Barking when Alone - continually

Posted by kate-banks
Nov 17, 2007
I have a German Shepherd Bitch who has acquired the irritating habit of barking all the time she is alone much to the annoyance of the neighbours.
We have had her 3 years ,although a 3rd hand dog ( she has had to be rescued & rehomed twice) she is usually a happy & content dog & has no other behaviour problems.
She is well excercised , healthy, normally obedient & highly intelligent but as soon as I leave the house in the morning she starts barking & keeps it up more or less until I return.
She is restricted to the kitchen so she cant see people & traffic passing & I leave a radio on to give her company & hopefully mask noises that may trigger her. I dont think she has seperation anxiety as she is confident & settled but the barking has gradually increased until it has now I think become a pleasurable habit for her. I have had many German Shepherds before & so make sure she knows her place in the pack so I dont think dominance is an issue.
I have tried a sonic collar with no success & as she only does it when I'm not there I'm at a loss as to how to stop her. She is not a toy lover so they offer no distraction in my absence.
Posted by MartyEd
Dec 13, 2007
Hi there kate,

Thanks for your post regarding your German Shepherd bitch with a barking problem. From your email it definitely sounds as though a separation anxiety related problem if it just occurs when you are away, however it could be a number of different reasons causing your dog to bark. Nuisance barking can be a very frustrating problem, however, please resist yelling at her to stop barking as this will probably only increase her barking behavior - she will assume that you are joining in with her!
You could try teaching your dog the quiet command.

Do something that you know will make her bark.
fThen say "Quiet", and hold a treat in front of her nose.
When she stops barking to sniff the treat, feed it to her, and praise her.
Do this a number of times, and gradually make your dog wait longer for the treat.

Soon she will begin to understand the command, and you will not have to give her treats - though give her a treat once in a while to keep her motivated.

Or, you could combine her barking with a reprimand. Next time she barks, squirt her with the hose or make a loud noise (e.g. can of pebbles/banging pot lids) and growl a guttural growl ("AAHH"). if you do this consistently, she should eventually start associating barking with a reprimand, and will know that it is inappropriate!

If you have little success with these methods, you might like to pay a visit to your local Pet Store or Vet and get a Citronella training collar. When your dog barks, the collar will emit a spray of Citronella. Dogs tend to hate the smell, so it will hopefully stop her in her tracks! As soon as the barking stops, remember that you should praise her so that she knows what behavior gets a reprimand (spray), and what behavior gets praise. I would definitely avoid the electronic shock collars, and even beware of the sonic collar although this is a lot better than a shock collar.

Interestingly enough most separation anxiety cases involve dogs that are either puppies or older dogs. Unfortunately the symptoms can also get worse with age unless treated. The goal that we are aiming for is to reduce your dog's anxiety through conditioning it to associate being left alone and outdoors as a good thing. Here are a few tips and techniques that you may find useful.

No.1 Arrivals and departures
Keep your arrivals and departures very low key. Try leaving your dog alone for at least 15 minutes when you come home. Just ignore it. If your dog calms down then show it some attention.

No.2 Do not respond
It is important that you do not respond to your dog when it starts acting up. This is inadvertently rewarding your dog for poor behavior and will not help. If your dog starts barking or whining then ignore it, no matter how difficult that may be. Do not even make eye contact.

No.3 Attention
Only give your dog attention when it is lying down or relaxed and not actively seeking attention (by barking for example). Do this by calling your dog over and making it sit before petting, etc.

No.4 Contrast
Your dog is probably having difficulty accepting that sometimes it is going to get all the attention and other times none (like when you are at work). You can help this problem by ignoring your dog for 6 hours a day on the weekends. You can feed your dog but that's it. The idea is that your dog will think “What's the big deal when my owners are gone, even when they are home, they still ignore me”.

No.5 Exercise
30 minutes before you leave home walk your dog for 15 minutes at a fast pace. If your dog is tired then it will have less energy to be a nuisance with.

No.6 Clothing
Try giving your dog something of yours with your scent on it. This may allay its fears when you are not with it.

No.7 Sit-stay and down-stay
Practice these exercises in particular as outlined in the SitStayFetch book. These exercises require your dog to respond to you for longer and longer periods of time, so should be good for its discipline. Once you have your dog staying for 10 minutes or so, then try moving out of its sight for a brief period of time.

No.8 The vet
You may want to consult your vet about drug therapy. I would recommend that you ask about Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) treatment. I have heard that this is extremely effective. This pheromone calms dogs nerves. DAP comes as a vaporizer that you plug into a wall socket, the vaporizer then releases small amounts of DAP into the room. You can buy DAP from a well-stocked pet store or several on-line pet stores.

No.9 Alpha dog
Review the “Secrets to becoming the alpha dog” bonus book, this is vital for you. It will help immensely with getting your dog to respond to you in a variety of situations, such as when you are walking it.

The hard part is at the beginning, but the job gets easier as you go along. Nevertheless, you must go slowly at first. How long it takes to condition your dog to being outside and alone depends on the severity of the problem. Other ideas you may want to use while your dog is home alone to stop her from whining includes leaving a stereo (radio) as you have been or television on in the background with low background noise. It does sound as though a separation anxiety problem, but I guess we will only find out for sure with time and the above training methods.

Best of luck and please let us know how you get on.

Kind Regards,

Mark Edwards
Kingdom of Pets Team