Training Your Puppy: How to Curb the Barking When He’s ‘Home Alone’
By Phillipa Baxter
The first thing to remember is pretty obvious. Dogs bark. That’s their ‘voice’. Birds sing, cats meow, dogs bark – you’ll never make your dog stop barking completely, nor should you want to.
But what you do want to do is control excessive barking so that he doesn’t drive you or your neighbors crazy. So, let’s see what we can do.
To have any success controlling your dog’s barking, we must understand why he does it when he does it.
To help you do this, make a little chart or ‘diary’ of when – and in what circumstances – your dog displays this behavior. Your neighbors may help you with this if you’re aware (or suspect) that he barks a lot when no-one’s home. A friend of mine had a neighbor whose dog started barking every day during the summer – but only when he heard the ice cream van jingle!
It’s also worth taking the time to listen to your dog to identify his various barks. He’ll sound different when he’s excited and playing, as compared to when he’s attention seeking, aggressive, or frightened. “Look at me” sounds very different to “Look out”.
Remember that a dog is not a solitary animal. If there’s no-one at home for 8 to 9 hours a day, every day — the dog may suffer separation anxiety. This situation is not fair on the dog as the only answer may be some kind of medication. An idea that I really hate.
Before you leave your dog — or put him to bed for the night, always make sure that he’s been fed, and that you’ve left him some water. Take him out for a walk or some play in the garden about half an hour before. This will make sure that he’s not barking because he’s hungry, thirsty, or needs a bathroom break.
I’ll focus on the ‘home alone’ scenario, because it’s the most common. In this case, he’s barking because he’s bored, or lonely, or frightened — or all 3.
Boredom is the easier problem to solve. If you follow the above tips, the walk or play will tire him out a little. You should also leave him access to some toys and a chew to occupy his mind.
Loneliness is more difficult. There are 2 elements involved here.
First, some dogs just like to be around people all the time — but our lifestyles don’t always allow us to be with them all the time, even if we want to. As well as the distraction ideas for the bored dog, try leaving the radio playing quietly.
The second element takes us to the ‘pack’ principle. Your dog is part of your ‘pack’ and he sees his place as being wherever his pack is. He can’t understand why you haven’t taken him with you.
This problem is particularly prevalent in dogs who have a free run of the house and furniture! If you mainly keep the dog in one room – where his crate or bed is, and where he eats – and leave him in that room when you go out, you’re less likely to have the problem in the first place.
But if you do, the best solution I’ve found is to ignore the dog for about 15 minutes before you go out. Don’t speak to him when you leave the house either, or he’ll think it’s a big deal.
Do the same when you come home. Ignore him while you unpack your shopping, change your clothes, or make that phone call. In this way, he won’t believe that it was his barking that brought you back.
Last but not least is fear. Your dog is either frightened of being alone – or frightened that you won’t come back.
All of the previous advice will help with this. But most particularly the ‘ignore him’ advice. If you get emotional when you leave home, as I’ve heard lots of people do, the dog thinks there’s something to be worried about. He doesn’t know what, so he worries about everything.
Phillipa Baxter offers sensible, effective dog training tips that have helped over 9,000 puppy owners worldwide build strong, loving relationships with their new dog. For more useful advice you are very welcome to visit her at http://www.DogTrainingCourses.com.
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