How To Stop a Dog Barking When Left Alone

Wondering how to stop your dog barking when they are left alone? In this guide we are going to be telling you how you can stop your dog barking and what causes them to do it when they are left alone.

Left unsolved you may face complaints from neighbours and it can be distressing knowing your dog is upset when you leave the house. The first thing you need to do to solve your dog’s barking problem is to find out the cause.

Why Does My Dog Bark When I Leave the House?

They are Genetically Prone to Bark

Yes, that’s right, your dog may be barking because of their genetics. Virtually all terriers and many other small dogs like miniature Schnauzers and Maltese are pre-programmed to bark at movement or noise within their range.

Many of these small breeds were bred to bark to alert their owners of any potential danger. This means they will often bark at people who come to the door, other animals around the property and even the neighbours when they come home. They will continue to bark even when you are not home, because it is in their nature to do so.

To combat this, you need to train them to limit their barking. You need to train your dog to bark on command. This will give you control and effectively gives you an “on/off” switch on their barking. It’s not that you do not want them to bark ever; you just want them to bark when the time is right.

They are Bored

Active and sporting breeds such as retrievers, setters, collies and pointers are more likely to get bored than other breeds. Dogs need regular exercise and a study in Australia found that 40% of canines do not get enough walks.

Lack of exercise is not only detrimental to your dog’s physical health, but it can also be bad for their mental health as well. Boredom can lead to barking and other unwanted behaviour such as chewing, pacing and digging.

Most healthy dogs need between one and two hours of exercise a day. Simply leaving your dog in the garden for a couple of hours is not good enough; you need to take them for walks and play interactive games with them. Older dogs, puppies and those that are sick may not require the same amount of exercise as a healthy dog in the prime of their life. However, they still need to be exercised but they do not need as much.

You can read more about exercising a dog here.

Additionally, when you leave your house, give your dog a KONG filled with treats or another interactive toy to keep them entertained.

They Want to Order You Around

Does your dog bark at you when you attempt to leave the house? If this is the case it may be because your dog doesn’t want you to go. Your dog doesn’t want the fun to stop and they command you to return by barking. The problem with this is that your dog may continue to bark even after you have gone.

They are Alpha or Territorial

Unneutered male dogs and guarding breed types are more likely to bark at something that is coming into their territory or space. They believe they are protecting their area from intruders when they bark. In reality, the intruder is probably just the mailman or a friendly neighbourhood cat.

Neutering and good training can keep their protective behaviour in check. Additionally, blocking the dog’s view of passers-by and anyone who comes to the door can help to reduce barking. You should also try to keep them from patrolling the property as this can lead to unwanted barking.

When you are home, you should always monitor a territorial or alpha dog closely. If you can’t get their barking under control when you are home, then there is no way you are going to stop them from barking when you are out.

They are Scared or Anxious

Every dog is scared of something, whether it is a trip to the vets or something as simple as the vacuum cleaner. A dogs past experiences can have a major effect on how they respond to things around them.

Dogs such as those that have been passed around from home to home, rescue dogs and those that have not been socialised correctly can suffer from anxiety. Canines that have always been kept inside or are constantly with their owners are candidates for anxiety behaviour problems if they are placed in a new environment.

If left alone, dogs with anxiety problems can begin to bark, chew, dig and even soil themselves. These dogs need to be socialised correctly with the world outside. Separation anxiety is one of the most common problems dog owners have. We will be discussing separation anxiety in more detail below.

Why It Is Important to Stop Your Dog Barking When You Go Out

There are a number of reasons you need to stop your dog barking when they are left alone:

  • Your neighbours can become annoyed if your dog barks.
  • It can be stressful for your dog when they are trying to communicate but get no response.
  • Separation anxiety can lead to other unwanted behaviours such as chewing and digging.
  • Fixing your dog’s barking problem can improve the bond between you and your dog.
  • Barking can be alarming to visitors coming to the door.
  • Once your dog learns not to bark, they can be more relaxed and spend their time sleeping or playing.

What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

Dog separation anxiety is often unknowingly encouraged by owners. We often make a big fuss of our dogs when we leave the house or come back home. Doing this rewards our dogs for their concern and makes them anxious when we are not around. Anxiety can also be caused by a number of other situations or events as well. We have listed these below:

Change in Schedule

An abrupt change in schedule can trigger separation anxiety in dogs. If you suddenly increase the length of time your dog is left alone for they can become anxious. For instance, you may get a new job and your dog has to be left alone for six or more hours at a time. If they are used to you being at home all the time, leaving them for six or seven hours can cause them to become anxious.

