When I first adopted my dog Ace, he would bark for 20 minutes every time I left for work (those high-pitched, annoying yips!).
This was stressful for me, because I lived in an apartment at the time and didn’t want my new dog to cause problems with my neighbors.
I remember asking a friend what I should do, and she said not to worry. She believed my dog would adjust just fine to my routine in a few weeks. Thankfully, she was right; my dog did adjust and stopped barking.
In this post, I’m going to share a couple of tips that helped for my dog as well as some tips from Andrew Horan, a professional dog trainer with Citizen K9 in Virginia.
For this post, we are focusing on dogs that are barking due to habit or boredom and not because of true separation anxiety. If you think your dog has separation anxiety, consider contacting a trainer or veterinarian for help.
Why do some dogs tend to bark or howl when alone?
According to Horan, three of the common causes are related to energy, inconsistency and improper crate training.
If a dog is not mentally and physically challenged through exercise or mental training throughout the day, then he will feel the need to get rid of that pent-up energy somehow, Horan said.
“Some dogs destroy things by chewing, and some bark. The bottom line is it feels good to them to get that energy out.”
Tip: With my own dog Ace, I found that taking him for a walk or run every single morning before work really made a difference. See our post, Tips for Running With Your Dog.
“Dogs love routine,” Horan said. “If someone has a varying work/sleep schedule, or the dog is expected to sleep quietly at random times, then this can cause the dog to become vocal.”
This makes sense, especially if you’ve just added a new dog to your family or if you’ve had some other recent change such as starting a different job schedule, starting school or moving to a new house. It will take the dog some time to adjust to these types of changes.
Tip: Horan said to work out a consistent daily routine the best you can.
3. Improper Crate Training
A third reason a dog might bark when alone is related to crate/kennel training.
“If the dog is crated and is barking, chances are that the initial crate training was not done properly,” Horan said. “This can cause a dog to feel anxious. Its only way of expressing that anxiety may be in the form of whining or barking.”
With proper training, a dog should view a crate as a “safe zone,” Horan said.
What else can a dog owner do to prevent barking?
Besides increasing exercise (and some dogs need a lot of exercise!), Horan gave a couple of tips that should help reduce the barking:
First, he said to give your dog a bit of time to wind down after you take him out for a walk or run. Don’t just expect him to be calm right away.
“The dog will still be amped up and wanting more at that point,” he said. “The cool down time is very important.”
Second, he said to make the act of coming and going no big deal.
“Start by ignoring your dog 10 to 15 minutes prior to you leaving,” he said. “Do everything you would normally do, but just do not acknowledge the dog.”
Personally, this was very helpful with my dog Ace. I actually started putting him into his kennel and ignoring him about a half-hour before I left for work.
Finally, if your dog really has a habit of barking and you are starting to get noise complaints, Horan said you may want to consider looking into some sort of anti-bark collar for the short term.
Ideally, you would only need to use this type of tool temporarily.
What tips do the rest of you have for preventing a dog from barking?
Want more dog training tips? Check out these blogs.