It’s normal for dogs to bark at home but it can be a problem for neighbours. There are many reasons why dogs bark and you would need to figure out why your dog is barking in order to resolve the issue. It would be advisable to set up a pet camera to watch your dog when you leave the house and see why they are barking.
Ideally, you want dogs to rest when you go out and they are more likely to do this if all of their needs have been met. They need social contact as well as physical and mental stimulation. A good walk before you leave is needed so their physical needs are met. Do some training by teaching something new or practicing something they are still learning or you could feed them in an enriching way to provide mental stimulation. They would also benefit from cuddles or play time so they get some social contact with their owner. Some dogs are quite excited when they get back from walks or after play time so don’t leave this to be the last step before you head out. Make sure the dogs are calm before leaving the house. When you leave, make sure the dog has things to keep them entertained such as appropriate things to chew or play with. Dogs should not be left for more than four to five hours at a time as they are more likely to get bored if left too long and they might need toilet breaks in their day.
Noises or people passing or approaching the home
Some dogs will bark at people passing or approaching their home. That could be due to people they see or noises they hear outside. They might bark because another neighbour’s dog is barking. You can leave on the radio or TV for the dog to try and drown out some outside noises and check that windows and doors are shut properly so they are less likely to hear noises outside. You can close curtains or put an opaque film on the windows so the dog can’t see out. Minimising noises and what the dog can see is likely to prevent barking for these reasons.
Some dogs haven’t learnt to be happy on their own and bark for their owners to come back to them. Being happy to be on their own when their owners go out is an important life skill to teach a dog from a young age but it is a problem that can develop later on in life when a dog is older or after experiencing something traumatic, such as hearing fireworks when their owners were out. This is a potential welfare issue so owners will need to get a qualified dog trainer or behaviourist to help if their dog has issues with being separated from them.
Some dogs will bark to get their owner’s attention for situations such as needing help if food or toy is stuck somewhere, or the dog needs the toilet and wants to be let out. This will usually only happen when the owner is at home so they can respond to the dog’s needs quite quickly and the barking will stop. Alternatively, the owner can teach the dog other ways to ask for things instead of barking.
Some dogs bark when excited such as when they have their lead put on, toys taken out to play, dinner getting ready or owners coming home. Owners would need to train the dog an alternative behaviour such as sit and wait when these exciting things happen and be careful not to reward barking by giving the dog these things while they are barking.
Some breeds of dog are genetically predisposed to bark than others and this needs to be considered when choosing a breed to fit in with your lifestyle and home environment.
It is not advised to use punishment to deal with barking. Punishment only looks at barking as the problem and doesn’t address the underlying cause such as boredom, anxiety or fear. If anxiety was the problem and the dog is not allowed to bark, it may lead to more behaviour problems such as they may start to toilet in the house or possibly excessively groom themselves, instead leading to potentially expensive veterinary treatment. An example would be pet corrector spray collars that spray a citronella spray each time the dog barks. This may work to stop the barking but does not deal with the underlying cause of the behaviour which means that the dog might do something else inappropriate if he can’t bark anymore. The other potential problem with these is that if your dog barks when home alone and starts getting sprayed by these collars, it could start to become fearful of being left home alone or fearful of their owner approaching to put collars on them which could lead to behaviour problems that are more difficult for owners to resolve.
What to do
If it is your neighbour’s dog that is barking, they might not be aware so approach them kindly and let them know in order to give them the opportunity to resolve the issue. If this is not possible, contact Environmental Health.
If it is your dog that is barking, get a pet camera and monitor the dog to try and find the cause of the barking and then you can put things in place to reduce or stop the barking. A qualified dog trainer would be able to help or you might need to consider dog walkers or pet sitters.