Learn Why Your Dog Barks
It’s perfectly normal and reasonable for dogs to bark from time to time, but continual barking for long periods of time is a symptom of a problem, such as separation anxiety, that needs addressing.
Social Isolation, Frustration, or Attention-Seeking
Your dog may be barking out of boredom and loneliness if:
- He’s left alone for long periods of time without opportunities to interact with you.
- His environment is relatively barren, without companions or toys.
- He doesn’t have outlets for his energy, physical or mental.
- If your dog is barking to get your attention, make sure he has sufficient time with you on a daily basis (petting, grooming, playing, and exercising).
- Walk your dog at least twice daily—it’s good exercise, both mentally and physically. Walks should be more than just “potty breaks.”
- To help fill the hours that you’re not home, provide safe, interesting toys to keep your dog busy, such as Kong®-type toys filled with treats or busy-box toys. Rotating the toys will make them seem new and interesting.
Territorial or Protective Behavior
Your dog may be barking to guard his territory if the barking occurs in the presence of “intruders,” which may include the mail carrier, children walking to school, and other dogs or neighbors in adjacent yards.
Teach your dog to speak on command and to hush on command. By naming the behavior you gain control over it. When your dog barks (you can trigger him by ringing a doorbell or knocking) say SPEAK for 3-5 barks. Then take out a high value treat and allow him to smell it. A dog cannot bark and smell at the same time, so when he stops barking to sniff, say HUSH and give him the treat. Repeat as necessary.
Fears and Phobias
- The barking occurs when he’s exposed to loud noises, such as thunderstorms, firecrackers, or construction noise.
- Your dog’s posture indicates fear—ears back, tail held low.
- During thunderstorms or other frightening times, mute noise from outside by leaving your dog in a comfortable area in a windowless bathroom, etc. and turn on a television, radio, or shower.
- Block your dog’s access to outdoor views that might be causing a fear response by closing curtains or doors to certain rooms.
- Be there for your dog if he comes to you, so that he feels more secure. Contrary to old beliefs, coddling your dog when he is fearful will not reinforce his fear. Ignoring a scared or fearful dog will only make the dog more insecure but being your dog’s ‘security blanket’ will give him confidence, as long as you are calm and confident yourself.
- Desensitize your dog to loud noises. (Ask a behaviorist or trainer how to do this.)
- The barking occurs only when you’re gone and starts as soon as, or shortly after, you leave.
- Your dog displays other behaviors that reflect a strong attachment to you, such as following you from room to room, greeting you frantically, or reacting anxiously whenever you prepare to leave.
- Your dog has recently experienced a change in the family’s schedule that means he’s left alone more often; a move to a new house; the death or loss of a family member or another family pet; or a period at an animal shelter or boarding kennel.
- Some cases of separation anxiety can be resolved using desensitization techniques.
- Go through your leaving the house routine. Grab your wallet/purse/keys, put on your shoes etc…walk to the door and leave. Come back in immediately. Greet your dog calmly. Wait a few minutes then repeat the exercise gradually increasing your time spent outside. Always greet your dog calmly. Try to work up to a 20 minute absence w/o your dog showing signs of anxiety.NOTE: Do NOT increase the time until your dog no longer shows anxiety at the current level. (Example: If at 5 minutes your dog is still anxious do not up the time to 10. Stay at 5 until the stress goes away, then add time.)
- Successful treatment for some cases may also require the use of medication prescribed by your veterinarian.
For more information on separation anxiety, go to: