Advice on how to Stop Your Dog Barking
The Council of the Isles of Scilly sometimes receives complaints about noise disturbance caused by the constant barking of dogs. The advice enclosed in this section provides some practical steps on reducing the problem caused by barking dogs.
If you have a problem with your dog barking when you are away from home, it is important to consider the various factors that feed the problem and ways to help resolve it. The most common reasons for barking when left alone are:
The barking pattern is usually different in all three situations, each of which has a different pattern that is worth noting.
Territory Guarders will often be breed types that are predisposed to guarding behaviour i.e. German Shepherds, Doberman or Terriers.
Here, the barking is a response to a perceived threat and takes the form of a violent burst of loud and aggressive barking that will last as long as the threat takes to pass. In a dog that has nervous tendencies the bark may be high pitched and sharp. Threats could include passers-by, the postman, neighbouring dogs barking and in some cases, even passing vehicles.
It is useful to look at the layout of the home and assess whether there are ways to restrict the dog's view of the outside world. Close the curtains if your dog is a window-watcher or keep the dog away from the entrance and exit. A radio station playing, low volume classical music will help relax the dog and helps to block a certain amount of outside noise.
Attention Seeking dogs will often find it difficult to relax at home when alone and this is usually caused by a feeling of anxiety and/or stress at the departure of their owner. Their barking is usually very routine with periods of repetitive vocalising, followed by silence whilst they listen for a response. The bark usually has a hollow, mournful sound or blends into howling. The dog may vocalise shortly after the owners leave and may fall silent after a period of time when it accepts the owner has left.
Typically, an anxious dog may also exhibit destructive behaviour or an inability to control bowel or bladder function, it is also likely to crave contact and attention from owners when they are at home. In severe cases, expert help will be needed to ascertain the extent of the problem and the best approach is to resolve it.
Boredom barkers will often become habitual barkers vocalising to break the tedium. The barking may include both attention-seeking and territorial barking. In such a situation providing greater levels of stimulation is crucial. This should be done in conjunction with trying to break up the routine and the monotony of long periods alone.
Tips to Help Calm Your Dog
The crucial fact is that dogs are social animals who do not cope well with long periods of isolation. Reducing the time left to a maximum 4- 5 hours at a time will invariably help. Where possible:
- Gradually accustom your dog to being left alone for longer periods of time.
- If you work full-time hours, try to get home at lunchtimes or organise a friend or relative to exercise or look in on the dog during the day.
- Avoid making a huge fuss of the dog as you leave - this will increase the dog's anxiety levels. Also do not make a huge fuss of the dog the minute you return, instead allow a couple of minutes for the dog's excitement to subside before giving it attention.
- Giving a dog the full run of the house when left can sometimes induce anxiety if they feel a need to patrol the territory. So it follows that less access will encourage them to feel more secure.
- If your dog is enclosed in a specific room, leaving and item of clothing that smells of you on the other side of the door can help them feel more secure.
- Leaving a radio on a low volume provides the sound of voices and music that the dog may find reassuring.
- Regular and sufficient physical exercise is essential and combined with increased mental stimulation may help a dog to relax when left. Like us, a bored dog will find ways to amuse itself that are not necessarily crowd-pleasing, i.e. soiling or destructiveness.
- Mental stimulation can take the form of regular training sessions and problem solving exercise such as search and retrieve games.
- Meals can be game associated by using activity balls filled with the dog's dry kibble and rubber kong toys stuffed with dry and wet food. These toys make the dog think, engage its senses and extends the feed beyond a few seconds gobbling from a bowl. If space and facilities allow, scatter-feeding the dog's dry food in the garden will also help to burn mental energy. Rawhide chews are another great way for a dog to relieve the anxiety it feels at being left and may help to prevent less appropriate items being destroyed.
- A dog left outside in a garden will feel more insecure when aloe and should be well conditioned to its kennel space and have access to a dry, safe, warm bed and water at all times.
- In some cases a second dog will provide a 'home-alone' dog with companionship, but it cannot provide everything that the first dog needs from you. It is also important to keep in mind that a young dog may pick up the negative habits of an older dog and potentially you could have two barking dogs that are destructive. If you have a serious problem with your dog's behaviour when he is left alone, please seek the help of a qualified canine behaviourist.