…And in the distance, a dog barked!
Authors as diverse as Stephen King, James Joyce, Robert Penn Warren and dozens of others have all used this particular imagery of a nameless, faceless dog to illustrate a peaceful, solitary time of self-reflection.
But for others, the incessant barking of a neighbor’s dog lacks both peace and solitude.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Barking is a dogs’ most useful form of vocal communication and serves a variety of functions.
Dogs bark for many reasons—to get attention, as a warning, in response to other barking dogs, out of boredom, out of anxiety or when excited—and it is important to identify the triggers before beginning any type of behavior training.
How To Stop Dog Barking When Left Alone
Before taking steps to control your dog’s vocal outbursts, it’s important to recognize why dogs bark.
8 Most Common Reasons A Dog Barks:
1. Alert / Alarm Barking
Alert barking is your dog’s verbal response to sights & sounds and is his way of saying “…Hey, I see (or hear or smell) something, there’s something out there!”
When humans domesticated dogs, alert barking was a desired trait. We wanted our dogs to tell us if someone or something was approaching. So expecting our dogs NOT to follow this natural instinct is a tough request to make.
Most dog owners have likely experienced alarm barking when the doorbell rings or there’s a knock on the door and their dog becomes frantic and “freaks out”.
Alarm barking can be especially tough for those that live in apartment communities or have neighbors close-by. Apartment living often means that a dog will hear more sounds outside and, without proper acclimation and training, will bark to alert their owner.
But alarm barking doesn’t just happen at home–some dogs bark at any noise or objects that catch their attention or startles them when out on casual walks.
Dog Training Tip: Because this type of barking is often motivated by fear or a “perceived threat” to their territory or people, it can be lessened by limiting what your dog sees. If they are in a fenced yard, use solid wood instead of chain fencing. Indoors, limit access to windows and doors or cover them with an opaque film.
2. Territorial / Protection Barking
Territorial barking is similar to Alert Barking where your dog is responding to the presence of someone or something near their home.
When a person or an animal comes into an area your dog considers “their territory“, that often triggers excessive barking. As the threat gets closer, the barking often gets louder and more furious.
Territorial barking is your dog’s intention to protect the area and make the ‘intruder’ leave the premises. While alert barking might stop after you’ve been made aware of what’s happening, territorial barking usually lasts longer—until the perceived threat is gone.
Territorial barking is a “self-reinforcing” behavior. Meaning barking usually makes the thing your dog is barking at go away—in the dog’s mind, the behavior is successful. A dog will quickly learn that their barking results in the desired reaction and are, therefore, more likely to perform the same barking behavior next time.
If your dog barks at other dogs or people (in or outside of the home), it might be because he hasn’t received adequate socialization and feels uncomfortable. In this case, the dog needs to go on a desensitization program so he can gain the confidence he needs to cope in unfamiliar social situations.
Dog Training Tip: Training a dog who engages in territorial barking is the same as alert barking training. You want to teach your dog that it’s okay when someone (or something) is on or near their territory, and you can do this by creating a positive association (desensitization behavior modification) with its repeated presence.
3. Separation Anxiety / Compulsive Barking
Dogs with Separation Anxiety often bark excessively when left alone.
Also known as Frustration Barking, excessive barking, whining and howling in response to a frustrating situation, such as being confined or being separated from other dogs or people is one of the most common symptoms of Canine Separation Anxiety.
Separation Anxiety is a condition where a dog becomes distressed and irritated when they’re separated from a particular person or group and can range from mild to severe. In more severe cases, a dog might even injure themselves trying to escape and find their human companion.
Dogs with separation anxiety cannot help themselves and are not “acting out” on purpose, they are simply frustrated with not being able to control their immediate physical environment.
Dogs that are Compulsive Barkers usually exhibit other symptoms as well, such as pacing, destructiveness, depression, and inappropriate elimination. Compulsive barkers seem to bark just to hear the sound of their voices.
Often, they’ll make repetitive movements as well, such as running in circles or barking while dashing along a fence line.
Dog Training Tip: Separation Anxiety/Compulsive induced barking can be very difficult for dog owners to manage, especially if they live near neighbors (such as in an apartment). It’s heartbreaking for owners to see their dog so distressed, and in many cases, it feels impossible never to leave the dog alone. But don’t lose hope—separation anxiety can be treated!
By using a combination of Counter Conditioning Behavioral Modification along with alternative natural medicine therapy such as CBD from natural hemp oil, even a dog with severe Separation Anxiety can calmly adjust to your absence and be content waiting for your eventual return. [See more below on crate training steps for barking dogs].
4. Attention Seeking / Demand Barking
Just like it sounds, attention seeking barking is to garner your attention for rewards like treats or playtime. It could also signify your dog wants food or just to be pet.
Unlike other types of barking, Demand Barking has a distinct cadence.
Attention Barking tends to be shorter and more controlled–a single bark or a few in quick succession. The dog will usually pause in between vocalizations to see if you’ve taken action on their request & continue to bark if their demands are not satisfactorily met.
If you choose to cave and give in to your dog’s verbal demands, you’ll be reinforcing the undesired behavior and Demand Barking will continue for the foreseeable future.
Dog Training Tip: If your dog barks to get attention, don’t reward his demands. Yelling or telling your dog off is inadvertently rewarding him for barking even if the communication is negative. In this case, it is best to ignore the barking, wait for five seconds of quiet and then reward him with attention and positive affection. This way, the dog learns that he gets nothing from you when he barks but gets everything when he’s calm and quiet.
5. Greeting / Hello Barking
Dogs will often bark when greeting people or other animals. It’s usually a happy bark, accompanied by relaxed body language, tail wagging and sometimes jumping. A bark to say “hello” is a dog’s way of expressing joyful expectation.
