rough reason why your Collie is barking then don’t rely on an internet article! Please speak to a vet or a dog behaviourist.
Techniques to stop your Border Collie barking based on triggers
Once you figure out the broad reasons behind your Border Collie barking, you can begin to work out how you can prevent the unwanted behaviour.
This is because if your Border Collie is barking because of defence you’ll need to use a different set of techniques then if they’re barking through sheer excitement.
Stopping barking that’s based on on attention
If your Border Collie has demonstrated some unwanted barking and you worked out that it’s because they want attention, well you’re in luck! Preventing this sort of behaviour is one of the easiest to solve.
In fact we had this exact issue with our Collie Mila when she eventually found her voice at around 7 or 8 months.
She had worked out that if she barked next to her food bowl or by our bedroom door then she would either get fed or the door would open!
Naturally, we want to stop this as soon as possible, and it was pretty easy to do.
If you find that your Border Collie is Barking for attention, then the best thing to do is not provide that attention.
Now this is easier said than done, but all it takes is a little perseverance on your part. What this looks like in practice is simply ignoring the barking behaviour not just in your actions but in your body language as well.
For example, when Mila used to bark at her food bowl to get some extra food, what we had to learn to do was completely ignore that barking behaviour.
This meant that not only did we not give her the extra food, but we also made sure to not look at her or turn our bodies towards her whenever she barked.
Quite rapidly Mila understood that Barking was then a waste of energy. That said, she then went on to demonstrate other behaviours such as pouring at us instead! Again for this secondary behaviour we just had to do our best and ignore it.
All in all this type of unwanted behaviour went away after about 2 weeks of us stopping all forms of reinforcement for it. Hopefully this will work for you too!
It’s worth mentioning that if you’ve got kids, you’ll have to get them into the same mindset as you for this. Otherwise your Collie will likely take a divide and conquer approach and learn that they can continue to bark when certain humans are around!
Stopping Border Collie barking based on defence
If you think that your Border Collie is barking because they are fearful of a certain situation or trigger, then ignoring the Barking simply won’t help.
Instead, you’ll have to get to the root cause of your Border Collies anxiety.
Unfortunately, this is a long drawn out process and one that we have had experience of with our rescue Collie Izzy. She had not had a very pleasant upbringing, so there were a lot of triggers that caused her to start barking defensively – not least any visitor walking up the driveway.
Rather than tackling the barking head on, when set work to increase Izzy’s confidence and feeling of security within the house.
For this, two things came in particularly helpful and at least worked for us. First of all we installed some Adaptil pheromone scent. Basically all the scent does is fill the air with odorless comforting pheromones, which provides a nice sense of safety and security for your pooch. I kind of like to think of it as smothering the house in a warm scent-duvet.
With this installed, it took around a day or two to start seeing Izzy getting visibly a little more relaxed. Ultimately, the Adaptil diffuser helped to create a good baseline to work from.
With this in place we obviously still had some work to do to turn those triggers of nerves into positivity triggers.
Practically, what this looked like was us getting one of us to walk up the drive while the other would wait with Izzy and engage her in a game of tug every time the footsteps sounded on the gravel.
Then, still in tug mode, the person on the drive would head away from the house, and we then ended the tug game by giving Izzy some of her favourite treats.
Of course, it’s not like Izzy immediately went from bark-mode to play-mode overnight, and we had to be careful so that she didn’t think we were treating her for her barking behaviour.
But we took the view that ultimately it was better to make her feel safe and happy before we completely tackled the barking.
Between Matt and I, we must have walked up and down that drive while the other one waited with Izzy every day for at least 6 or 7 weeks.
It took a lot of time and perseverance but towards the end of that period of time, Izzy started to spring up and get her favourite tug toy every time she heard footsteps outside.
Now, she still does a bit of a growl sometimes when she hears footsteps, but the behaviour of running to go and get her favourite toy whenever she hears a noise in the drive has really helped to teach her what she should be doing.
Basically, we’ve taught her what her job is whenever she feels a little bit defensive and that is to go and get her toy.
So, now her roundabout way of signalling to us that she feels defensive it’s for her to run into the room with a toy in her mouth rather than to be barking excessively at the window
These techniques of course may not work for you, but you may be able to learn from the principles behind them. Essentially what we were trying to do here is divert her attention away from the trigger of her barking towards something more positive and less loud!
It’s important to also note that we never told her off or scolded her during this process because we felt that would only add to her anxiety and feeling of defensiveness. Also, that would go against our whole philosophy of dog training which is always to be kind and patient.
So, if you find that your dog is barking defensively because of a defense trigger, then you can apply the same principles of diversion and reassurance with them.
It may take time but this approach really does have long lasting results. And in our opinion, a month or so of training out this type of behaviour will pay off for many many years to come.
Stopping excitement-based barking
This, I think, is perhaps one of the hardest barking behaviours to correct. This is because if your Border Collie barks from excitement then they have such a positive feedback loop, it becomes difficult to break completely.
Think about it from your Collie’s perspective: they sense something exciting happening, they bark, the exciting thing happens… Therefore, barking = exciting things happening.
The principles of diversion will only partially work here if you react at the point of barking. Let’s say you have a squeaky toy to hand and squeak it when your Collie is barking. Well, then you’re only adding to the excitement!
Really, the best way to correct this type of barking is to completely pre-empt the barking trigger and divert before it becomes a trigger.
For example, both (unfortunately) Mila and Izzy LOVE IT when they spot another dog in the street. Their tails wag, and if they start to get close, well then you can bet money on a chorus of yaps happening!
The way in which we attempt to stop this is to engage them as early as we can in another task or activity before excitement levels have a chance to get out-of-control.
For the example of another dog in the street, we’ll cross the road and get them to sit and focus on a very tasty treat.
Likewise, when we have guests, we’ll get our favourite puzzle toys ready to deploy as soon as we hear the car outside.
Now, this isn’t full-proof, but it goes a long way to reducing the noise levels in our life!
Hopefully, by now it’s obvious that the trick to stop Border Collie barking is to understand their trigger, and work to either divert them, or pre-empt the trigger.
As mentioned earlier, if you suspect that there’s additional reasons for your Border Collie barking, or perhaps more serious causes – like separation anxiety – please do check out the other articles on this site. That said, there’s only so much independent research you can do before a chat with a vet or dog behaviourist becomes infinitely more useful.
So, like all things dog, don’t ever hesitate to speak to a professional to get some help that’s specific to you and your pooch!