Gratuitous barking can be a major hassle for dog owners, especially city-dwellers with close neighbors who are apt to be disturbed by the irritating noise. To become good canine citizens, all dogs need training but choosing your breed wisely can reduce the odds that a little pup will grow into a big neighborhood nuisance. Some breeds combine a calm, quiet disposition with a tendency to accept training more easily and willingly than others.
The "Barkless" Basenji
The world's only "barkless" dog is the basenji, a hunting breed originating more than three millennia ago in Africa and still used in some African countries for that purpose. The Basenji Club of America notes that this breed's customary silence can be a mixed blessing, because barking dogs deter intruders. Basenjis, about 16 to 17 inches at the shoulder, are the quietest breed in general. However, when unhappy, they still vocalize, generating eerie sounds often described as "yodels," which are just as loud, and possibly more irritating to noise-sensitive neighbors than traditional barks. In temperament, some basenjis are placid and compliant while others are stubborn and strong-willed. Be prepared to deliver consistent, positive training.
Giant Breeds: No Small Talk
In general, the largest dogs speak most softly so you tend not to hear them much unless they have something important to say, to you or a prospective intruder. After all, a 200-pound mastiff who senses someone trying to break into the house only needs to warn once to send the burglar fleeing into the night. Some other members of the mastiff family and breeds derived from it are also considered to be quiet and easy to train, including the Saint Bernard and cane corso, also known as the Italian mastiff. In a survey of 218 veterinary professionals, the Great Dane and Newfoundland, both considered easy to train, shared top spot as the quietest breeds. With all these breeds, training must begin early -- few people have the physical strength to wrestle an unruly full-grown giant into submission.
The Soft-Spoken Greyhound Family
Greyhounds and their closest relatives come in three sizes, all characterized by long legs, barrel chests, wasp waists and little body fat. The standard greyhound measures 28 to 30 inches at the shoulder. The whippet is 18 to 22 inches tall and the Italian or miniature greyhound 13 to 15 inches. All three breeds are considered quiet and receptive to training but have a few special needs. For instance, their short hair and lack of adipose insulation means that in northern climates, they must wear a coat when they go outdoors in winter. And because of their narrow heads on thick necks, they require precisely fitted martingale collars that they can't back out of. If your greyhound sprints away, you'll have a difficult time catching him.
Quiet Breeds: Large to Small
Trainability has long made the golden retriever a standout as a service dog but people who want a quiet companion also value the quiet temperament of this breed. Collies and their smaller cousins, Shetland sheepdogs, need plenty of exercise. If they get it, nuisance barking should not be an issue. The Rhodesian ridgeback, a medium to large breed measuring 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder, is protective but not particularly vocal. The medium-size Chinese Shar-Pei, which has a reputation for stubbornness, needs firm obedience training but typically limits his barking to playtime or stressful situations. Many small breeds are notoriously yappy but exceptions include the Boston terrier, French bulldog, pug and bichon frise.