Dog barking is a deeply ingrained instinct that can be challenging for them to control. It is thought that their barking was a major reason for domestication tens of thousands of years ago; we provided shelter and scraps, and they provided protection. Modern dogs still have this deeply defensive instinct, but unfortunately it can quickly make them a nuisance when they bark while their owner(s) are away.
Here are some tips and tricks to help curb excessive barking behaviour.
Remove them from the barking stimulus
What is your dog barking at? Are they barking at your neighbours dog? Are they barking at people walking by the house? Physically restricting access to areas where they have learned to bark can help to break the cycle. This may mean moving them from the front of the house to the back, or closing off certain rooms. Some clients have had success by purchasing cheap webcams to find out where their dog barks while they’re away, then changing the areas their dog has access to.
Run them in the morning
Dogs are highly athletic creatures that require large amounts of exercise and stimulation to stay content. This is particularly true of intelligent, working dog breeds, such as border collies or Belgian Malinois. If they don’t receive enough exercise and stimulation, expect them to direct their pent up energy in unacceptable ways, such as barking, digging, or pulling clothes off the line. An energetic run in the morning will burn off this excessive energy and help their brain to release relaxing neurotransmitters. A short walk won’t suffice for most breeds – they need to run! Make sure you do this nice and early before it gets too hot.
Keep them distracted
As mentioned, some dogs can bark out of boredom, but some can bark out of anxiety over their owner leaving. Try to redirect their attention by offering them a puzzle toy filled with their favourite treat. Skipping their breakfast and offering them their food in puzzle form can help to increase the value of this item. If you offer this just before leaving it does two things, firstly, it can make you leaving a more positive event, and secondly, it helps to keep them engaged during the stressful period immediately following your departure. Having a meal also helps to lower their stress hormone, cortisol.
Leave the radio on, find a buddy
Most dogs are pack animals, and it can be very stressful when their owner goes away and they are left at home alone. They don’t necessarily know that you’re going to return! Try leaving the TV or radio on to make them feel ‘more at home’. Some dogs benefit from having a friend to play with, though be warned, some dogs become partners in crime when in a pack!
If you don’t have time to run your dog every morning, and their barking is likely due to excessive energy and lack of social environment, doggy day care can be an excellent solution to this problem.
See the vet
As vets, we much prefer that clients address the environmental issues described above instead of medicating by default. However, some dogs remain anxious and a nuisance despite owners taking the above steps. If you feel that your dog falls into this category, talk to us about what medical steps can be taken to curb and reprogram problem behaviours.
Cairns Veterinary Clinic is proud to have been caring for Cairns furry family members since 1966. With 2 convenient locations, Pease Street and Norman Street, Gordonvale, our clinics are staffed by a great team of hard working and dedicated veterinary professionals who treat your pets as if they are their own. With a vet available 24/7 365 days per year, we are always here when you need us. Contact our friendly staff for all your pet’s healthcare needs.