My dog barks a lot when we're not home. We can hear him when we leave, but we had always assumed he calmed down after a short period. Our neighbors complained today that he's been incessantly barking while we're gone and that it's bothering them and their guests. What's an appropriate way to handle this situation for our dog?
Keep the dog in the quietest part of the house. A dog with behavior problems has not earned “the run of the house”.
Keep curtains and/or shades drawn. If you don’t have adequate window coverage, get some; hang a sheet or blanket across the window. A darker environment has a calming effect on most dogs. Additionally, there is no visual stimuli to provoke the territorial or bored dog. Curtains muffle sounds from the outdoors for alarm barkers.
Leave a radio or TV on as white noise. In many households, the stereo/TV/radio is on from morning ’til night as long as someone is home. Imagine how “loud” the silence is when everyone is gone and the sound system is turned off! Beyond masking outside noises, leaving the stereo/TV/radio on gives the aural appearance of your presence.
As you leave, give the dog an “only-when-I’m-gone” chew toy with your scent imparted on it. This toy should be something spectacular – a sterilized beef bone stuffed deeply and thoroughly with canned dog food or cheese spread (served frozen or chilled), a flavorful beef-basted knotted rawhide bone, or a stuffed KongTM. Give it to the dog upon leaving; rub it between your palms several times before you go. Not only is this a diversion tactic, it actually makes being left alone not so bad, as this is the only time the “most-wonderful-thing-in-the-world” appears!