Recognize separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can take various forms in a dog, but the most common signs of separation anxiety are destroying the house/apartment and barking incessantly. These behaviors are typically only engaged in when the dog’s owner is at work or otherwise out of the house, and if the dog is not destructive, some owners may not even be aware that their dogs have separation anxiety. Common signs of separation anxiety to look out for include:
At DoodyCalls, we spend a lot of time with our dogs. In fact, our dog Rusty—who looks a whole lot like our mascot Doodle—sleeps right next to me at night. Although hard to wake up in the morning, once he’s up he says hello with a good morning kiss and quickly gets ready to go to work.
Dogs also bark when they’re either too cold or too hot. Many people have the misconception that dogs’ fur keeps them warm in subzero weather; it’s not the case, unless the dog is a husky. If you’ve seen the dog shivering or looking miserable in the heat of the day, tell your neighbor the dog could be barking because its uncomfortable.
Leave distractions for your dog. In addition to exercise, leaving distractions around the house is a great way to inhibit problem behaviors like boredom barking. You can use a puzzle toy stuffed with peanut butter, or simply toss a handful of treats in various places around the room. You can also leave a radio or television on for the dog so the sound will distract her.
*Debarking is very controversial and is considered inhumane by many. It does not address the underlying cause of the barking. It is a surgical procedure in which the folds of tissue on either side of a dog’s larynx, or voice box, are removed, leaving dogs with a raspy bark instead of a full bark. Complications are common and can be life threatening, including breathing difficulties, higher incidents of choking, and ongoing pain. Dogs also have been known to regain their voices after the surgery. The procedure does not stop the barking, it only makes it sound different.
If your dog barks inappropriately, it is important to start by setting yourself a realistic goal. Planning for your dog to stop barking completely is not realistic – barking is a natural dog behaviour and dogs will bark – more or less, and largely depending on the breed – whether we want it or not. You can reduce the amount of barking, but stopping it will never be possible.
Outside, you might consider putting slats in the chain link fence to cut down on his visual access to the world surrounding his yard (better yet, install a privacy fence) or put up an interior fence to block his access to the more stimulating parts of the yard. Given that alarm barking will inevitably occur, it’s also useful to teach him a positive interrupt – a cue, other than “Shut up!” that you can use to stop him in mid-bark. (See “The Positive Interrupt,” to the right of this page.)
Think twice before ignoring. Of course another less preferable way is to ignore the barking and wait for it to go away. In a crate or enclosed area this may work (particularly with a puppy who is learning to settle) but if the dog is outside or in a large area then the barking itself can be self-rewarding. In many instances there are multiple stimuli occurring which will encourage the dog barking. In my opinion, dogs should never be left outside unsupervised or unaccompanied. Go out with your dog and do not allow him to run the fence, race down the hedgerow chasing the cars, or barking at the person walking by. Show your control and confidence in handling these situations and be the leader of your pack. Have him on a leash or a long line so that you can reinforce your commands and maintain control without shouting or becoming agitated.
Boredom: The bark of a bored dog sounds like a dog that barks just to hear her own voice. Though it tends to be annoying, it is also kind of sad. Bored dogs often bark to release excess energy, and sometimes bark out of loneliness. They usually need an activity and perhaps even a companion.
This is the dog who saves his family from a fire, tells us that Timmy’s in the well, scares off the rapist, barks at the dogs on Animal Planet – and goes bonkers every time someone walks past on the sidewalk outside the picture window. Alarm barkers can save lives – but sometimes their judgment about what constitutes an alarm-appropriate situation can be a little faulty.
Stress-reducing collar – This is similar to the diffusers discussed earlier. Stress-reducing collars are loaded with soothing pheromones that will help stressed dogs calm down and reduce anxious barking.
Constant barking can be irritating, but you won’t be able to correct the dog behavior problem if you are frustrated. Animals don’t follow unbalanced leaders. In fact, your dog will mirror your energy. If you’re frustrated, he will be, too! And barking is a great release for that frustrated energy. Take a moment to curb your own internal barking first.
