So you thought your dog was a perfect gentleman all the time — until a neighbor had to tell you that Rex’s barking was driving her crazy. You can’t always be at home, so how can you stop that barking while your dog is all alone? And why is he barking when you aren’t around?
Dogs bark for lots of reasons. Anxiety, boredom, protection and alerting are the main causes. If your dog’s barking alerts people to an intruder or a fire, of course, that’s helpful. Nuisance barking, however, is another thing entirely. Not only can it end friendly relations, but it can lead to fines and even evictions. Luckily there are things you can do as a pet parent to improve things for your dog as well as your neighbors. These solutions center around exercise, stimulus control, and the reduction of boredom or anxiety.
A tired dog is a good, quiet dog!
Exercise your dog before you leave – even if it means early in the morning. Take Rex on a long, scent-filled walk that is long enough to really meet his physical and mental needs. The bigger the breed, the longer that walk will probably need to be. A run would be even better. That requires a commitment on your part, but that’s what being a parent means. On the upside, that investment pays off by having a dog too tired and satisfied to spend the day barking and eating the window sills.
How much walking are we talking about? Labs could walk or run for an hour easily, while a cocker spaniel might make do with a half-hour in the morning and another half-hour when you get home. Small dogs can get a fair workout in a small house or apartment, but they really need the great outdoors to meet their social and mental needs. Australian shepherds need at least 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise (such as a game of Frisbee or an obstacle course) every day. A young Great Dane? Ninety minutes. Every day.
Draw the drapes and turn on some Mozart
What Rex doesn’t see, Rex doesn’t bark at. Barking at passersby, birds, etc., is somewhat breed-dependent.
Is she a terrier, bred to hunt little animals that live underground? Terriers learned to bark so that their people could find them after they chased a rabbit into a burrow. (Hey, if you got stuck in a dark tunnel, you’d yell, too!) Dogs that like to sound the alarm for their family could also benefit from some stimulus management.
Keep your dog in the quietest part of the house while you’re gone. Close the curtains and the blinds. But do leave on some soft music to muffle outdoor sounds. This is particularly effective if you listen to music a lot when you’re home. Keeping Rex’s environment stable helps quell anxiety, which also makes him less likely to bark for long periods of time.
Finally, don’t leave your best friend in the backyard all day long. This presents ever-changing, ever-stimulating scenes of delivery people coming to your door, kids walking past, vermin you didn’t want to know were there scurrying about, etc. Not only is Rex encouraged to bark and whine, but he is now free to take his show on the road. Unless you have acreage, your dog is usually quieter inside the safety of his home.
“Woof, woof Mom, I’m bored!”
Like any social creature, dogs don’t like being left alone for too long with pent-up energy and nothing worthwhile to do. Bored dogs tend to become loud and destructive, so give them something safe to do.
Toys such as Outward Hound’s hide-and-seek plush tree can keep Rex occupied finding and retrieving stuffed squirrels; extra points if you can train him to put these toys away! This company also makes some interesting treat dispensers for beginners up to advanced canine puzzle solvers.
Chew toys that are so special they only come out when you’re leaving can ease the sting of loneliness. Rubbing them between your hands to add your special scent makes them even more attractive. Antlers boiled in beef broth, Kongs filled with spray cheese, or anything safe and known to be Spectacular will get his undivided attention, hopefully for long enough to calm him. Tip: Keep a few in the freezer so they’re ready to go when you are.
Finally, if your dog is barking despite all these remedies, a little behavior shaping might be in order. Practice leaving Rex alone for just a few minutes at a time. Look him in the eye and state, “Hush!” without undue emotion, then leave. If he just barks continuously, bang on the door to startle him into silence. Only re-enter your home when he isn’t barking because that’s the behavior you want to reward. Be nonchalant when you greet him to keep his excitement down.
Gradually extend the amount of time away until he can make it for an hour or two without you. Some trainers say that the first 40 minutes is the toughest for most dogs, so if you can ensure he feels tired, safe, and satisfied for that long, he’ll probably make it through your workday.
Of course, a visit from a trained dog walker with Space Coast Pet Services will give your dog the companionship and exercise he craves. We even offer house sitting and pet taxi/concierge services to make your life easier.
However you choose to stop your dog from barking when he’s home alone, the whole family – and the neighbors – will benefit.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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