Although barking is a normal dog behaviour, it can be a real nuisance if you have to listen to it for long periods. Dogs may bark, howl or cry when left alone for a variety of reasons, but most often because they are bored, frustrated or distressed, so it is important to try and find out the cause of your dog’s behaviour if possible.
Complaints often arise about dogs that bark too much and especially, about those dogs that are left at home alone for long periods and bark once their owners have left the house. The most recent PDSA PAW report estimates that around 2.3 million dogs are left at home for 5 hours (or more) on weekdays, but unfortunately many owners have no choice because they have jobs to go to.
If your dog is upsetting your neighbours, the first thing to do is talk to them and above all stay calm. Remember that any type of continuous noise can have a really negative impact on people’s lives and you have no idea how bad the problem is, because you are not there to hear it. Ask your neighbours to tell you and/or make a note of when the barking happens and for how long, as this may help you identify triggers (such as the postman or school children walking by) and enable you to provide distractions for your dog during those times.
Under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act, excessive and continual barking of dogs may be considered a Statutory Nuisance, and local authorities can take action to stop it, which can include a hefty fine for the owner, so it is important that you make every effort to prevent your dog barking and keep the peace with your neighbours.
Tips To Prevent Barking
- Only leave your dog for short periods and try to start this routine from an early age; Get your dog accustomed to being left alone for short periods and gradually increase the length of time that he or she is left alone. Don’t leave adult dogs for more than 3-4 hours and puppies should only be left for an hour or so – if you are at work ask someone to check in on your dog during the day and let them out or walk them for you.
- Dogs often respond well to having stimulating and fun toys, such as a stuffed Kong or Puzzle Feeder, to occupy them whilst you are out and some even start to look forward to you leaving if it means they have access to a Kong with their favourite stuffing! Make sure that you initially supervise your dog with any new chews or feeding toys so that you know they won’t be swallowed whole or cause choking! Please do not leave your dog unsupervised with bones or rawhide-type chews.
- Exercise your dog properly and well before you leave; this will ensure he or she is tired and ready to settle down when you go.
- Try creating a den for your dog as it will help them to feel more secure while you are out.
- A radio tuned to a talking or classical music station can provide company, soothing background noise and also help block out any noises from outside, this is especially useful if you have a dog that is worried by loud and unexpected noises.
- A pheromone diffuser or collar such as Adaptil can help reduce anxiety and provide a calming environment for your dog.
- Don’t shout at your dog for barking – you are just joining in and may make the situation worse.
- If your dog is barking at particular occurrences every day, such as the postman or milkman, try to distract them at this time with a game or some treats.
- Some owners use webcams to monitor their pets. These can be a great idea and the ones designed for babies and small children often work over wifi and have a speakerphone so you can chat to your pet; this will depend on the individual dog though, as some may be even more distressed if they can hear you but can’t see or smell you!
- If your dog gets very distressed about being left enrol him or her into a doggy daycare club or with a dog walker so that he or she has company all day.
- Vary your leaving routine and the amount of time you spend away from home if possible. Get rid of the predictive behaviour that can really get your dog worked up and distressed, for example putting your coat on and grabbing the car keys, but then sitting down and having a drink before taking your coat off again.
PLEASE DO NOT USE ANTI-BARK COLLARS WITHOUT CONSULTING A FULLY QUALIFIED CANINE BEHAVIOURIST FIRST; PUNISHMENT OFTEN MAKES THESE SITUATIONS WORSE AND YOU COULD SERIOUSLY AFFECT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DOG. SHOCK COLLARS SHOULD NEVER BE USED ON ANY ANIMAL WITHOUT FULL AND PROPER SUPERVISION FROM A QUALIFIED DOG BEHAVIOURIST.
If your dog’s barking is causing complaint and/or upset, I recommend you contact a suitably qualified canine behaviourist who will work with you to try and solve the problem. The Pets In Practise team are local to the Reading area, or you can also look for qualified behaviourists on the Association of Pet Behaviourists website