Dog Training Tip: Similar to Excited Barking, your dog’s Greeting Barking might need ‘refinement’. It can be quite intimidating for other people (and their dogs) when approached by a barking dog, especially since this behavior is often accompanied by pulling on the leash and rushing up to them. Behavior training should focus on rewarding what you want your dog to do instead of barking, such as walking calmly and quietly to greet someone.
6. Excited (Play) Barking
Many dogs bark out of excitement or during play. Play Barking tends to be higher pitched than other barks. You’ll hear excitable barking when dogs are doing something they enjoy, like running after a small animal, chasing a low flying bird, or for agility dogs when they gleefully run an obstacle course.
Dog Training Tip: Expecting a happy and exuberant dog not to vocalize during play is like asking children to stay completely silent while playing together on the playground. Unless it’s a nuisance to the other dog(s) that are playing or results in complaints from neighbors a simple, solid “QUIET” verbal cue is always useful when the barking gets to be too much.
In most situations of excitable barking, the context is usually pretty clear. However, there is a fine line between Excited Barking and Fearful Barking and can be even more difficult to determine the difference–especially when you’re dealing with ‘on-leash reactivity behavior’. If a dog is backing away from something, they’re probably afraid. If they’re jumping up on you when you come home from work, they’re probably excited.
7. Boredom/Loneliness Barking
Closely associated with Anxiety Barking, Boredom Loneliness Barking is a dog’s response to being bored, depressed or unhappy.
Dogs are pack animals–so leaving them alone for long periods (whether in the house or in the yard), can lead a dog becoming bored or sad and often they’ll bark because they are lonely and unhappy.
Dog Training Tip: Dogs need physical & emotional stimulation to keep them mentally balanced and content. Having another companion animal (dog, cat, etc.) to play with and engage with throughout your absence can often times be the missing link to stopping a lonely dog from barking.
8. Socially Facilitated Barking
Also known as Response Barking, occurs when a dog barks excessively ONLY when they hear another dog bark.
Dog Training Tip: Dogs who suffer anxiety when left alone will often bark a lot during the first 30 minutes after your departure; while others continue to vocalize until their person comes home. If this is the case, you might consider getting a trainer in to help, as separation anxiety can be a very difficult behavior to modify if it is allowed to go unchecked for a long time.
How To Stop a Dog from Barking When You Leave?
Barking can be a real pain in the ears, but as you can see, there are many primary reasons why dogs bark. Once you know your dog’s motivation for barking, you can identify behavior modification steps to stop it.
With the right combination of tools, training and a whole lotta love you will be able to help your dog learn when it’s appropriate to bark–and when to keep quiet.
3 Steps Before You Begin Dog Training
- Exercise – A tired dog is a quiet dog. If your dog barks when alone, tire them out before you go. Providing sufficient physical exercise can also help prevent boredom. Take your dog on a long walk or run, play ball or take a trip to the dog park before leaving.
- Early Intervention – Barking of any type can give dogs an adrenaline rush, which makes the barking a “feel-good”, pleasant reward in itself. If your dog is a problem barker don’t allow the behavior to go on and on without intervention. The longer a dog does something, the more ingrained it becomes as a set behavior and the more difficult the re-conditioning process. Plus, dog barking should be addressed in its infancy to prevent progression into other types of behavior problems (e.g. aggression, escape behavior, etc.).
- Medical Check-Up – A visit to the vet can address any medical problems that can be a potential cause for your dog to bark. Some medical problems can cause excessive barking, from simple bug bites and bee stings to brain disease to ongoing age-related joint pain. Older pets can develop a form of canine senility that causes excessive vocalizations.
Dog Won’t Stop Barking in Crate
Using a crate when you’re away gives your dog somewhere safe to settle quietly and works well to prevent barking.
Proper crate training also helps prevent destructive chewing or your dog from getting into possibly dangerous situations while home alone.
If you believe your dog is barking to get your attention, ignore them for as long as it takes them to stop. Don’t talk to them, don’t touch them, don’t even look at them; your attention only rewards them for being noisy. When they finally quiet down, even to take a breath, immediately reward them with a treat.
5 Steps to Stop Barking When Dog Is Confined
When you put your dog in their crate or in a gated room, turn your back and ignore them.
Once they stop barking, turn around, praise them and give a treat.
As they catch on that being quiet gets them a treat, lengthen the amount of time they must remain quiet before being rewarded.
Remember to start small by rewarding them for being quiet for just a few seconds, then working up to longer periods of quiet.
Keep it fun by varying the amount of time. Sometimes reward them after five seconds, then 12 seconds, then three seconds, then 20 seconds and so on.
With Positive Training Your Dog Gets the Treats but You Both Get the Rewards
When it comes right down to it, you are your dog’s primary care giver. You are the one who sees him every day & you’re his first line of defense.
As a devoted pet parent, you are your dog’s source of affection and influence–And behavior training is central to showing them positive reinforcement to stop them from needless, excessive barking.
Curtis has been passionate about the health and welfare of animals since his first dog rescue.
After studying Sports Medicine & Biology at the University of Oregon, Curtis went on to excel in a career of Clinical Nutrition, later owning a health care supplement company serving private-practice physicians.
Known for his expansive knowledge of natural health and alternative medicine, Curtis believes that natural plant-based therapies can be applied to veterinary animal care which led him to study the science of Cannabinoid Medicine. His expertise in Functional Medicine led him to formulate a unique hemp-based canine care product, Canine Support Formula, fulfilling a dream to combine natural pet-care strategies with the new therapeutic potential of medical cannabis.
In reverence for his own dog, Parker, Curtis has dedicated his company–K9 Medibles–to improving the health and longevity of all dogs.
To learn more about Curtis and how K9 Medibles can help your dog, click HERE.