Barking can serve a useful purpose, like letting you know when someone’s approaching your home. That said, excessive barking can be a real headache. There are ways to curb it, but before hushing your puppy, make sure he’s not trying to tell you something important.

Barking can mean:

• I need some exercise.
• I’ve been cooped up too long.
• I need to go outside.
• Let’s play!
• I hear noises.
• I’m lonely or bored.

If any of those apply, gaining peace and quiet is simple. Oblige your puppy. But, if there’s no good reason for barking, try the following:

• Lower your voice and say “quiet.”
• Praise him when he quiets down.
• If he ignores you, clip a leash to his collar and repeat “quiet.” When he looks at you, praise and tell him to sit. Help him if you need to.
• If he’s lonely or bored, give your puppy more attention. Encourage family members to take turns playing with him and taking him for walks. When your puppy is left alone, give him playthings.
• If all else fails, fill a can with pebbles, shake it near him and say “quiet” in a firm voice. Startling him this way is sure to get his attention. If he continues, shake the can again and repeat the command.
• Some trainers recommend squirting a puppy’s legs and back with water, accompanied by the “quiet” command, to stop unwanted barking.
• Once he has stopped barking, offer him a treat and praise him enthusiastically to reinforce this good behaviour.
Bear in mind that any action to deter your puppy from this behaviour must be made while he’s barking. After-the-fact corrections will only cause confusion.