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People keep dogs for various reasons; some keep dogs as pets, some use them for security of the home, and some keep them outside within the premises for most of the day.
Whatever the case may be, dogs can get overly attached to their owners. They grow to trust whoever provides it with food and shelter as the master or provider.
Thus, you will find in many cases that when your dog is left alone, it barks. There are many reasons for this, and we’ll discuss them in this article.
A dog barking when left alone can become disruptive and problematic, especially if there are neighbours in close proximity such as in a townhouse or apartment.
There have been many studies conducted to try to understand the psychology of this kind of barking. Certain conclusions have been drawn as to why dogs bark when left alone and what measures can be taken to prevent it.
Why does your dog bark when left alone?
There are many possible reasons that your dog barks when it is left by itself. They are highlighted below:
As mentioned above, dogs are animals that can get very attached to their owners and those taking care of it. As a result, they can feel anxious when left alone.
This anxiety triggers them to start barking, either as a way to cope with the anxiety, attract attention, or warn away intruders. They will usually do this until the person(s) they are comfortable around comes back.
There are things you can do to get rid of such anxiety in your dog so that it remains in a calm and steady state even when nobody is around. They are provided below:
1. A simple walk/run
Exercises like walking or running will expend the excess energy that your dog has, making them more tired, relaxed, and much less likely to bark.
When left alone, an exercised dog will often prefer to rest or sleep rather than bark.
2. Sufficient food and water
Hunger and thirst are common causes of distress in dogs. If your dog is left alone and doesn’t have access to food or water, it may bark, and it can happen all day.
Make sure that you provide your dog with water throughout the day, and before you leave the house, feed them or place a proper portion of food in their feeding tray.
When provided with enough food, chances of barking are minimal. Eating or chewing will also help to curb anxiety and distract your dog.
You should provide a comfortable place for your dog to lie on. This could be a soft cloth, dog bed, blanket, couch, or mat.
This provides a comfortable environment which will further help curb any anxiety or stress that the dog is feeling.
Provide some entertainment – something to keep your dog busy. Examples are a dog toy or a ball. This serves as another distraction that can reduce anxiety and keep your dog busy for hours.
As we’ve alluded to above, dogs will develop a bond with those caring for it. In addition to causing anxiety, this can also cause boredom, which may lead to barking.
Dogs who are left alone and bark out of boredom often do so in search of company.
Many breeds such as the German Shepherd, Rottweiler and Bullmastiff are natural guard dogs, meaning that they have a natural instinct to protect their home and family.
Hence, when they are left by themselves, they will often bark at anything they perceive as suspicious, such as people or dogs passing by outside.
Another reason that a dog may bark when left alone is because they aren’t used to being left alone and want attention. They may feel lonely and want someone to present themselves.
Your dog may be protecting what it considers is its territory.
Some dogs, especially alpha males, get very dominant with their territory, and any sign of encroachment can cause aggressive barking. Dogs will generally do this to signal to other dogs (or people) to stay away.
Note: Don’t confuse dogs that bark out of habit (alarm dogs) with dogs that are protecting their territory (territorial dogs). There is a key difference: alarm dogs will bark anywhere, while territorial dogs will bark in certain “personal” places such as the home in general, around a dog house, or around a dog bed.
Ways To Stop The Barking
Now we’ll talk about various methods you can use to stop your dog from barking when left alone. This doesn’t include reducing your dog’s anxiety, which we discussed above.
1. Change its environment.
Consider changing the dog’s environment whenever you’re not around. Move them to a place that is more calming or distracting, even just a different room inside the home, so that they’ll be less likely to bark.
As we mentioned in the above section, you can leave them with something to keep them occupied so that by the time you come home, they will have barely even realized that you were gone.
Different environments tend to work well with dogs that bark out of habit or that are territorial. Note that this strategy doesn’t work with every dog; if you find that it just makes the situation worse, stop immediately and try another approach.
2. Turn on the TV or radio.
Things that produce noise like a TV or radio can help your dog feel less alone and keep them in a more social state of mind.
This will also act as a form of distraction, and drown out external noises such as passing cars or barking dogs.
