Dogs are popularly known for their loyalty and constant desire to be by their owner's side. While it may seem adorable, it can sometimes be problematic especially when our furry companions react negatively to being left alone. Many dog owners relate to the frustration of returning home only to find their dogs barking nonstop, or receiving complaints from neighbours because of it. If you are struggling on how to stop your dog barking when left alone, we’ll delve into the possibilities of why it happens and provide helpful tips on how to curb this behaviour.
- Dogs can experience separation anxiety when they are away or left alone by their owners.
- Excessive barking is one of the most common signs of separation anxiety in dogs.
- Before attempting any changes or considering medication, always rule out any potential medical reasons for your dog’s barking.
Why Does My Dog Bark When Left Alone?
There are several reasons why dogs bark when left alone. Firstly, dogs are highly social animals and can experience separation anxiety when they know their owner is away. Because of this, they may feel anxious and bark as a way to communicate their distress.1
Additionally, some dogs can also bark out of boredom or frustration. Lacking in mental and physical stimulation can lead to excessive barking as a means to seek attention. Other times dogs may also bark due to fear or a perceived threat. When dog owners leave, they may feel unsafe or uncomfortable and start barking as a form of defence. Identifying the reasons why your dog keeps barking when left alone is a big step to help you address their behaviour and begin appropriate training and enrichment activities.
What Is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Separation anxiety in dogs refers to a condition in which dogs experience extreme distress and anxiety when they are separated from their owners or left alone.2 It often manifests through behaviours such as excessive whining, barking, pacing, destructive chewing, and even soiling in the house.
Dogs with separation anxiety may even try to escape or become extremely clingy when their owners are about to leave. This condition can be caused by various factors, including a lack of proper socialisation, changes in routine, or previous traumatic experiences. It is important for dog owners to recognize the signs of separation anxiety and seek professional help to manage and treat this condition effectively.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
The most common sign of separation anxiety in dogs is when they repeatedly bark or make other vocalisations when left alone. This can include whining or howling.3
Other signs of separation anxiety to look out for;
- Excessive salivation
- Displaying signs of depression
- Attempts to escape from their surroundings
- Exhibits excessive excitement upon your return
- Self-harming behaviours like itching or chewing on their skin
- Repetitively pacing, running in circles, or going up and down a fence
- Inappropriate elimination such as urinating or soiling within indoor spaces at home
- Exhibiting behaviours like chewing on furniture, digging or scratching floors and carpets
7 Tips to Stop Your Dog’s Barking When Left Alone
Understanding the reasons behind your dog's barking is important to help address the cause of their behaviour. This guide will teach you how to stop your dog's barking when left alone so you can ensure a peaceful home environment for everyone. Try these 7 tips to allow both you and your furry friend to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Tip #1: Crate Training
Crate training is an effective way to stop dog barking when you leave. By creating a positive association with the crate, your dog will feel safe and secure in it. Start by slowly introducing the crate and gradually increase the time your dog spends in it. This will help them understand that the crate is a calm and comfortable space, reducing their anxiety when you're not around.
Tip #2: Give Them Toys to Play
There are plenty of commercial and do-it-yourself products that can help keep your dog entertained when you're not around. An option is to fill a toy with a dog spread, like peanut butter, which will keep your dog busy trying to get the treat out.
Another option is to use a puzzle where you can hide treats for your dog to find. This way, your furry friend might get so caught up in searching for their treats that they won't have time to bark.
Tip #3: Noise and Music
Dog experts often recommend leaving sounds on like a radio or television whenever dog owners step out. The concept behind this suggestion is that the sounds mimic what is typically heard in the household when the owner is around which can help reassure your dog.
Tip #4: Make Sure They Get Exercise
Before you head out of your house, make sure to take your furry friend to the park. It's an opportunity for them to interact with dogs and engage in activities, like playing fetch or any other fun games that involve physical movement. Going for a walk can also do wonders for dogs because they will tire out and get ready to rest once they arrive home.
Tip #5: Barking Collars
Anti-barking collars like citronella collars may help reduce your dog's barking. Citronella is derived from lemongrass oils which are commonly found in perfumes, candles, and incense. These collars are considered a viable option compared to shock bark collars.
Finding the right fit is important especially when fitting a collar on small dogs. Not having the right fit can cause challenges especially when multiple dogs are barking simultaneously. According to online reviews, some dogs manage to adapt their barks using tones and frequencies that the collar may not detect accurately.
Tip #6: Hire A Dog Walker
If you have a busy routine and have the extra cash to spare, investing in a daily dog walker is a great idea for both you and your dog. Walking your furry friend has its benefits as it improves their health and well-being and allows them to socialise with other humans. Your dog will eventually tire out and will seek alone time after the activity. A tired dog will be ready to take a nap and will be less likely to bark.
Tip #7: Give Them Supplements to Reduce Their Barking
If you find yourself not entirely comfortable with the idea of using medications to address anxiety and separation barking, there is also a range of products that have been vet-approved for their calming properties.
- Ashwagandha - It is a natural extract that is beneficial for both humans and animals because it aids in the regulation of cortisol levels. Research has shown its effectiveness in reducing stress symptoms in humans. It has also been found to be safe and effective for dogs.4
- L-Theanine - It is a type of amino acid that enhances the functioning of an area in the brain that promotes relaxation without causing any drowsiness. Additionally, there have been studies indicating that it can be beneficial for dogs experiencing noise phobias.5
- Magnolia Bark Extract - When humans use magnolia bark as a treatment, it leads to a decrease in cortisol levels and an improvement in mood. On the other hand, dogs experienced a reduction in fear-related behaviours according to different studies.6
What Should I Do if the Barking Continues?
If the barking continues despite these efforts, it may be a great idea to consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviourist who can evaluate the situation and provide tailored advice. Remember that patience and consistency are key when addressing barking problems, and with the right approach, you can find a solution that works for both you and your furry friend.
Another consideration that dog owners need to check is if their dog might be in pain. Dogs that feel pain emit higher-pitch barking noises which sometimes gradually fade away as it continues. Taking them to your local veterinarian is recommended to rule out any underlying health issues.
Related: How to Stop Dog Barking at Night
A dog's incessant barking can be troublesome, especially if you leave them at home. While there are numerous reasons for a dog's barking, dog owners need to be observant of the different signs of separation anxiety.
Before seeking training or professional advice on how to stop your dog barking when left alone, it is every dog owner’s responsibility to identify the root cause first by taking your furry companion to your local vet. Always remember that your dog's health is a top priority. If there are no health issues, behavioural training should follow suit. With practice, patience, and consistency, you and your dog (and even your neighbours) can enjoy better, more peaceful days at home.