Change in Owner

Dogs that change owners, whether that is because they have been abandoned, rescued or even sold, can develop separation anxiety. They may need time to get used to their new owners and they will need to get used to being left alone.

Change in Residence

Moving to a new house or apartment can lead to a dog developing separation anxiety. They may be comfortable in their old residence and moving them to a new, unknown location can cause them to be anxious.

Change in Family/Pack

Dogs are pack animals and the sudden absence of a family member or member of the pack can trigger separation anxiety.   

First Steps to Stop Your Dog Barking When They Are Left Alone

The hardest part about stopping your dog barking when they are left alone is finding out the reason for them doing so. You need to find the cause of your dog’s barking before you can cure it, but how do you do this when you are not at home?

We recommend that you ask your neighbours if possible. They may be able to tell you when your dog is barking, so you can pinpoint the cause. Additionally, if your dog barks when you are walking out the door you know they don’t want you to leave. Think about your dog’s behaviour, breed type and how you treat them, as these can lead to barking.

Re-read the causes of barking we have outlined above and see which one matches your dog the closest.

How to Stop a Dog Barking When Home Alone?

There are a number of steps you need to take when dealing with your dog’s barking problem. We have outlined what you need to do to fix your dog’s barking below.

Set-up Their Environment

  1. Dogs with behavioural problems should not be given “the run of the house”. You need to keep your dog in the quietist part of the house where they can sleep undisturbed.
  2. Limit your dog’s visibility. We don’t mean put a blindfold over your dog’s eyes, we mean that you need to close any curtains and/or shades to prevent them from being able to see outside. If you don’t have any windows or blinds, place a sheet or blanket across the window. Removing any visual stimuli will reduce the likelihood of barking from territorial/alpha dogs.
  3. Make the environment dark. This sort of ties in with the above. A dark environment has a calming effect on most dogs.
  4. Make some noise. You should leave a TV or radio on when you leave the house to create some noise. This will not only help to make it feel like somebody is home, but will also drown out any outside noises. Just think out quiet your house is when there is nobody in it and your dog has to deal with that all day.
  5. Give your dog a toy to play with. When you leave the house give your dog a toy to keep them busy. Something like a KONG filled with treats is an excellent way to keep them entertained while you duck out the door. The toy you give your dog should only be used for this purpose and the treats should be special.
  6. Leave the house quietly. Don’t make a fuss of your dog when you leave. Dragging out a goodbye can make your dog anxious for your return. Give them a quick goodbye and then leave the house.

Other Things You Can Do to Reduce Barking

Exercise Your Dog!

We can’t stress this enough. A dog that hasn’t been exercised is like a coiled spring. They are ready to pop and barking is a way to relieve the pressure. For healthy adult dogs, make sure they get at least one hour of dedicated exercise per day. You should also play games with them at other times to keep them mentally stimulated and exercised.

Those with older dogs, sick dogs, and puppies can get away with a bit less. However, they should still be exercised, but a 20-minute walk around the block may be enough for an older dog. Puppies tend to have lots of energy in short bursts, so it is quite easy to wear them out with a game or short walk.

Bring Them Inside

If you leave your dog outside while you are at work, it may be a good idea to bring them inside if possible. A dog that is out in the garden alone all day is much more likely to bark than if they are inside. This is because they can see and hear a lot more than if they are inside the house. It is also much more difficult to control a dog’s environment outside than it is inside.

Hire a Dog Walker

If you are gone for long periods of time during the day, it may be beneficial to hire a dog walker. A dog walker can take your dog out during the day, breaking up the time they are alone. They will get some exercise, which will stop them from getting bored.

Teach Them to Speak

Some breeds just love to bark. If your dog loves to talk, don’t stifle all the conversation. Train your dog to “speak” on command, as well as the “quiet” command. That way you can control your dog’s barking and still give them a chance to speak.

Help! My Dog Is Still Barking When I Leave the House

If you have done all of the above and your dog is still barking when left at home alone, they are probably suffering from separation anxiety. You need to desensitise your dog to your departure and get them used to you not being there.

To do this, the first thing you need to do is imitate your daily routine. Make your dog think that you are going out for the day. Do all the things we listed above and then leave the house quietly. Don’t beg or plead for your dog to be quiet, just give them a pat and then leave.

