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There are so many good things that we love about our dogs, but excessive barking is not one of them.
Growing up with a West Highland White Terrier, I can definitively tell you that Westies bark a lot.
I know, just because one dog does something, doesn’t mean that all dogs of the same breed do it too.
But in this case, I think all Westie owners will agree that Westies love to bark. For some it’s not a big deal, but your neighbors are complaining it’s a good idea to try to get it under control.
Along with Yorkshire Terriers and Cairn Terriers, West Highland Terriers are one of the most vocal terrier breeds.
If you have a Westie that continually barks for what seems like no reason, I’m here to help.
Here are the strategies I’ll cover to get your Westie to stop barking:
- Tire Your Westie Out
- Remove The Source of Excitement
- Redirect Your Westie’s Attention
- Relieve Your Westie’s Separation Anxiety
- Acknowledge Your Westie’s Barking
- Ignore Your Westie’s Barking
- Teach Your Westie the “Leave It” Command
- Attend Obedience Class with Your Westie
- Hire A Professional Dog Trainer
- Do NOT Use a Bark Collar
1. Tire Your Westie Out
The number one reason Westies bark is because they have a lot of energy. Barking is a way of releasing that excess energy.
Most Westies require 45 minutes to an hour of exercise each day. Whether it’s playing in the yard or going on long walks, tiring your dog out and bringing their energy levels down is the best way to keep them quiet.
2. Remove The Source of Excitement
Sometimes it can be hard to know why your Westie is barking. But, if you are able to identify what they are barking at, you’ll better be able to get them to stop.
Westies are naturally a reactive dog which makes them good watchdogs, but sometimes they can be overzealous.
For example, they may always bark out the window at neighborhood dogs walking by your house or the delivery person coming to the front door. If this is the case, maybe you can put up baby gates so they aren’t able to get to the front door.
3. Redirect Your Westie’s Attention
If you are unable to separate your Westie from what they are barking at or you just don’t know why they are barking, you can redirect their attention.
The best way to distract any dog is with treats. The problem is that they don’t last very long.
However, you can distract them for longer by putting some of their favorite treats inside an interactive dog toy.
4. Relieve Your Westie’s Separation Anxiety
Your Westie has formed a bond with you and as a pack animal, she doesn’t like when you’re gone. Barking may be her way of expressing her frustration and anxiety.
You can teach your Westie to be ok with you being gone by slowly increasing the time that she is left alone. If you have a puppy, you can start as small as leaving her in a room by herself for a few minutes. You can then slowly build up to being gone all day.
Another option to relieve your Westie’s separation anxiety is white noise. For many dogs, a white noise machine can soothe their anxiety. Ironically, you might say that barking Westies are also white noise machines!
5. Acknowledge Your Westie’s Barking
One of the possible reasons that your Westie is barking is that he is acting as a watchdog and alerting you to a perceived threat.
If you’re lucky, simply acknowledging him and making eye contact is enough to get him to stop barking.
6. Ignore Your Westie’s Barking
Of course, if acknowledging their barking doesn’t work, you may have to try to opposite. If your Westie is barking for attention, giving them attention will just encourage more barking.
When your Westie barks, simply ignore them.
By ignoring them when they bark, they will eventually learn that barking is not a good way to get attention. Be warned, this method will take some patience.
7. Teach Your Westie the “Leave It” Command
Believe it or not, you may be able to train your Westie to be quiet on command.
The “leave it” command tells your dog that you want them to stop focusing on whatever it is they are preoccupied with. It comes in handy in all types of situations from getting them to ignore the food on the ground to leaving your cat alone.
It may take a few practice sessions, but Westies are more than capable of learning the command.
When you tell your Westie to “leave it,” they will know that you want them to stop focusing on whatever is making them bark.
8. Attend Obedience Class with Your Westie
For new dog owners, training your Westie to be quiet is easier said than done.
Obedience classes sometimes get a bad rap. But the truth is there are a lot of great obedience classes that you and your dog can attend together.
Taking a puppy class with your dog is a sure way to have a more well behaved dog. As an added benefit, classes are also a fun bonding activity for owners and their canine friends.
9. Hire A Professional Dog Trainer
If classes don’t work or you’d just prefer to have the training take place at home, hiring a professional dog trainer is a great way to solve any behavior issue.
Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, a trainer will be able to help.
While it will be more expensive than any of the other methods, a professional is the best way to solve the issue. Just make sure they are reputable.
10. Do NOT Use a Bark Collar
Bark collars are used to shock the animal when the dog barks as a form of punishment. Aside from being cruel, the use of a bark collar is likely to cause even more problems than it solves.
West Highland Terriers, like all dogs, respond best to positive reinforcement that rewards good behavior – not punishment. There’s really no good reason to use a bark collar.
How to Stop a Westie from Barking
There’s no way to completely stop West Highland White Terriers from barking. And why would you want to? Dogs bark. It’s a natural canine behavior.
Nonetheless, excessive dog barking can develop into a behavioral problem if left uncorrected. And it is sure to annoy your neighbors.
There are many reasons Westies bark – excess energy, hypervigilance, boredom, or separation anxiety. But if you suspect your dog’s behavior is an indication of underlying health problems, it’s best to have him checked out by a veterinarian.
Luckily, there are just as many ways to stop a Westie from barking. From ignoring them, to giving them interactive toys, to hiring professional there are many options to reduce your dog’s barking.
No matter which option you choose, make sure all family members are on board. Consistency is the key to success.