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My niece asked me if I could recommend some breeds that are 20 - 40 pounds that are known not to bark much. She lives in someone's home, and they are letting her have a smaller dog "as long as it doesn't bark all the time".... And, "all the time" means hardly ever according to my niece.

I'm a big breed kinda guy. I don't know much at all about smaller breeds. I did, however, laugh when she asked me if a Sheltie would be good. :)
 

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Whippets tend to be on the quieter side of dog breeds. NOT a Sheltie, they are notorious for being VERY vocal dogs.
 

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This is tough as just about any dog could end up being a barker (especially with the definition of "hardly ever").

I think your best bet would be to call up a rescue that fosters into individual homes, ask about 20-40 pound dogs that are being fostered in a similar situation as what your niece is living (children present of the same age, cats, no cats, birds, etc. Whatever the living circumstances are) that doesn't bark or hardly barks.
This may be one of the few ways to find an individual dog that "hardly" barks because breed "hardly" guarantees a dog isn't going to bark.

Individual breeds:
I generally know which ones to avoid - hounds, huskies, anything with the word "bay" as the description of its sound.


I really think it is going to be difficult for her to find a dog that "hardly ever" barks. It is part of how they communicate. Depending on how fickle the people are that she lives with - they may define barking at a squirrel/small fluffy animal as too much - and that is pretty standard dog behavior. I'd go with the foster.
 

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Avoid shelties and hounds for sure. I'd advise that she get an adult dog from a rescue. Not a shelter but a rescue where the dogs live in a foster home. You get a better idea of what the dog is like in a home.
 

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This is completely anecdotal, but a relative of mine has a shih-tzu that hardly barks at all. Could be worth looking into. Definitely go with an adult dog.
 

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I also recommend she contact a local rescue and ask them specifically. She can also explain more about her lifestyle and habits and they can match her with a few appropriate choices.

It is anecdotal, but my first dog was a Chinese Shar-pei and he rarely barked. I guess it is pretty common for Pei's to be pretty quiet.

My Boy, Tyler, hardly ever barks. He doesn't bark for attention or at critters, but he will bark if startled. I find this perfectly acceptable and I also like a quiet, bark free house.

You should also remind your niece that although individual dogs will vary greatly, barking is controllable. I have a hound Boy that would bark at everything, all day, if I let him. It took a lot of patience and mostly persistence but now he only barks at certain triggers and will quiet on command.

I have no experience, but aren't Basenji's "bark less"? I believe they still make vocalizations though. . . .
 

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Basenji was what first came to mind. Also most of the Shiba Inus I have met are pretty quiet, at least about average for most dogs that size.

Also while I know my husky doesn't "bark" a lot he talks nonstop lol, some are more vocal than others though. Like the one down stairs only howls when she is sad....saddest howl I have ever heart poor girl.
 

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This is completely anecdotal, but a relative of mine has a shih-tzu that hardly barks at all. Could be worth looking into. Definitely go with an adult dog.
Shih Tzu are supposed to be a quiet breed but of course there are yappy ones too. Mine is thankfully very quiet. I live in an apartment and instead of getting noise complaints people always comment on how quiet she is. However, the breed standard for Shih Tzu size is 9-16lbs. But I have met some BYB Shih Tzu that were in the 20-25lb range.

Also, I've met some very quiet Italian Greyhounds. I don't know if they are supposed to be quiet though.
 

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Shih Tzu are supposed to be a quiet breed but of course there are yappy ones too. Mine is thankfully very quiet. I live in an apartment and instead of getting noise complaints people always comment on how quiet she is. However, the breed standard for Shih Tzu size is 9-16lbs. But I have met some BYB Shih Tzu that were in the 20-25lb range.
Ha, sometimes I forget that the only shih-tzu I know is huge. He weighs like 26 pounds. o_o
 

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Our dog is probably the exception to the rule, but we've had our coonhound for about a month and she is a surprisingly quiet dog. She's only ever barked when we've had her out in the yard and she sees another dog or the neighbor kids pass by. She never barks when in the house...in fact I have hardly ever heard her whine. So I don't know if her previous owner trained her that way, or if it's just her personality. We did have a beagle/cocker mix growing up who was the most annoying barker ever. She would let loose over the smallest thing.
 

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My doxie mix isn't a big barker. I have no idea if this is normal for whatever breeds he is (the other half I think is terrier). He barks when he's super excited, super upset, or when the doorbell rings he barks a few times. He doesn't have a yappy bark either. He'll probably be about 20 lbs when he's fully grown.
 

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My vote would be for an English Cocker Spaniel. The truth is that there is no one breed that won't bark. Any breed is capable of barking, some do bark more then others but training is key. A normally quiet breed can certainly be trained to be quiet as needed. Giving a dog plenty of exercise and attention, training and socialization will assure you that he/she won't be barking non stop.
 

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My sister has a Basenji and yes it is a quiet dog. BUT, it paced and paced. Suffered from SA. Could never be trusted off leash and had to be watched even in a fence yard for trying to escape. This dog did have training and was walked everyday. The dog is 12 and still is active. Bad thing is I gave her this dog. I feel I was not the nice sister for doing this. The dog was being given away for free at a garage sale and now I know why.

Italian greyhounds are quiet. Whippets,

I googled and this site came up http://www.aboutsmalldogbreeds.com/quiet-dog-breeds.html
 

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I have only owned one Basenji but she was very quiet. You could never trust her off leash and could climb out of anything. She did well in obedience classes but not so good at home and was the only dog I have ever lost by being run over as she slipped out the gate when someone was coming in. She was a very pretty black and white and a really sweet little dog but so independent, I probably will never get another one.
 

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In my experience, most people don't really mind alert barking, or even excitement barking, as long as there's a reason. It's boredom barking that bothers people big time!

Kit is extremely vocal when there's a reason to be: when someone knocks on the door, to tell me that there's a person approaching who I haven't noticed, to tell me she feels threatened, etc. She also barks to express impatience: throw the ball already!! But she is not a boredom barker. When there's nothing exciting going on, she's quiet as a mouse. Consequently, she almost never barks in the house, but if you ever saw her at agility class, you wouldn't call her quiet. Only once did she wake me up by barking in the night. The next day my neighbor informed me that a bunch of vehicles were broken into on the block.
 
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