This strategy can work well with territorial dogs and dogs that bark out of habit, since less external noises will be heard and the triggers will be reduced.
3. Try some interesting toys.
Toys are great ways to keep your dog entertained, busy, and less focused on its surroundings. Idleness often leads to negative behaviours, and toys will prevent dogs from getting into such a state.
Avoid toys that your dog loses interest in within half an hour or that you aren’t sure your dog likes. When the dog is left with toys like this, its chances of engaging with them are very small.
Choose toys that you know can keep your dog busy for an extended period. You can choose toys that are entertaining as well as mentally stimulating. Examples of good dog toys for this purpose are the KONG or ZippyPaws Skinny Peltz.
4. Train your dog.
You can subject your dog to training that will help it get used to being left alone without complaining. This is one of the best and most effective ways to solve the problem long-term.
One way to do this is to create a program where you leave the dog alone for progressively longer periods. If your dog starts barking during a session, try again, and see if the barking stops. We recommend installing a camera so that you can monitor your dog’s behaviour.
Training is a good way to give your dog’s mind exercise and help relax its body as a whole.
5. Provide the dog with companionship.
If the cause of your dog barking is due to loneliness, providing it with the right companion will often to a lot of good.
More specifically, if you can’t have a familiar person watch the dog, you can keep another dog in the house. This can also help to reduce anxiety. Make sure that the dogs get along, or it could turn disastrous quickly.
6. Make up time lost with your dog.
Make a point of spending extra time with your dog after a period of being left alone. This can work well with anxious dogs (e.g. separation anxiety) and demanding dogs.
For example, if you leave your dog alone for two hours every day, find time to take it to the park for 30 minutes to two hours. This will help work your dog into a routine so that it can eventually be left alone without worrying.
See this video for ideas on what you can do with your dog. An added benefit is expending its energy so that it’s in a more relaxed state at home:
Dogs are wonderful animals that in most cases can easily adapt to the rules and lifestyle of their owners.
One of the most common reasons that dogs bark when they’re left alone is that they have an attachment to their owners and don’t know how to cope when they’re not around.
Of course, it’s not possible to take your dog everywhere you go, so it’s important that they get used to being left alone. This is a transition that many dogs have to go through.
But sometimes, dogs won’t respond to conventional strategies like the ones we covered above. Sometimes, you won’t be able to stop the barking despite your best efforts. In these cases, your dog may need professional help.
You could get the advice of a professional behaviorist or the help of a dog trainer. But professional dog trainers (who also help with general barking) can cost an arm and a leg – something like $500 for 3 hours, or even more. Who’s going to pay this amount of money for just 3 hours of help?
There’s a solution. You can get instant access to a dog training program by a certified dog trainer with over a decade of experience working with clients.
This trainer has figured out that barking issues fundamentally come down to learning how to calm your dog down.
And so he’s put together a series of emotional control exercises that have been proven to overcome barking when left alone and other dog behavioural issues.
This dog training package is substantial, and it costs a tiny fraction of what you would pay for the services of a typical dog trainer or behaviorist.
You can alternatively read my review of the program.
Good luck in correcting your dog’s barking problem. If you have questions, feel free to drop a comment below.
Good tips. We adopted a new greyhound six months ago, and at the time, she had SEVERE separation anxiety. As soon as we left the house, she would go crazy, yelping (greyhound barks tend to resemble yelping in many cases) and scratching the floor; it was to the point where we thought it was beyond fixing. Fast forward a few months later, we were really surprised to find that the conventional strategies (most of which are covered in this article) for dealing with separation worked. Most of what we did was make sure that she was comfortable, had access to her cage, and let her gradually get used to being on her own. It was brutal in the beginning, but it steadily got better. These kinds of problems are almost always fixable if you use the right approach.
Greyhounds are one of my favourite breeds, although they do tend to have issues like separation anxiety. It’s a common cause for barking when left alone. But the good thing is that they’re quiet, and when they do bark, it’s not as disruptive as with most other breeds. In addition to the strategies I talk about in this article, I would suggest taking a look at the calming exercises taught in the program I mention. Thanks for sharing, Marsha!