How to stop your dog barking when you leave home
Why does your dog bark?
Knowing how to stop your dog barking is one of the challenges many pet owners, and house and pet sitters, struggle to solve. You need to know why your dog barks when you leave home, and to do this you need to be able to see things from a dog's perspective.
We take a look at a real life experience and get advice from animal trainer "Doggy Dan" who explains, from the dog's point of view, why they bark when we leave them on their own.
There's also a great list of tips on how to stop your dog barking and to keep them calm when you leave home.
Doggy dilemmas - barking dogs on a house sit
At a house sit in Nicaragua we were pet sitting and looking after Tabby, a two year old female boxer dog. She is very well trained and extremely well behaved. Her owners have obviously spent plenty of time with her ensuring she knows how she is expected to behave. They have set rules and boundaries that Tabby understands.
Sure, she is young, lively and very boisterous, but the thing that has impressed us the most is that she only barks when appropriate. She doesn't bark at us for attention, she doesn't bark at us when she wants us to throw her ball. She doesn't bark when the cleaner arrives, or when the fruit and veg lady shows up each morning.
She knows these people and is very polite and well behaved when they arrive. But if a stranger's car backs into the driveway, or the kids from across the road come onto the grass, too close to the front of the house, Tabby will let us know with a couple of loud barks.
Our neighbours have dogs which bark constantly throughout the day, and often continue late into the evening. Tabby never responds, even when they all start howling. It is almost as if they are of no concern or interest to her at all.
From my recent studies of dog psychology and behaviour, I think this is because Tabby's owners are strong people, and Tabby sees them as the alpha leaders of her pack. She now considers Vanessa and I to be the leaders in the absence of her owners, and as such looks to us for clues as to how to behave when something happens.
Because we completely ignore the dogs next door, she continues to do so.
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As a pet owner, and also as a house sitter, it is important to understand things from a dog's perspective. This can help us in training our dog to behave in ways we want them to.
How to stop your dog barking when you go out
Few things in life can drive you as crazy as a constantly barking dog. How to stop your dog barking when you go out is a commonly asked question. Whether they have that deep shuddering "Woof, woof, woof," or that ear piercing "Yap, yap, yap," it can get to you very quickly.
The great news is that barking is not something that dogs need to do in order to be happy. In fact, generally speaking barking is a sign of stress, frustration, anxiety or over excitement, and none of these emotions are particularly good for your dog.
Or for you!
Remember... a content, relaxed dog does not bark!
So lets take a look at one specific type of barking and get you started on putting a stop to this unwanted behaviour.
Why do dogs bark when you leave home?
Dogs who bark when you are not at home is a very common issue. Usually people have no idea that they have a problem until the neighbour, or even worse the dog control officer, pays you a visit.
Generally speaking barking is a sign of stress and understanding what is causing that stress is key to solving the barking problem!
When you actually understand what is going on in your dog's mind you can begin to address the cause of your dogs problem, and not just treat the symptoms.
Now bear with me on this one because you MUST remember you have to see it all through your dogs eyes!
Dog pack psychology explained
So think of it like this...
Your dog is a pack animal, and understands that there are leaders and followers. And one of the pack leader's jobs is to protect the pack.
So when on Monday morning everybody leaves the house to go to work and leaves the dog at home alone they become stressed. You would be too if you lost your pack!
That’s the reason why they're stressed and barking. They are calling out to you to come back. They just are trying to do their job as leader of the pack.
Think about it. If you are a parent with a young 3 year old child, one of your main jobs is to keep that child safe, so you keep an eye on them. All the time. All over the house you know where they are. They are safe. You are relaxed. If they suddenly walk out of the house and shut the front door behind them locking you in what would you do?
Chase after them? Of course...
But, what if the door was locked and you couldn’t open it? And all the other doors and windows are locked? Then what would you do?
Phone for help? Your dog doesn't have that option!
A dog's cry for help is his bark
I'm pretty certain you wouldn't just sit down, relax and have a cup of tea, knowing your young child was wandering around the streets alone.
