Barking is a natural behavior; just as people speak to communicate so do dogs.
Unfortunately, excessive or unusually loud barking is a problem. Not only is this a sign that something is off kilter with the dog (perhaps he's bored) but barking also causes problems in the neighborhood. However, there are some things you can do to alleviate the problem.
Take Your Dog to the Veterinarian
Behavior experts believe twenty percent of all behavior problems are caused by a health problem. Before you do anything else about the barking, make sure there is no health cause for it. Ask your veterinarian to do a thorough examination to make sure your dog is healthy.
Kick Up the Exercise and Play
A happy, tired dog will have few reasons to bark and in fact, will be more likely to nap than bark. The additional time spent with you while you and your dog go for a walk, a run, and play with toys is also beneficial to your relationship. Since bored, under-exercised dogs do a lot of barking, increasing both the exercise and play is one of the first changes to implement.
Work the Brain
Your dog's brain needs to be exercised as much as his body. To do this, refresh his obedience skills and teach your dog some tricks. Teach him to play hide and seek or encourage him to find a hidden toy. Anything that helps him think and accomplish something while you praise him is awesome. Work that brain!
Food Dispensing Toys
Many dogs bark as soon as you leave him alone; especially when the owner leaves first thing in the morning for work. You can prevent this by feeding your dog his breakfast in a food dispensing toy. Give it to him a few minutes before you leave so he'll be engrossed in it as you leave. There are many of these toys commercially available so chose one that will dispense your dog's food and is tough enough so your dog can't destroy it.
Don't Yell When He's Barking
If you react to your dog's barking by screaming at him you'll do one of two things; he may become fearful of you as your yelling might be frightening or he'll think you're barking as well. Neither of these is conducive to change. Instead, if you want to interrupt a barking session, casually drop a book to the floor or cough or clear your throat. Interrupt the behavior; don't scream or yell.
Create a Positive Association
If your dog barks at the delivery truck, kids walking home from school, or the postal carrier then you need to create a positive association with these triggers for his barking. Have your dog on leash out front and have a pocketful of good dog treats. When you hear the delivery truck or postal carrier on the next block, or when the kids are due to walk down the block from school, start asking your dog to work for you. Ask him to sit, lie down, stay, and heel. Praise and treat him for his cooperation. When the distraction appears, let your dog look, then ask for his attention. Praise and reward him for his attention and quiet.
Change the Situation
If your dog is normally home alone when he barks, change his situation so his triggers are not visible. Close drapes, move the sofa he jumps up on, or keep him in another part of the house. Block his visibility through the fence or gate. Many times reactivity can be lessened just by changing the dog's environment.
Don't Inadvertently Reward Barking
Many owners, in an effort to stop barking, end up rewarding it instead. If your dog is barking and you pet him, hush him softly, or hug him; you're reassuring him or rewarding him for barking. If you give him a toy or chew to stop his barking, you've just rewarded it again. Feel free to interrupt the barking session and then work on preventing it next time.
Install a Camera
Home cameras with microphones are easy to install. You can place one or two cameras where your dog normally spends his day. When hooked up to your phone or computer you can see and hear what's going on. This can be a huge help to understanding the problem and making any changes.
If your dog has a barking problem, it may take time to change his behavior. Talk to your neighbors and explain that you're working on the problem and ask for their patience. Most people are more patient when they know an effort is being made.