This type of barking is a form of expression which often developed through positive reinforcement from the owner. If your dog barks to let you know he needs to go relieve himself, this is usually a good thing. When he barks because he wants your dinner or to play or go for a walk, this is less positive.
Dogs barking excessively when left alone might not just be lonely or bored but suffer from separation anxiety. They often times exhibit other symptoms such as pacing, destructiveness, depression and might even defecate in places they know they are not allowed to.
Certain dog breeds bark more than others. In fact, some types of dogs were actually bred to be barkers. This may be so they could alert people about dangers, protect homes, or even scare prey out of hiding for hunters. On the flip side, the Basenji does not bark at all (though the breed can vocalize in other ways).
Dog poop eating is GROSS, but not necessarily detrimental to your dog’s health, and it can generally be stopped. Sometimes Coprophagia (when your dog eats his poop), can be an indication of more serious problems though, and you should have your pal checked out by a vet.
Because every pup is different, not all the techniques listed above work for every pup — most require an investment of time. If you haven’t seen improvement in three to five days using one of the anti-bark techniques, try a different approach.
Guarding: Dogs will often bark and growl when they are guarding. This bark is more aggressive. The dog may also have a stiff or wagging tail with their hackles raised. The bark is used as a warning not to come closer or they may attack to defend their space. While dogs don’t always bark before they bite, most give some kind of warning.
If your dog barks at people or other dogs during walks, distract him with special treats, like chicken, cheese or hot dogs, before he begins to bark. (Soft, very tasty treats work best.) Show your dog the treats by holding them in front of his nose, and encourage him to nibble at them while he’s walking past a person or dog who would normally cause him to bark. Some dogs do best if you ask them to sit as people or dogs pass. Other dogs prefer to keep moving. Make sure you praise and reward your dog with treats anytime he chooses not to bark.
Dogs occasionally become compulsive barkers, meaning they bark in situations that aren’t considered normal or they bark in a repetitive, fixed or rigid way. If your dog barks repeatedly for long periods of time, apparently at nothing or at things that wouldn’t bother other dogs, such as shadows, light flashes, mirrors, open doors, the sky, etc., you may have a compulsive barker. If your dog also does other repetitive behaviors like spinning, circling or jumping while barking, he may be a compulsive barker. To help reduce compulsive barking, you can try changing how you confine your dog. For instance, if your dog is tied or tethered, you can switch to keeping him loose in a safe fenced area, or if he’s left alone for long periods of time, you should increase exercise, mental stimulation and social contact.
If the dog seems to be barking at nothing, he’s likely bored. Boredom, due to lack of exercise and mental stimulation, is probably the biggest reason for excessive barking. Think honestly about whether your dog is getting enough. How would you feel if you were locked up at home all day with no cell phone, tablet, computer or even television? Not even a book to read. You’d get bored pretty fast.
One of the most common reasons why a dog barks is that he is bored or wants to play. If you identify boredom as a reason for the barking, the solution is incredibly simple. All that you have to do is use a toy. Hand the dog that favorite toy. Alternatively, take him out for a walk.
Try to look at things from the dog’s perspective when the dog is outside. See if there is anything outside in particular he is barking at, such as rabbits, squirrel, another dog, something else you think the dog might be barking at. Then think about whether there is a way to reduce this trigger.
To extinguish the behavior you must completely ignore it. Walk away, or look away and do not speak or give eye contact. Bear in mind that behavior will temporarily increase before it improves, and you must be persistent and consistent. Try never to enter the house or yard or let your dog inside while your dog is barking, as this can easily reinforce the behavior too.
Work on pre-departure anxiety by exposing your dog to your various departure cues, like putting on a coat or picking up/jingling your keys. Try engaging in these behaviors at various times throughout the day without actually leaving the house.
Take a moment to think about how you react when your dog barks to get your attention. Do you raise your voice, shout, or tell them off for it? If so, stop. When you meet your dog’s barking with noise and attention, you are rewarding your dog by giving them the attention they are asking for.