Many dog owners are familiar with this situation: You say goodbye to your pup — who seems fine — and head out the door for work, school or a fun outing with your friends. After being gone for several hours, you come home to reports from your neighbors of incessant barking while you were gone. How can you stop a dog from barking and keep your neighbors from complaining?
Why do dogs bark?
If you're dealing with irritated neighbors who are annoyed at your dog, the good news is there are a few steps you can take to quiet down the barking while you aren't in your apartment. But first, you need to understand why dogs bark to prevent it in the future.
Dogs bark for any number of reasons throughout the day:
- Anxiety: Some dogs struggle with separation anxiety, just like people. This can get them to bark to express how they feel when you're gone.
- Boredom: Dogs are playful creatures and when they get bored, they bark to try and alert someone that they want attention
- Unexpected noises: If your neighbors upstairs, below or to either side of you make loud or unexpected noises throughout the day, this can startle your dog, leading Fido to bark
- Someone knocking on the door: If you have a visitor or a package delivered throughout the day and someone rings the doorbell, this will startle your dog and it will likely start barking
- Alarm or being territorial: Dogs are protective creatures and when they feel like their home is in danger, they'll naturally bark to show people it's their territory and sound the alarm. This is one of the many perks of having a dog, but it can pose a problem when neighbors don't want their home protected by its barking.
- Attention seeking: Do you have an attention-seeking dog who likes to steal the show? Well, when you leave, your dog still wants to be center stage and can bark to try and get that attention back.
- Loneliness: Dogs are our furry friends who like being social, so when they're lonely, they can bark to signify they want to be around people again
These are just some of the reasons dogs bark. By figuring out what's triggering your dog to bark, you can help try and calm him or her down when you're gone.
Best ways to stop a dog from barking
Because dogs, like humans, have unique personalities, there isn't one right way to get your dog to be quiet. This can be frustrating, but take comfort knowing that there are multiple ways to calm Fido down while you're gone and reduce the bad barking habit. Here's a list of some great ideas for how to get your dog to stop barking.
1. Block the view
Most often, dogs don't bark simply to make noise (although some breeds actually do). Barking can be a response to perceived threats or exciting sights — like that squirrel on the tree just outside of your living room window. For that reason, many dog owners begin addressing barking by simply cutting off the sights and sounds from the outside world.
When you're getting ready to head out for the day, consider closing your curtains, drawing your blinds or even placing a large object in front of the window, if possible. This blocks out the visual stimulus that's exciting the dog and will make your neighbors happy that doggie is no longer yapping away.
Plus, closing your curtains during the day can help you save money on your utility bills, especially during the warm summer months.
2. Control the noise
If your dog can't hear the strange noises outside causing them bark, try turning on your television, radio or a white-noise machine. Do you have a smart home assistant like Alexa or Google Home? Try putting on a music station for your dogs when you leave home. There are even TV stations for dogs, so you could turn on a show for your dog when you leave.
Don't turn things up too loud, because this could agitate your pup or your neighbors. The combination of constant noise and inability to see outside usually makes pets feel as if someone is with them, which helps matters considerably.
3. Give them some exercise
Another reason many dogs bark while at home is that they're simply bored or restless. Grab his leash and give Fido some exercise before you hit the road and see if that helps. A morning walk through the park can let him get some energy out before you leave for the day, so he's more likely to laze around quietly while you're gone.
If you're unable to give your dog a walk throughout the day, consider downloading the app Wag or Rover. These services allow pet owners to schedule a walk for their dog anytime throughout the day. A “Wag walker" will come to your home, leash up your pup, take him for a 30-minute or 60-minute walk and return Fido home. This can be a great way to keep your dog entertained throughout the day so you don't have to run home on your lunch break.
4. Provide entertainment
Another way to address doggie boredom is to provide Fido with some sort of entertainment (read: toys and treats) to keep him occupied while you're gone for the day. Create a DIY treat for your dog by buying a tennis ball and cutting a two-inch slice along the side. Push several small treats into the ball through the slice and give it to Fido before you leave. He'll be consumed with getting the treats out of the ball for hours.
You can also buy a couple of Kong toys from the store, fill them with peanut butter and put them in the freezer. Kongs are specifically made to keep dogs entertained, so Fido will be occupied for a long time trying to get every last drop of frozen peanut butter out of the toy.
Warning: Don't leave your furry friend anything that he could potentially choke on, like rawhides or bones that splinter.
5. Use positive reinforcement
During the times you're home with your pup, make sure you're providing him with positive reinforcement when he stops barking or shows restraint while looking out at that squirrel on the tree. Let Fido know he's behaving well by giving him attention and treats. This should eventually result in better behavior even when you aren't around.
Many dogs respond well to crate training, which is when dogs are confined to a room or another small space whenever they're alone in the apartment. You may want to look into this as an option.
If your pet gets anxiety when they're confined, steer away from a crate and consider investing in a foldable Ex-Pen. You can find some pretty decently-priced pens, which should run you about $100 online. Don't be fooled by the name: Ex-Pens fold up to small squares, are very portable and easily stored in small spaces.
If you've tried keeping your four-legged friend entertained and isolated from outside sights and sounds and he's still barking, you should seek help from a professional trainer. Trainers will be able to teach you several other tools you need to know to stop dog barking permanently.
7. Visit your vet
Sometimes, dogs bark incessantly when you leave because of more than just the occasional wall-bump or rogue squirrel. Many dogs have separation anxiety, which can range from mild to severe and everything in between. Dogs with separation anxiety can be extra difficult to soothe. If you've tried everything and still come home to a pitchy pup, it might be time to look into medication.
Never medicate your pet without a veterinarian's guidance. The dosages given to pets are not the same as people. As well as you might know your dog, you should always consult with a vet before administering any medication yourself.
8. Hire a pet sitter
If you have it in your budget, hiring a pet sitter to come once during the day might be the perfect solution. It will give your pup a needed potty break, time to get their mid-day energy out and something to look forward to before you get home.
9. Use anti-stress devices or special collars
If your dog gets easily stressed, there are many products on the market that can help:
- Anxiety jackets or wraps can be very helpful for anxious dogs that bark a lot. They're typically made from soft, breathable fabric that provides a gentle maintained pressure that gives a calming effect on the dog.
- Stress-relieving collars produce a pheromone that mimics the pheromones that mother dogs produce to calm their puppies. They're typically inexpensive and easy to find.
- Spray collars are a great alternative to shock collars as they're fairly harmless and effective. Most spray collars work by spraying a lemon-scented mist in the dog's face when it barks. Since dogs don't enjoy the smell of citrus, it distracts and discourages them from barking again.
10. Reassure your neighbors
Fido likely won't break his barking habit overnight, so address your neighbors' concerns personally, apologize and tell them you're working on fixing the problem. You can even introduce them (and their dogs) to Fido and, if you want, see if any of them would be interested in making a few bucks by walking him while you're gone at work.
This extra bit of attention and exercise would likely go a long way toward keeping him from barking while you're out of the house.
Learn how to stop a dog from barking
A dog may be man's best friend, but that doesn't mean that having a dog is without its challenges. It's especially difficult if they bark while you're gone and there isn't anything you can do to stop them. But with this list of great ideas, you'll be better equipped with ideas on how to get your dog to stop barking.