No ... you'd be shouting for help, and that's exactly what your dog is doing.
Are you starting to see why your dog is stressed and barking when you leave now? This same stress is often the cause for all those other annoying behaviors that only happen when you're not around - chewing, destruction, trying to dig under the fence, or jump over the fence.
Yep, that’s right. They are all symptoms of a stressed dog that’s desperately concerned about you not being home and safe.
Remember your dog can’t speak English to tell you any of this!
Is there a way to placate a barking dog?
Well it's almost certainly not going to happen by giving them a bone to chew on whilst you are away. Imagine trying that with the parent who is totally stressed that their young child is out on the streets...
"Don’t worry, here’s a box of chocolates."
You may love chocolates, but that isn't going to help in this situation.
Toys jammed full of food and other distractions do not treat the cause of the problem either. They are only treating the symptoms. They may work, if you’re lucky, for half an hour or so – max – but not long term.
Most of you will know that this doesn't work because you'll have already tried it!
A simple solution to stop your dog barking
How to stop your dog barking? The solution is actually very simple.
You need to become the pack leader in your dog's eyes.
Once you do this correctly your dog will not see it as their job to protect you. You will be able to come and go as you please and your dog will be totally relaxed.
This is the real solution to having a calm relaxed dog.
No tricks here, just an honest understanding.
How to become the pack leader
Now, becoming the pack leader is not complicated. Anyone can do it, however it's not really something that can be explained in one short article. On my website TheOnlineDogTrainer I explain very clearly, with lots of in-depth video examples, how to establish yourself as the pack leader.
This quickly enables you to stop dogs from barking when you leave them, as well as help you address almost all other problems you may have with your dog.
Editor's note: We highly recommend taking a look at Dan's site. It's where we learned so much about dog psychology, and what we learned from Dan has meant we haven't really had a single problem with any of the dogs we have looked after over the past couple of years.
Extra tips to help stop your dog barking
Here are some extra tips you can use in conjunction with becoming the pack leader that will help stop your dogs barking.
- Exercise: Exercise your dog before you leave them – a tired dog is more likely to relax
- Find the right space: Try leaving your dog in different areas – some dogs will relax more outside, others inside and some prefer smaller areas such as a washroom
- Fed and watered: Always leave water down and make sure that your dog is fed and warm before you leave
- Pick up the bones: Leave toys around for your dog but not bones - control of food is one of the keys to pack leadership
- Music and TV: Consider leaving music on for your dog, or perhaps the TV – these distractions can help
- Herbal remedies: There are some herbal products for dogs which can help them relax – but again they do not really treat the cause of the issue, they simply help relax them, and are also quite costly
- Dog walkers: A walk in the middle of the day can certainly help break up your dog's day
- Leave calmly: Leave your dog calmly – whilst it's fun to get excited when you leave your dog it's better if you leave calmly - say goodbye 5 minutes before leaving to help them stay relaxed as you go
- Comfort jackets: There are also jackets and shirts available that are designed to comfort them – however they are very expensive and have limited success in my experience. I know of one dog that actually ate his comfort jacket!
Unfortunately the popular idea that getting another dog is going to stop the problem is something I would stay well away from. Remember the source of your dog's issue is not boredom. After all, many dogs who bark all day when the owners leave are the same dogs who lie around the house doing nothing most of the weekend when the owners are at home!
So with all that said, hopefully now you have a far better understanding of your dog's problem!
I would suggest if you are really serious about stopping the barking immediately then learn how to establish yourself quickly as the pack leader.
That will be the end of your dog barking problems.
Editor's note: There is actually an entire section dedicated to stopping this sort of barking under the dog problem section "Separation Anxiety" on Dan's website
It’s not hard but you have to understand your dog's problem through their eyes rather than human eyes! They do not want more bones, or biscuits shoved into a ball...
All they they want is you to be a strong pack leader.
The quick and easy way to a happy obedient dog
To learn more about training your dog, you can start by investing the time to watch Doggy Dan's FREE 4 Part Video Course.
Last updated on March 13th, 2021