How to train a Westie not to bark

Do Westies bark a lot

Many Westie owners ask why does my Westie bark so much? This is not really a trait of the breed. Although many terrier breeds can be yappy, generally the Westie is not.

There are many Westie owners who would dispute this. They obviously bark when they feel the need arises. If your Westie is barking a lot at anything that moves or every sound they hear it is a training or other behavior issue.

There are many reasons a dog may bark. This includes a perceived threat, boredom, pent up energy, and excitement. We will go into more detail about the causes of nuisance barking below.

Why does my Westies bark so much

When a dog barks, whines, howls, or vocalizes in some way they are communicating. Don’t just assume that they are being bad. They may be trying to tell you something. There are times that you want your dog to bark.

Your Westie may bark for a number of reasons such as an invite to play, discipline young, warn of danger, threaten intruders, or it may bark because it’s curious. None of these reasons tend to result in excessive or annoying barking. The barking is usually short-lived and specific to an occasion.

If your Westie has a nuisance barking issue, you need to find the reason and triggers for the behavior. Knowing why your Westie is barking and what is triggering the behavior is halfway to solving the issue.

Possible reasons a Westie may be barking all the time can be categorized into three types of communication. These are

  1. Physical Need
    They are hot, cold, hungry or thirsty. This is the dog’s way of communicating for you to accommodate one of their needs. It can also be a sign of pain or discomfort. If you have concerns that your Westie may not be well, consult your vet.
  2. Emotional Need
    The dog is bored, overexcited or anxious. This is a way of requesting attention. Attention seeking behavior can become a problem if not managed. It is often the result of their psychological or social needs not being met.
  3. Environment
    Excessive barking may be triggered by environmental cues such as other dogs barking, passing cars, sirens, thunder, and so on. It can also be from being confined, tied up, or left alone for long periods of time. For a guide to leaving a dog home alone see here.

Causes and triggers of Westie barking

The three categories above give a general indication for the reason a dog may bark. We will go into more detail and take a look at specific causes.

Medical reason

Your Westie may be trying to communicate that they are in pain or not well. This type of barking when sounds different and has a tone of distress.

If your Westie is suddenly barking and vocalizing when they normally don’t, something may be wrong. There will usually be other indications if this is the case. if you have any doubts, have your vet check them over.

Pent up energy

Westies are an active high energy little dog. They require up to 1 hour of exercise a day, but will never say no to more. For a guide to exercise for a Westie see here.

Without the opportunity to release all that pent up energy and to challenge their minds they can develop behavior problems. These behavior problems are not only limited to nuisance barking.

They can also include digging, destructive behavior and escaping to explore on their own. In some cases, frustration can lead to aggressive behavior.


Westies are a smart and curious dog. They require plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment to challenge and tire their minds.

Boredom is one of the main causes of many dog behavior problems including nuisance barking. For more on mental stimulation and enrichment for dogs see here.

Territorial and protective barking

When a person or an animal comes into an area your dog considers their territory they will usually bark excessively. As the threat gets closer, the barking often gets louder. 

West Highland Terriers make excellent watchdogs and will warn you of any perceived threats. You don’t necessarily want to stop all warning barking. However, they should learn to stop when you tell them it is ok.


Many dogs will bark at any person, other animals, or objects that startles them or they are not sure of. This is fear-based behavior and may need to be managed. It can result in behaviors such as lunging and barking at people or dogs and anxiety such as separation anxiety.

Over excitement

Dogs will often bark when playing or greeting someone. This can lead to them becoming overexcited and the barking tends to increase and become more frantic.

Overexcitement is a state of mind. A dog doesn’t go from 0 to 100 in one step. The key is to catch the state of mind early and calm them. The higher the level of excitement, the more difficult it becomes to settle them.

Separation or isolation anxiety

Many dog owners get complaints that their dog is barking all day while they are not home. This type of issue normally has other behaviors associated with it including destructive behavior, pacing, whining, escaping and toileting in the house.

For more on anxiety in dogs when home alone see here.

How to stop Westie barking

Yelling at your Westie to stop usually doesn’t work and often makes them bark more. To a dog you yelling is like barking. They think you are barking so they think they should bark some more.

Physical punishment is also not a good approach to take. This is more likely to make your Westie fearful and can result in anxiety or even aggression.

There are many different suggested ways to fix a dog with a nuisance barking issue. Every dog is different and what works with one dog may not with another.

If you are dealing with an extreme barking issue or nothing has worked you may want to consider working with an experienced and qualified dog trainer or behaviorist.

These are some possible approaches to take to fix a nuisance barking issue with your Westie. The approach you take on what you have determined to be the causes and triggers.

Teach the quiet command

There is a number of ways to teach this command. The simplest way is to say “quiet” and hold a treat in front of their nose when they bark. Praise them for being quiet and give them the treat.

Crate training

It is often a good idea to train a puppy using crate training. Crate training can assist in potty training and avoiding destructive behavior. It also helps to teach a puppy or even an adult dog not to bark.

The puppy or dog soon learns that they are not released from the crate while they are making a noise.

Increase exercise and mental enrichment

As stated above, pent up energy and boredom are a common cause of a barking issue. Increase the amount of daily exercise and provide more mental stimulation and enrichment for your Westie.

Suggest ways to increase enrichment and stimulation for your Westie include

Use calming techniques

A calm hold is a technique used to settle and calm a dog. Simply place your hand on the side of your dog’s shoulder just holding them still. Don’t make eye contact with them and you don’t even need to say anything.

You can hold your Westie by the collar if you wish to hold them in place with your other hand on the shoulder. If you wish you can say something like “Relax” in a calm monotone unemotional tone. Once your Westie has relaxed you can remove your hand. This video also shows a similar technique you can try.

Distract or redirect behavior

When your Westie barks, distract their attention from the trigger. This can simply be something like throwing a toy for them. Another trick is to have them lay down. It is difficult for them to bark while laying.

Remove them from the situation

If your Westie barks at people or animals passing by the window close the curtains or put your dog in another room. Alternatively, if they are in the yard, bring them inside.

Ignore the behavior

If your Westie is barking to get your attention you should ignore them. You can even turn your back and cross your arms or simply walk away. They will soon learn that barking does not get them what they want – attention.

Desensitize your Westie to the stimulus

Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing them to bark. Start with the stimulus at a distance. Move the stimulus a little closer and feed treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to a good experience or reward.

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