Why Dogs Bark When Left Alone

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Introduction

You thought you lived in a friendly neighborhood until one day you come home to a note taped to your dog. “Your dog is a loud nuisance! Do something about it!” After you talk to a few neighbors, you learn your dog is barking when you’re not home. You feel terrible about the ruckus caused by your four-legged friend and the problems it’s creating with your neighbors. But you work all day, and your kids are at school. Boarding your pup is expensive. And moving is an extreme solution. So, what do you do about your howling hound? How can you reduce or eliminate this behavior, so your neighbors don’t hate you and you can stay in the neighborhood?

The Root of the Behavior

Dogs bark when they’re alone for a few reasons. Some dogs are territorial, bored, anxious, or they just might be a breed that likes to bark. No matter the reason, it’s frustrating for your neighbors. It also means your dog needs something that he is not getting during the day. 

When the innocent passerby or mailman passes, your pup bellows. That’s only a few times a day and doesn’t seem too bad if that were the only time he barked. His territorial nature leads him to bark at everything that steps near your yard. Squirrels, birds, dogs, and cars are all threats. The great outdoors can’t be controlled, so staring out the window can lead to hours of barking. 

If you leave the house at 7am and return at 6 pm, make dinner, watch TV, and go to bed, your pup might feel lonely, bored, or under-exercised. This is a typical routine of a person who commutes to work and is tired at the end of the day. However, your pup experiences the opposite. While you’re using all your energy to make ends meet and get him the best kibble and dog bones, he is sitting home waiting to use his. Sitting next to him and watching TV is a good time together, but he needs to be more active energy. His extra energy makes him yelp when you’re out using yours. 

If you’re not your dog’s first owner, he might be experiencing separation anxiety. Dogs from shelters or ones who have been adopted several times feel insecure about relationships and will become anxious when their owners leave. Your dog is barking all day because he’s worried and stressed. If this is the reason for his barking, he might show other symptoms like accidents in the house, chewing inappropriate objects, or scratching at doors or corners.  He also might not know when it’s appropriate to bark if he hasn’t been socialized properly. His unstable life up until now has left him confused. 

The other possibility is the dog breed you have is known for being noisy. Smaller breeds, like Yorkies, Chihuahuas, or Maltese, tend to be enthusiastic barkers and it’s in their nature to make their voice be heard. Larger dogs tend to be quieter, but that doesn’t mean a dog won’t bark at all. 

Encouraging the Behavior

If you don’t want your neighbors to complain or your landlord to evict you, this behavior needs to stop. A territorial dog might be helpful against intruders, but when you’re not home, you can’t help him determine that a squirrel is not the same threat as a burglar. Without this guidance, he keeps barking at everything he sees and has no guidance to stop and relax. To curb this behavior consider closing the blinds and curtains. As much as you want your dog to enjoy at least looking outside, this might be the easiest solution. 

Your bored dog could expand his behaviors to destructive ones like chewing furniture, having accidents, or stressed behaviors like reduced appetite, hiding or pacing. Make sure that you give your dog plenty of stimulation and exercise before you leave the house. Take him for long walks, play fetch, and play with his favorite toy. You can also place toys around the home, especially ones with puzzles and treats. This will keep his mind occupied and his tummy happy. 

And your anxious dog could experience similar problems to a bored dog, so it’s best to help nip it in the bud quickly. Some things you can try are ignoring your dog upon your arrival and departure for a few moments and wait to pet them. Teach your dog a command that lets him know you will return. You could also use calming products such as treats or calming collars to help your dog simmer down when you’re gone. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

There are some alternatives to any daytime barking situation. A bark control device that emits high pitched sounds only dogs can hear is one possible solution. Another is a barking collar, which emits a “correction” or a shock, to deter them from barking. The shock’s intensity can change based on how often the dog barks. You should also make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise so he is worn out enough to relax while you are gone. Not getting enough exercise can also cause your dog to be bored or anxious. Another idea that could work is to get your dog a friend to play with while you are not home.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you can get this behavior under control, and your neighbors will like you again. The mailman, passersby, and squirrels will, too. And your dog will be happier and healthier if he is often exercised, playful, and has his mind stimulated. Keeping your pup happy will keep your neighbors happy and you won’t have any more notes posted to your front door.