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How do I calm a barking dog when I'm not home?

asked 2015-07-28 09:36:02 -0600

This is about my current houseguest, a 1.75 yo female Maltipoo. Some background on her:

  • she's been here two weeks so far, out of her 50+ day stay
  • mostly very sweet, warmed up to us humans quickly
  • very much a lap dog at times, but seems fine curled up on the floor too
  • not crate trained
  • easily startled by sudden/unfamiliar noises
  • barks her head off at people at our door, cars passing by... super annoying :[

We've left her alone twice so far. The first was when we went out to dinner, and we left her and our dog in a single gated room on the second floor, with their respective beds and toys. The night air was cool and breezy, so we left the windows open for them. She was barking SO loudly and shrilly that we had to come back in the house to close the windows, for fear of complaints from the neighbors. We could still hear her from outside, but she was much more muted.

Second time was when I had to drop off my husband somewhere. I was gone ~20 min. I thought maybe she was uncomfortable with Whisky in the same room, so he was crated in his usual spot in the basement. But the same thing: she barked like crazy and I had to keep the windows shut.

The worst part is that Whisky could still hear her -- she is VERY loud in the house -- and he seems to have picked up on some of her barking :[ We have never heard him bark when home alone, and normally he had been a quiet and calm pup. I think she riles him up a bit and he wants to join in the ruckus. I'm afraid our dog will pick up on her bad habits.

I mentioned the barking to the owner. The owner knows that her dog barks at noises/strangers, but she said the dog has never barked when home alone, as far as she knows.

Any suggestions?

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answered 2015-07-30 00:38:36 -0600

In my opinion, she needs three things - exercise, relaxation, and practice. Here's what I would suggest, which has helped me immensely with dogs in the past:

When the dog curls up at your feet throughout the day, gently take them by the collar and lead them away (preferably to their bed or another comfy spot). When it's time for pets, play, or walking, invite them over to you. This gets them used to being away from you before you leave. It's very hard for dogs to go from attached-at-the-hip to completely separated.

Practice leaving the room without them following you. Use a barrier (e.g. pet gate), or repeatedly walk them back to their spot until they no longer follow you (this will take many practice runs if they are used to being your shadow).

Make sure they are RELAXED when you leave. If you have to sneak or slip out the door because they are trying to slip through or go with you, then you are leaving them in a stressed state and it will be much harder for them to calm down. Make sure they have a nice, comfy spot and lead them to it. Ask the dog to lay down or wait for the dog to lay down on its own (this option's better). Walk towards the door. If the dog follows, lead them back to the bed, wait for them to relax, then walk away. Keep doing this until they no longer follow you. Doing a long walk or run before this makes this step immensely easier.

You could also use a walkie talkie or a baby monitor to communicate with your dog when you're not there. For example, when you're outside and hear barking, you can say "shush" or whatever a good word for them is, and they'll hear your voice and the command on the device left with them.

"Stay" training comes in handy here, and I've done this with dogs with separation anxiety. Have them sit or lie down in a comfy spot, then take a couple steps back. Wait a few seconds, then return to them and give pets. Repeat with a farther distance, etc. Practice for ten minutes a few times per day and work on longer distances and times.

Oh, and NO pets, affection, excitement, etc when they are barking or doing something you do not want. The only attention they should get is a command or correction of some kind, no reassurance, etc. This only encourages the bad behaviors.

Hope this helps!

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Appreciate your help, Jean :] Some of your suggestions are a bit more work than I am willing to commit to this guest haha, like the baby monitor, but the tips for training sound like things I should look into. Thanks!

Grace K.'s profile image Grace K.  ( 2015-07-30 12:11:35 -0600 ) edit
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answered 2015-07-28 11:11:42 -0600

I use a citronella bark collar. It helps with SOME dogs. It just gives the a squirt if they bark. Its about $38 on eBay or amazon. I also give a problem pup something called Rescue relief, its liquid drops, it helps calm the dogs down. I close all window and doors and put the problem pup where he can be less heard , sometimes in a crate if it is ruining my home. It helps for the neighbors but I am sure it still drive the other good dogs crazy! I hope that helps! Happy sitting

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Thanks, Amber! I've read a bit about citronella, but am reluctant to try something that seems so new/invasive/startling. I wouldn't do it to my own dog [thank goodness he doesn't bark!], so I'd feel bad doing it to someone else's :P Those Rescue drops sound interesting, I'll look into them!

