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It’s a question that stumps many dog owners, (and frustrates many neighbors): how to stop your dog from barking when you’re away. Of course, sometimes it can be a while before you even know there’s a problem—you start wondering why the neighbors are giving you dirty looks, or you find an anonymous note taped to your door.
All this time you’ve assumed that your loving pup just gives up and takes a nap when you’re out of sight, but no! So, what’s an over-vocalizing dog’s owner to do? (If your dog is barking at everything that passes by, or while you’re out for a walk, refer to our previous post for help!)
Step 1: Determine the Cause
Rule out any medical issue first. Pain and illness can prompt barking in some dogs. Also, compulsive behavior tendencies, or chronic disorders like Canine Cognitive Disorder (similar to dementia in humans) can be an underlying cause. Your veterinarian can help you diagnose.
If your dog is otherwise healthy and appearing fine, it’s time for some sleuthing.
In general, for healthy dogs, barking can be related to:
- Territorial anxiety and danger alerts (don’t come near MY house!);
- Separation anxiety or other fears (don’t leave me!);
- Boredom and related stress (I’ll just shout it out to have something to do)
Try speaking with your neighbors to see if they can shed any light on when the barking is happening. If that’s not an option, or they don’t have good details, you’ll need to make like a detective and come back quietly to do some surveillance. You want to discover:
- How often and what type? Is he or she being provoked by a situation, or ongoing.
- Does it start when joggers pass, the trash truck comes through, or parcels are left at the door? And how long after the “intrusion” does it continue?
- Or is your dog barking, whining, howling when you leave, during the 15 minutes to an hour of your departure… or basically nonstop over many hours?
- Does your dog tremble when you get ready to leave, or poop or pee while you’re away?(Those are signs that anxiety may be to blame.)
Step 2: Stop Your Dog from Barking When You Leave
Once you know more about when and how the barking is taking place, it’s time to take action to help distract, soothe and/or re-train your furry friend.
One important reminder: don’t shout or otherwise stress your dog about the barking; that’s only likely to make matters worse.
Reduce the impact of triggers and/or create a safe space:
- Help re-train their response to dangers by working with them when you are home (see Part 1 of our Barking series). Your goal isn’t to get them to stop barking altogether, but to feel confident and at ease enough to stop when the danger’s past. Over time this may help them better assess potential dangers when you’re away, and reduce the barking.
- Keep them from hearing or seeing the trigger. Leave a radio or TV on so they aren’t distracted by every little noise. Or keep them in a room on the far side of the house from traffic.
- Keep them in a safe, secure space. Help them create a cozy “den” of their own—just remember that if you’ll be away for many hours, a confined space isn’t the best choice.
- For outdoor dogs, alter the fencing or its configuration so they can’t see passersby.
Some breeds may be more prone to boredom: working breeds, terriers… Whenever possible, exercise your furry friend before you head out. A tired dog is less likely to bored and frustrated!
When that’s not possible—or you’ll be gone longer than their nap time—arrange for some longer-lasting entertainments that make being home alone a treat all by itself. Prep your freezer with treats that are ready to go:
- Stuff a Kong with their favorite treat and freeze it—as it defrosts they’ll be delighted to work hard at getting satisfaction.
- Make Ice Soup: to a broth or simple beef or chicken stock, add some leftover veggies or meat chunks if you have them. Freeze in a plastic container (experiment with the portion from XS-XL, according to the size of your dog and how long you’ll be away).
Time constraints and/or continued barking may mean that outside support is your best option:
- Take your dog to daycare, where your pal can get all the caring attention they need—and deserve! (You’ll love ours—tap to learn more and/or to get on our waitlist).
- Go straight to the heart of your dog’s issue with individual training and/or Lodge & Train, where professionals help assess and re-train your dog so they understand and respond to what you need—such as less barking!
There’s no need to stress about how to stop your dog barking when you’re away. Follow these tips, and/or give College for Pets a call. We can help you nurture your dog’s dream behavior—in person, or remotely.