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What to do if the dog barks when left alone at home?

What to do if the dog barks when left alone at home?

Vocalisations (barking, whining and howling), “are an innate behaviour, part of the dog’s auditory communication system. But when they occur in excess, or at inappropriate times, such as at night, they can become an annoying behaviour for both guardians and neighbours, as well as being an indication that the dog’s welfare is seriously compromised,” the expert says.

Excessive vocalisations when dogs are left alone at home, she explains, “may go unnoticed by their guardians, unless there are complaints from neighbours”. It is then that they seek help to solve the problem, sometimes finding “advice from non-experts, who tell them that their dog has separation anxiety, or receiving advice such as the best thing to do is to put an anti-bark collar or a muzzle on the dog to stop it from barking”. This behavioural problem is more complex than it may at first appear in terms of diagnosis and treatment. “Not every dog that barks when left home alone has separation anxiety.


In this sense, she points out that, of course, it can be a problem related to separation, but “we can also find vocalisations for other reasons such as social facilitation (other dogs are barking and he joins in), reaction to external noises, or induced by fear”.

Other reasons given by the specialist in the text are play, cognitive dysfunction, frustration or aggression.

The manifestation or not of other clinical signs such as destructive behaviour, inappropriate elimination, the animal’s body posture, the context, etc… as well as the fact that the behaviour only takes place in the absence of the guardians or also when they are present “are some of the aspects to be assessed for the diagnosis”.


Do not normalise the situation, nor wait “to see if he/she gets used to it”, as the longer the problem has been going on, the worse the prognosis will be.

Ideally, as soon as you become aware of the problem, “go to a behavioural medicine specialist for a thorough analysis of the problem”. Diagnosing the motivation for this behaviour “is essential” in order to be able to work on it.

On this point, environmental enrichment appropriate to the dog’s needs is always implemented. Establish routines of activity, play, exercise and mental stimulation. Depending on the diagnosis, “it may be necessary to work on fear of noise or aggression problems”.

Or perhaps “the dog-guardian bond should be improved”. Bearing in mind that not always when there is separation anxiety “we are dealing with an excess of attachment, but with an attachment problem”.

If the vocalisations occur when the animal is left alone, they recommend recording, with a device that records both audio and video, what the dog does when it is left alone in order to determine the trigger for the behaviour. These recordings are also very useful for assessing the evolution of the case.

“Locking him in a room so that he can be heard less and so he doesn’t bother the neighbours can be a temporary measure to take, as long as we make sure that we have properly fitted out the room according to the dog’s individual needs and size,” she explains. If not, it can become a measure to avoid.