Grace K.'s profile image Grace K.  ( 2015-07-30 12:01:43 -0600 ) edit
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answered 2015-07-28 15:06:57 -0600

First, ask the owner what they normally do to prevent/control her barking at home. They may have some tricks/tips for you to try. She may also just be nervous in her new environment, so I'd stay away from anything that will make her more uncomfortable. I don't have anything against the citronella collars, but if she's already feeling uncomfortable, getting squirted in the face with something whenever she expresses her discomfort certainly won't help her feel relaxed. It may stop the barking, but it will be harder for her to settle in, which will delay any real progress on the barking issue. If you wish to use any kind of calming aid, clear it with the owners first, as the dog may have sensitivities or allergies you aren't aware of.

I have a few guests who will bark at noises outside the house - I've found the best way to prevent it is to have something inside making noise constantly, like a fan or music playing, which makes it harder for the dogs to detect when someone walks by outside, then praising them heavily for being quiet whenever they don't react. When a noise stands out from the background, the dogs are more likely to react, and if one reacts, it's more likely to get a reaction from the other dogs. My dogs rarely bark, but they will respond when a guest dog sets off the alert, like you're seeing with Whisky. If the background is a little louder/more complex, then the triggering noises are less distinct by comparison, and are less likely to get a response from your guest. You can also play games with the windows - when the blinds are up and the windows are open, the dogs are generally more reactive - they can see and hear more easily. If they bark, windows close, blinds go down. Then they get rewarded for not reacting to the activity outside. When they've been good for a while, the blinds can go up a bit. If they stay good, they go up more, and eventually the windows open. If they start barking, everything closes again. If you can pair the quiet behavior with a signal (like "quiet" or "no bark" or, as I inadvertently trained one of my regulars, "make good choices") then you have a tool for stopping barking once it's started, provided you can get the dog's attention on you long enough to use it. For the verbal signal, I don't use it unless I'm sure it's going to work (like after I've already been able to call the dog away from the door/window), and over time the situations where I'm sure it will work expand.

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I asked the owner, and she has never done anything to discourage the barking [at sudden noises, strangers in the house, men outside, etc]. Your suggestions are great, thanks. I love that you say 'make good choices' haha... I often tell my dog 'you know better!' :]

Grace K.'s profile image Grace K.  ( 2015-07-30 12:09:28 -0600 ) edit

Sometimes it's nice to talk to them as if they were people. I'm home alone with my dogs a fair bit, so I do just chat with them. I'd gotten in the habit of saying "make good choices" as a general cue for "stop that thing you're doing/about to do/thinking about doing" because saying "no" or making a noise gets repetitive, and really, making a good choice is exactly what I want them to do. I also use "nope, try again" if they choose the wrong thing. For this particular guest dog, he'd run to the window/door and bark at people walking by.. when the door was open and he could go on the porch, that can be startling, since my porch is about at head height for people walking by, and he's a huge, loud dog. By the end of... (more)

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2015-07-30 15:05:21 -0600 ) edit
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answered 2015-07-30 12:12:42 -0600

Wow thanks everyone for the lengthy, informative replies! They offered much for me to consider and try out throughout the rest of her stay. [and for future guests]

What I ended up trying was giving the Maltipoo my cat's carrier crate. It's a hard-sided crate that is mostly covered except for the front door, which is metal wire. There's a plush comforter inside, which the cat loves to just sink into.

I placed the houseguest into the carrier and left the door wide open. She immediately laid down and whimpered a little bit, but seemed to settle. I watched her in there a few seconds, then went downstairs. I changed nothing else: she's still alone in the room, her bed and toys are scattered around her, and the doorway of the room is gated.

This seemed to work!! I heard no barking as I was leaving, and it was silent when I got home 20 min later!! I went up to see her, and she was still looking snug and comfy in the cat carrier. I'm not sure if she left it at all, or barked when I was gone, but this is a significant improvement :D

I told the owner, and she seemed really pleased and grateful for the results.

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Nice! That's awesome.

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2015-07-30 15:06:26 -0600 ) edit
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answered 2017-12-01 07:19:37 -0600

Orange oil sweet, Tangerine Oil, Ylang Yland Oil, Patchouli Oil Light and Chamomile Blue Oil . All of these essential oil mixed in equal parts ans sprayed to a small blanket will do miracles with barking.

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answered 2015-08-01 10:11:59 -0600

My dog can be a bit of a barker and we learned that leaving music on for him helped calm him and feel like someone else was home. We leave a radio on a pretty low volume in the room where he roams while we are out and have never had complaints of barking while away. I have a feeling it helps calm the rover dogs that stay at my home as well.

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