Leave the house for a short period of time. Just a couple of minutes to start with. If you get in your car to go to work, do that. If you take an elevator, go one floor down and wait a couple of minutes. Only return to your dog if they have not barked. Reward them for their good behaviour and try again for a longer period of time.

If your dog did bark in those 2 minutes, knock on the door (load enough that your dog stops barking) and try again. Do not enter the house if your dog is barking and when you knock on the door, do not let your dog see you. Repeat the process until you can get one to two minutes of silence. Once your dog gets to this point, you can go back into the house and reward them for their good behaviour.

Try this process again, but increase the time you are gone. Set goals for your dog; when they get to 5 minutes move onto 10 minutes, then 15 and so on. Always return after the set amount of time and reward your dog if they have not barked. Do not wait until your dog barks and then return to the house.

The first hour is the hardest. Most dogs can remain silent for around two hours and they can usually be quiet for an 8 to 10-hour work day. You will not solve your dog’s barking problem in a day. It will require patience and time.

Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Dogs

How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Some veterinarians may prescribe drugs for separation anxiety, however, this will not fix the problem, only cover it up. Medication should only be used to assist the owner in rehabilitating the dog and is only a temporary fix.

The root cause of separation anxiety usually starts when the dog is a puppy. When puppies are removed from their mother and siblings, they will usually cry. To calm them down, dog owners will pick them up, talk to them and give them lots of attention. This can continue in later life as well. If your dog is in a crate and they cry, letting them out only rewards them for their behaviour.

You need to reward your dog for being quiet and settled. Teaching your dog patience and rewarding them for that will help to prevent separation anxiety. When you are with your dog, you should not always be interacting with them. They need to learn to entertain themselves.

Should I Crate Train My Dog?

Crate training can be helpful for some dogs if they learn that the crate is a safe place to go when you are out. However, the crate is not a tool that can be used for all dogs. This is because a crate can cause more stress and anxiety in some canines.

In order to determine whether or not you should use a crate, monitor your dog’s behaviour when you are crate training them. If your dog show signs of distress or anxiety, confining them in a crate may not be the best option. Instead of using a create, you can confine your dog to a room behind a baby gate.

How to Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Curing separation anxiety is really about getting your dog used to you not being there and rewarding them for behaviour we like. Early in this article we explained the process of simulating a working day to stop barking. This same process can be used to cure separation anxiety.

Teach your dog to sit, lie down, and stay while you go out of sight for increasing periods of time. When you come back, reward your dog if they do not bark or cry. You should also train your dog to sit and wait to be greeted by guests, rather than jumping all over them.

We recommend that you spend time obedience training your dog. This shouldn’t be a once a week type-of-thing, it should be a regular part of their day. This approach lets your dog know what is expected of them, helping their good behaviour become a habit.

The last thing to do is get your dog active. Let them play with other dogs and give them puzzles to do throughout the day. Try different walking routes or take them to new, interesting parks. You may even want to enrol your dog in a reward-based training class to keep their body and mind active.

What Not to Do When Your Dog Barks?

While there are lots of things you can do to reduce or stop your dog from barking, there are also some things you shouldn’t do. Never scold or punish your dog. Anxious behaviour is not the result of disobedience, so you should never punish them for it. If you punish your dog for barking or anxious behaviour, it may only make them more upset.

If your dog does bark, do not reward them with your attention or treats. This will only encourage them to repeat the same behaviour in the future.

Additionally, never shout or ‘bark’ back at your dog. This makes your dog think you are talking to them and joining in on the fun, which will make barking even more attractive.

Some dogs get a kick out of barking, so do not allow them to continue doing so. Barking is not a problem that will usually resolve itself. In fact, if you simply ignore your dog’s barking they may turn to other more destructive or aggressive behaviours to get attention.

In Summary

The first step to stop your dog barking when they are home alone, is to recognise the cause. You need to find the reason for their barking. Is it because they are anxious or are they territorial?

Once you have found the cause, you can begin to treat the problem. Control your dog’s environment and leave them in a nice, quiet place where they can rest. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and keep them mentally stimulated through obedience training and the use of toys.

Train your dog to become used to your absence. Slowly increase the time you are out of the house and never reward barking. Reward good behaviour and never punish your dog for anxious behaviour.

Solving your dog’s barking problem overnight is not going to happen. It will require patience and time on both you and your dog’s part.

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