[box type=”tick” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This post is a response from Kimberly LeMaster, a certified dog trainer, to a problem that one of our writers was having with her dog. You can read about that here: The Barkaholic. Although some of Kim’s advice won’t pertain to Becca’s problem (her dog Sky gets huge amounts of exercise!), it might apply if you are having the same problem with your own dog. [/box]
This is a good question. Before you can keep your dog quiet and happy during the day, you first need to understand why she is barking. There a few reasons why your dog may bark when left alone. She could feel anxiety when alone – which is common among such a social animal, she could be reactive towards any little noise she hears, “alerting” to it, or she could simply be bored with a lot of pent-up energy. Any of these factors is common and with some time, consistency and understanding on your part, can be remedied.
If she has separation anxiety, chances are she is also causing some amount of destruction, anything from chewing up toilet paper to chewing up your furniture. She may also urinate or defecate in the house. Typically, dogs who experience separation anxiety are relieving their anxiety as best they can by doing these behaviors. Think about it as a stress ball for humans. Exercise, as will be discussed below, can play a very large role in helping to curb anxious behaviors. As can confining a dog in a safe area, such as a bedroom or bathroom with her crate available to her.
What Was That?
If she is attempting to “alert” at every little sound she hears in your apartment building, she needs some work on getting use to, and not reacting to, these sounds. This would mean you would need to break out a clicker and get to work training! It would involve you creating similar sounds, but much quieter so as to stay under her threshold, and click and treat for her not reacting to it. Build the criteria from there until they would be the usual loud and scary sounds she would alert to. She will come to ignore them in time.
What is There To DO?
If she is bored, which is a highly likely scenario, then she is acting out as a way to relive the energy she has. Especially as a husky/lab mix, this girl needs some serious exercise, both mentally and physically. Every day before you leave I would suggest some rigorous activity with her, either a brisk walk, jogging, or even teach her how to go through a short agility course to get her jumping over hurdles. A tired dog is a good dog, and if she’s tired she will rest the whole time you’re gone.
Continue giving her mind a work out by using dog puzzle toys for her meals. She will learn how to lift flaps, move blocks, and spin circles to get to her food. Not only is she using her brain, but she is keeping herself interested and occupied. These puzzles are fantastic tools for any dog owner.
Into the Dog Cave!
I would go back to using her crate for a while. Perhaps have the crate open and confine her to the room the crate is in with a baby gate. This will help her feel more secure and relaxed while you are gone, and especially since you are in a new place. In that space give her a stuffed KONG or similar toy (if you freeze it the night before, it will last longer and keep your pooch intrigued!) And a couple of safe chew toys that are very flavorful. Keep a bowl of fresh water available for her as well, because all of that chewing will work up a thirst!
If you can, enroll in a beginning obedience or trick training course. It may not seem like you are working on her barking directly, but by giving her mind so much to work on and process, you would be amazed at the amount of behavior problems it can solve just by teaching her things like heeling, stay, or fetching items around the house. This will also help to build a much stronger bond between the two of you, making her feel even more secure in home, following your guidance.
Good luck with your barking companion!
Certified Dog Trainer